By Liane Librizzi
The number 25 can mean different things to different people. For a 5-year-old, 25 cents means being one step closer to that dollar bill. To a young adult, 25 years defines a final freedom into adulthood. But for Joyce Brown and Bertha Coon, it marks dedication to the College’s campus.It was early afternoon and the brisk March air brought a chill into the Bliss lounge, where the ladies in navy blue attire sat, eating soup and sandwiches notably purchased from the Brower Student Center or some other on-campus food source. A College emblem was embroidered on one of their navy blue jackets, a pink ribbon for breast cancer placed on the other’s. Both women seemed to sit in their own state of friendship “bliss” (pun-intended), talking and laughing about personal matters and inside jokes.
Brown of Ewing and Coon of Trenton both work as building maintenance workers in Bliss Hall. This August, Brown will be celebrating her 25th year serving the campus, while Coon will be following respectively in 2015.
“I’m here, thank God,” Brown said in reflection about her work on campus. “It really helped me along with my children.”
Brown had previously served in Green Hall and Holman Hall before working in her current position in Bliss. She has two children, her daughter, 32, and son, 27, who graduated from William Paterson University in 2010.
“I have worked hard, just to get them through,” she said.
Coon’s family resides in Newark while she lives in Trenton. She’s able to keep in contact with them periodically, but finds that working with people on campus has provided special connections that she enjoys.
As Brown added how she appreciates students who show the slightest appreciation for her work, a student sitting at an adjacent table interjected.
“For the last seven years I’ve worked at a summer camp … (you’d be) surprised how little things can come off as rude and how it feels like a thankless job,” junior secondary education and English dual major Alyson Hogan said about her job as a lunch server. Hogan’s experience on “the other side,” as she put it, has challenged her own perspective about College workers and their commitment to the school. “It means a lot … when someone does … (go out of their way) to say hello or remember their name … so now I try to take that into account,” she said in a follow-up interview.
Coon and Brown smiled at the thought. It was one thing to work at the College for 25 years — it was another to be understood and genuinely appreciated.
After all, 25 years is a very long time.