These are some of the folks who make campus a home away from home
It happens countless times each week in Allen Hall. Physical therapy students huddle in knots in the lobby, discussing a lab or upcoming exam, or comparing answers to an exam they’ve just taken. The atmosphere is intense, their expressions anxious. Then they walk into the Simply to Go café, cashier Rhonda Henning says, “Hey, there, angels! How are you?” and suddenly, they’re smiling.
Excellent faculty and strong coaches are the reasons that students come to Bellarmine. But it’s the dozens of staff members like Henning who help to make the university feel like a home away from home. Without getting a lot of recognition, they
make Bellarmine warmer and friendlier while also keeping it efficient, safe and clean.
“Miss Rhonda always wrote me little notes on my receipts telling me how great of a person I was, just to help me emotionally through the semester,
always looking to put a smile on my face,” said Cheyenne Turner ’19. “That’s one thing I really love about this school.”
Bellarmine Magazine wanted to highlight some of these unsung heroes, so we asked faculty, staff and students to send us nominations. The responses—some funny, some poignant, all genuine—made us even more thankful to be part of such a caring
"Miss Rhonda always wrote me little notes on my receipts telling me how great of a person I was, just to help me emotionally through the semester, always looking to put a smile on my face."
Then the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic moved the community off campus.
Again, the support staff reacted with great care. When Bellarmine had to make the tough decision to ask students to leave the residence halls, the Office of Public Safety offered rides on one of Bellarmine’s three shuttles to residences within a two-hour
radius. Officers ended up taking several Louisville-area students home, and Transport Supervisor Sharon Oster drove two other students to the airport for a flight to California.
“She wanted to do that,” said Debbie Fox, director of Public Safety. “They were very grateful. We said, ‘Take care of each other and call us when you get there.’ You know, just like a mom would.”
While most Bellarmine University employees are working remotely, Public Safety continues to patrol campus around the clock. The custodial staff is also working full time, deep cleaning campus buildings. Food Services is feeding the handful of students who remain in residence halls. And a small crew in Facilities Management is taking care of maintenance issues and making sure the grass isn’t 6 feet high when we return.
Because someday soon we will return—and this experience will make us appreciate each other even more.
Darryl Woodson, second-shift patrol officer, Public Safety
the coolest security guard ever! Every time I get in the car with him for a security ride, he has some funny story. He is the funniest person on campus. Darryl is actually the GOAT of Bellarmine. If you don’t know Darryl, you need to get to
know him, because he’s amazing.”—Tyren Johnson, sophomore
Even people who do know Darryl Woodson may not know that he is a talented artist. Several of his drawings are displayed in the new Creative Spirit Art Gallery outside the Campus Ministry Office in Centro. Campus Ministry called for artwork representing an aspect of personal faith or religious understanding. Woodson’s pieces include drawings of Muhammad Ali, a personal hero; gospel singer Mavis Staples; and a cross on a hill that reflects his trip to Guatemala last year with the
annual Hearts in Motion service trip.
“I’ve been drawing all my life, as long as I can remember,” he said. “I used to draw the album covers of Parliament and the Funkadelics; [artist] Pedro Bell influenced the heck
out of me.” He later attended International Fine Arts College in Miami (now Miami International University of Art & Design). Woodson’s drawing of Ali is titled A Chance Encounter with a Butterfly. “In the early 1980s, I was going home—I lived on 11th Street—and I saw a man sitting at a table in the back of a box truck. It was Muhammad Ali, and he was autographing his book. I stood in line, and when I got up to him, he said, ‘I know you.’ And I thought,
‘What?’ He signed the autograph and I walked off. When I looked in the book, he had spelled my name the way I spell it: D-A-R-R-Y-L. I just floated on back home.”
He hopes one day to have one of his drawings in the Muhammad
Ali Center in Louisville.
Ramona Psiones, Academic Success liaison, undergraduate nursing
“Ramona is the reason that the accel nursing students stay sane. Whether it is a smile in the hall, asking how our day was, coordinating food during final exams, she is always there for us. She actively asks for what we want improved.
Accel students are notorious for being stressed out and full of complaints, so she constantly is trying to help while knowing we are going to have issues that she may not be able to directly solve. But just knowing someone cares and wants to help
make our year here as smooth as possible means so much.”--Carla Haraska, accelerated nursing program
The Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing is an intensive 12-month program for students who hold a bachelor’s degree in another field.
Bruce Bertoli, shuttle driver, Public Safety
“My first name can be hard for some people to pronounce, so if someone doesn’t get it right after a few tries, I’ll usually say, ‘Just call me Bill.’ But Bruce really got on my case about it: ‘It’s your name! Teach me how to say it right!’ So I spent some time going back and forth with him, and now he’s got it as correct as any non-Arab can hope to. He also wanted to know where I was from, what my religion was like, how Arab food tasted and what my experiences in an almost completely new culture were like. He really seems to be interested in me and my history, and I appreciate that.”--Bilal Qazi, sophomore Communications major
Sharon Gibson, University Dining Hall
“We were getting a team picture during Week of Welcome, and Miss Sharon jumped right in! That just goes to show you how friendly and fun the people at Bellarmine are!”--Jenni Grzebin, Head Volleyball coach
Kenny French, HVAC Technician, Maintenance
“Early in the spring semester (2019), we were having concerns about our fridge in the Knights Pantry, a supplemental food pantry for students experiencing food insecurity. The fridge wasn’t holding the temperatures needed to keep the fresh produce cool enough. Our students love fresh produce, and we were concerned that we might have to purchase a new fridge. Kenny took care of the issue that day.
“Two days later, Kenny came back with a box full of donations for the food pantry. This continued twice a month for the rest of the year. He asked if students had special requests that weren’t being met, and then delivered the items to our pantry. This is the Bellarmine difference. He didn’t need to do this; he was never asked to do this; but our students are blessed because of his heart and contribution.”--Natasha Begin, Assistant Dean of Students
Deborah Fox, director of Public Safety
“A woman whose dad either attended or taught here years ago told me that she came to campus to pick up a Bellarmine item for him from the bookstore. It was closed, and Christmas was approaching. So Debbie picked up all the Bellarmine items she could find and made a basket for her. That’s just one of a million stories about Debbie.”-- Dr. Helen-Grace Ryan, Vice President for Student Affairs
Debbie adds: “It was my first Christmas at Bellarmine, actually, and I recall this particular incident because my dad, like her dad, was a big BU fan. After talking to her I thought, ‘I need to do something.’ It’s the Bellarmine way, right? Yep, my brother-in-law didn’t get his Bellarmine-gear present that year till after the holiday, but a BU dad got his on time.”
Jyll O’Shea, associate director of student accounts
“She’s amazing. She brings a sense of empathy and compassion to her role. In any given semester, there are 100 or more students who are struggling to cover their balance. In the past, I think folks saw this as a transactional issue. Jyll’s
leadership has brought a retention-based lens to the approach. There are a number of students here who are high-need, and a few hundred dollars can sometimes make the difference in whether they stay at Bellarmine.”--Dr. Sean McGreevey, Dean
Larry Burciaga, security officer
Spanish was the connection. During my freshman year, a track teammate introduced us, and since that day we became best friends. He has supported me every year in my college career. He comes to our home track meets and cheers for me. He has helped
me with the transition of being so far from my family by always encouraging me to do my best in academics and take advantage of opportunities. Moreover, he has been my ally in any possible situation that I can remember, [like] always making sure I
have a ride to the airport when I go back home, and helping me with the entire process to get an American license for my internship last summer (teaching me parallel parking). When I had the flu in my sophomore year, he was constantly checking with
my teammate Yaya on how I was doing and notifying my parents, making it easier for them to understand everything by speaking Spanish. Larry has become my American dad.”--Sofía Carías, Class of 2020, El Salvador
Sue Mauldin, administrative assistant, Department of Communication
“It always surprises people when I claim she’s my biggest mentor, instead of a professor or Student Affairs professional, but she is! Sue immerses herself in the BU community. She volunteers her time to face-paint at events such as Family
Weekend, Carnival Day in UDH, and Hall-O-Treats. She uses her own money to bring in snacks and cookies. Often, I'll come in her office and ask who the goodies are for and she always has a different reply--Public Safety, the person who just had a baby,
someone’s birthday, etc. I’ve watched her help low-income students find furniture for their first apartment. She is always thinking of other people."--Audrie Lamb, Class of 2020
The U-team: Joe O'Toole and Chris Paulley (top), Tony Holland, Christina Mills, Rose Clifford and Linda Jones (left to right)
Most of the time, you won’t see the U-Team doing their work. But you’d sure notice if they didn’t do it. You’d show up for a lecture in Frazier Hall, for instance, and there would be no chairs for the audience. Or you’d
order a new desk for your office and receive a box filled with parts and a screwdriver.
Led by supervisor Linda Jones, U-Team (the “U” stands for utility) members Joe O’Toole, Rose Clifford, Tony Holland, Chris Paulley and Christina Mills have a collective 107 years of experience at Bellarmine, which is pretty impressive considering that the university is only 70 years old this year. That’s how good they are.
In addition to handling the setups for all major campus events and moving equipment and furniture, the U-Team hangs pictures, repairs furniture and assists with cleaning offices and shoveling snow when needed. Their regular shift is 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Monday through Friday, but events often keep them working longer hours or on weekends. Sometimes, they get tables and chairs set up for an event in the Quad only to have the weather turn, meaning they have to break everything down and set it up again
"They are always ready to go, no matter what the time."
Jones has been at Bellarmine for 16 years, starting with housekeeping when it was part of facilities and moving to the U-Team when housekeeping was outsourced. “I enjoy the work because it’s hands-on and because we get to work with the entire community,” she said. “We serve everyone around campus. We are everywhere.”
“They are always ready to go, no matter what the time,” says Bellarmine’s Director of Donor Relations Marisa Zoeller, who worked closely with the U-Team when she was Special Events director for former President Joseph J. McGowan.
Dr. McGowan liked to have everything cleaned up and cleared out immediately after parties ended at the former President’s House in Glenview, Zoeller said. “So the U-Team would sit in their truck until the last party guest left, then go in
and tear down everything they’d just put up five hours before.”
“I kind of miss those setups at the President’s House,” Chris Paulley said. “I liked that more than I realized.”
The team also helps set up for Commencement, although their role isn’t quite as involved since the ceremony moved to Freedom Hall from campus, where their day began at 4 a.m. and ran well past 4 p.m. Even with long hours, the team enjoys being part of such a special day for students, they said.
“We are at every graduation, and that makes you feel good,” Tony Holland said. “When we have student workers and you see them grow up, it’s great to see them graduate and see what they become.”
Written by Carla Carlton
Photos by Brendan Sullivan and Kathryn Truman
Who’s your unsung hero? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org.