By Caitlin Raye Contributing Writer
In a vacant South Dining Hall, surrounded by the loud noise of the radio coming from the overhead speaker, sat a humble and beloved member of the Sodexo employee staff.
Eloise Wallace, a Sodexo employee, can almost always be found in the South Dining Hall twice a day, greeting students and swiping dining hall cards with a smile. Before working in the dining hall, Wallace taught at the childcare center on campus for 25 years, has been a student herself, and even worked on-campus while she was a high school student. Wallace has worked at UMF for a total of 34 years.
Marshall Maxsimic, a junior, described Wallace in an email interview as someone who “is just always smiling and always interacting with students.” Maxsimic continued by saying, “Students know that if they are having a bad day, they will see Eloise later and she will ask them how things are going or wish them a happy Friday. There is no better feeling than entering the weekend with a ‘happy Friday’ from Eloise.”
When asked what qualities make her a good employee, Wallace was unable to say but expressed that, “I try to make sure I greet each [student] that comes through and that I do it with a smile. I try to make sure that everybody feels that they are an important part of this and want to come back again.”
Wallace continued by saying, “IIt doesn’t matter who anyone is or what their dress is, what their skin color is, what their orientation is. People are people!”
Eila McCulloch, a freshman, said in an email interview, “I have a very difficult name to pronounce. It is always mispronounced or butchered in some way, shape or form.” McCulloch said that “[Wallace] would stop me and make sure she was saying my name correctly whenever I came into the dining hall for lunch, until she was sure she had it right. It absolutely warmed my heart to know that someone would care that much about the students they see every day, especially when I am just one person of thousands on this campus.”
Maxsimic said, “[Wallace] always welcomes me with a smile to the dining hall. She also knows pretty much everyone’s name and uses their name when she greets them. I think that is pretty telling about her friendliness.”
In her years working at the dining hall, Wallace has won the “Dining Hall Staff Award,” voted by students each year. Wallace has received this award around 8 to 11 times. The award has recently been renamed the Eloise Wallace Dining Center Award.
Wallace expressed her gratitude by saying, “I’m very honored and I appreciate it. I think being recognized by you students is so much more than somebody walking out of the office and somebody said something like good job.”
While Wallace is thankful for the support and praise from the students, she explained that she no long wishes to be picked to receive the award because it is now named after her and feels she should not being given her own award. Wallace expressed that is it time for someone else to receive the recognition they deserve.
When talking about the award, Wallace felt that the whole dining hall staff deserved the award. “We are a team and it’s a team effort. And when somebody is out, we notice,” Wallace said. “This team, this group, nobody has a grudge for anyone. You just fill in. They do it for me so why not do it from them. I think that goes all the way around.”
Maxsimic and McCulloch both agree that Wallace is likable. Maxsimic said, “She is so likeable because she is very genuine in how she treats everyone. She is one hundred percent real and she honestly makes everyone feel good when they are interacting with her.” McCulloch echoed Maxsimic’s opinion by adding, “She is so likeable because she has such a warm personality and always radiates positivity.”
Outside of working, Wallace enjoys spending time at sporting events on campus, her favorite being basketball. Wallace enjoys the opportunity to go and watch, as well as speak with the players.
Outside of UMF, Wallace enjoys sewing and making quilts. She also likes to crochet and make afghan blankets. Along with sewing and crocheting, Wallace enjoys getting outside, going for walks and meeting up with friends. “I just enjoy living. I enjoy life and people,” Wallace said.