By Nat Barrack
Working at a college cafeteria might seem like an ordinary job, but one woman has used her position to bring joy to the students and faculty at Oklahoma Christian University for 17 years.
Lois Irene Hill’s career at Oklahoma Christian began with a request for only an hour of her time each day. Hill was in the process of transitioning out of her job at a doctor’s office into retirement when the university contacted her.
“I had worked for the same doctor for 25 years and had kind of semi-retired,” Hill said. “Diane, who worked in the office, called me because she was a friend of my daughter’s. She wanted to know if I would come work for an hour at that time.”
Early on, Hill’s duty was to operate the cafeteria’s cash register, which she has now long since traded for a card reader. Hill said she carries a load of responsibilities despite her age of 86.
When asked how she would describe her role now, Hill said, “I’m a jack of all trades.”
Besides swiping IDs to enter the cafeteria, another one of Hill’s duties is cleaning the “sneeze bar.”
“It’s amazing the amount of people who don’t know what sneeze bars are…those glass things that are over the food.” Hill said. “The reason for those sneeze bars is so when you lean over you don’t breathe and sneeze on the food.”
Hill also helps with hygiene details such as cleaning parts on the soda fountain machines.
“On Wednesday nights they pull all the knobs off the coke machine and on Thursday morning I clean all of those and put them back on,” Hill said.
Hill said although she enjoys her job, she sees room for improvement in one main area. According to Hill, more rest would benefit her.
“I wish they would hire one person to relieve me the rest of the day,” Hill said. “As it is, they have someone at 1 p.m. to relieve me, and they change at 4 p.m. and somebody else comes in.”
According to Hill, the real issue is not so much this rotation of personnel, but rather Hill is constantly having to train new student workers. Hill said the process of helping students adjust can be challenging.
“Every year it’s the same thing,” Hill said. “They have students that have never worked here before.”
Despite the work involved with frequently training new student workers, Hill said the student body is her motivation to continue working.
“I love the students. They’re always so nice, they’re why I get up at 4 a.m. every morning and come to work.”
According to sophomore Reagan Lively, the appreciation Hill has for students is mutual. Lively said one of her favorite things about Hill is her fashion sense.
“I love the earrings, necklaces and bracelets she wears, they’re so cute,” Lively said.
Fellow sophomore Serena Mott agreed with Lively, and said Hill is always kind and encouraging to students on campus.
“She’s the cutest human being, she is so sweet,” Mott said.
Hill said she not only wants to help feed students, she also wants to help educate them, especially when it comes to practicing manners. According to Hill, manners are important to her, and should be important to students as well.
“I’m old school,” Hill said. “I’m trying to teach all the guys to let the girls go first. I tell them, ‘ladies before gentlemen.’ I’ve only had a few that sort of frowned at me, the rest of them have just really been glad and the next time they come through the line, they’ll look up at me and then quickly get behind the girl and let her scan in first. I’m doing some good.”
When Hill is off the clock and not swiping IDs during the after chapel lunch rush, she said she enjoys spending time with her family. Hill has two grandsons and seven great-grandchildren.
In her spare time, Hill said she also partakes in one of her favorite pastimes, skydiving.
Hill skydives in Tulsa, OK, where she has completed two jumps, the latter on her 86th birthday. Hill said although some people see skydiving as daunting, it is actually safer than they may think.
“Well when you stop and think about it, you have a chute,” Hill said. “When you’re riding in an airplane you don’t even have a chute and then in a car it’s even worse. It’s even more dangerous.”
According to Hill, another important aspect in her life is her faith. Hill said she believes her life is firmly in God’s hands and thanks Him for allowing her to live so long.
“I just talk to God every day. I keep Him busy,” she said.
At an institution where faces come and go, Hill has remained in her position for close to two decades. Whether it be swiping cards or jumping from airplanes, Lois Hill is known for the grace and humor she brings to campus.