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University Staff: UL line cook, 92, greets students in new union’s dining hall

Megan Wyatt, The Advertiser, Dec. 15, 2015


Angelina Narcisse, a dining services employee, hugs student Malcolm Greay during dinner at the UL Student Union in Lafayette, La., Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015. Narcisse has been employed in dining services at the university since 1954.(Photo: Paul Kieu, The Advertiser)

As soon as the dining hall of the newly renovated and expanded student union opened Tuesday evening, University of Louisiana at Lafayette students began greeting line cook Angelina Narcisse, 92, with hugs and conversations in French.

She is perhaps more excited than the students are about the opening of Cypress Lake Dining Hall.

"I’m 92, and I haven’t seen a place like this nowhere," she says. "This is gorgeous."

Malcolm Greay Jr., a junior kinesiology and exercise science student, hugged Narcisse before getting his plate of food.

A New Orleans native, Greay calls Narcisse his grandmother away from home.

"It’s way more than her just giving us food on our plates," he says. "I have conversations with her. She asks me how my day is going. She asks me how I’m doing in my classes. It’s just all love."

Narcisse says that people feel good in her presence.

"I give them good advice," she says. "People like to come talk to me because I tell them the way of living. People will feel down, and they’ll come talk to me and leave feeling better."

Click here for the video of Angelina Narcisse doing her thing in the newly remodeled union.

University of Louisiana at Lafayette line cook Angelina Narcisse, 92, shares more than meals with students at the dining hall where she’s worked more than 60 years. She shares French conversation, advice and love. Video by Megan Wyatt, The Advertiser Megan Wyatt, The Advertiser

Narcisse has worked for the university’s dining services for more than 60 years now.

This is the third dining hall she’s worked in and is a huge upgrade from the small, makeshift cafeteria she worked out of during the two-year union project.

"We wasn’t equipped in that little place over there," Narcisse says. "I call that the crawfish hole over there."

A mother of 10, she began working for the university in September 1954 to help support her family. The self-described night owl started out on the evening shift and continues to work that shift today.

She keeps at it day after day because of her love for the students and her desire to stay active.

"It’s just me and my little dog at home, and I said, ‘I’m not going to stay here by myself,’" Narcisse says. "The world closes in on you if you stay in the house too much. So I come here. This is my gym. I come here to get my exercise."

More: Take a tour of the nearly completed UL Student Union

Narcisse doesn’t expect anybody to treat her differently even though she’s 92 and has workplace seniority that is unheard of these days.

Ed Daugherty, general manager of Sodexo, which manages UL’s dining services, was baffled by the first conversation he had with Narcisse in September when he took on the job.

"She said, ‘I know who you are. You’re the new general manager, and I expect you to be just as tough on me and give me just as much work as you do anybody else.’ That was my first impression and what a great impression, right?" Daugherty said.

At her new station in the new dining hall, Narcisse will continue to serve home-style meals such as rice and gravy, jambalaya, gumbo and vegetables. She takes great pride in the food’s taste and presentation.

"I like to serve a pretty plate," she says. "And I tell my students that I serve a pretty plate, and some of them say they don’t want the vegetables, and I say, ‘Aw, why don’t you eat your vegetables? It makes such a pretty plate.’"

UL Sodexo Operations Manager Keith Foreman loves Narcisse not for her workplace dedication but for the relationship she has with the students.

"The young kids who come in will speak French with her, and she speaks right back with them," Foreman says. "And it’s really neat to see that cultural connection they experience through her."

For Narcisse, the most difficult part of the job isn’t the work. It’s the goodbyes.

Semesters end with hugs and sometimes tears.

"They are attached to me, and I’m attached to them," Narcisse says. "It’s horrible, knowing we aren’t going to see each other no more. It’s our last goodbye."

But now is a time for greetings, not goodbyes.

Narcisse is excited that the students are back in classes this week, and more importantly that they are visiting her in the beautiful new dining hall in the new union.

"J’aime la place. J’aime les enfants. Et j’aime mon travailler," she says.

The translation? I like the place. I like the children. And I like my work.

Athletic Network Footnote: You will not find a finer person on the UL campus than Angelina Narcisse. It was my honor to have known her.

Peace, Ed Dugas