By J.T. Buchheit
Cafeteria worker Nancy Whedon has been at the college since 1995, brightening countless students’ days in the process. Perhaps the most well-known person in the food court, Whedon has endeared herself to many students over the years with her ever-present smile and cheerful interactions with all who approach her.
“I think people deserve to be treated nicely,” said Whedon. “I don’t think they need to come to school, come to work and be treated badly. We should all be cheerful. We wouldn’t have any wars that way.”
After 21 years at the college, however, Whedon has decided to retire, stating a desire to see her grandchildren and other family members more often. Whedon has no regrets about her time at the college.
“It’s been 21 of the best years of my life,” she said.
Whedon has led an extremely interesting life, doing activities such as participating in the rock band Stoned Circus. She saw an advertisement on a bulletin board saying a band needed a singer, so she applied and got the job.
“The band that we were with was a show band,” said Whedon. “So they were dressed in real fancy clothes. … We told them, ‘Let’s be the new thing that’s coming in, the hard rock.’ So we got T-shirts and bell-bottom jeans and sat around trying to decide what our name would be. I came up with the name ‘Stone Circus’ because I thought it would be really cool to have our first album cover be a circus made of stone. But when we got our first big marquee, the guy put a “D” at the end, which made it ‘Stoned Circus.’”
Whedon’s band was fairly successful when it began making music, recording an album and single, the latter of which sold quite well. The band recently experienced a resurge in popularity due to a stroke of luck.
“About seven, eight years ago, somebody rediscovered our music and bought the canister from Cavern Studios, where we were recording,” Whedon said. “They sold a whole bunch of them not knowing who we were other than Stoned Circus. My son found it online for sale on ‘Golden Oldies,’ so we got a hold of the man. … He introduced us to a man in Germany who took older bands and got them back together and had concerts. … We went over [to Germany] and we were playing with 10 groups in the festival that were like 18- and 20-year-olds, and we were in our 50s. And [the audience] loved us!”
After leaving the band, Whedon owned several restaurants, which directly led to her employment at the college.
“My husband and I owned two restaurants on our own,” she said. “One we lost in the flood of ’95, and then we had one down in the Ozarks. Then my husband got really sick and we had to move home, and it wasn’t a month I was here until a friend from the school called me and said they had an opening for a supervisor. I came in and interviewed, got the job and have been here 21 years.”
One fact about Whedon many students may not be aware of is that in addition to working in the cafeteria, she lets international students live with her and hires them to give them opportunities to work in the U.S.
“I’ve gotten lots of information on different countries from international students that I’ve worked with,” Whedon said. “I’ve had students from 11 different countries come live with me. … [Also], international students cannot legally work off campus. They must work on their campus no more than 20 hours per week. They still have to compete with everyone else in America for the jobs, but it does help them because they have no other means of making money to live by.”
Whedon will be departing from the college with many amazing memories and experiences. She feels she has been greatly impacted by the students and the school as a whole.
“Whenever any incidents happen, people help those people out,” she said. “It’s very incredible and selfless, and I like that kind of environment. … I think it keeps you young when you’re around a lot of young people. The energy you guys give me is good, and then I try to return that to you guys when you need help or just a smile or somebody to talk to.”
Whedon’s retirement is set for the end of the fall semester.