BY PHONG LY
If you’ve been at Drake for more than a few weeks, you have likely heard of Keith, quite literally. Keith is the kind of person that greets you out loud even if you are all the way across the room, and your introverted self would face the predicament of whether you should risk catching people’s attention to greet him back. But that’s one of the reasons why Bulldogs love Keith so much, and also because he is a member of the team in charge of the food Drake students need every day.
Keith’s full name is Marvin “Keith” Griffin, but he calls himself Keith and so does everyone else. Griffin is the supervisor for Sodexo, the food service company at Drake. Despite his title, he said he is willing to do anything the team needs him to do.
“I’m prepared to serve, sir,” Griffin said.
Griffin has been working here since 2007: two years after he moved to Iowa from California.
“I lived in Arizona for four years then California for another four years,” Griffin said. “Then my ex-wife told me I need to move back and that’s what I did.”
Griffin said he knew about the job here through Vince LoVan, the vice president of operations of Sodexo.
“I met Vince at church and he said he was looking for some good people for supervisors and asked if I wanted a job,” Griffin said.
Before working for Sodexo at Drake, Griffin was selling cars in downtown Des Moines.
“Summer’s off? Where else do you get a job like this,” Griffin said. “I have been here ever since.”
Griffin seemed a little offended when I asked if he enjoys what he is doing, as if it was not already so obvious.
“C’mon dude, I’m like a world ambassador!” Griffin said. “I get to meet with so many different people from so many different countries.”
Griffin said that before this job, he used to be stuck in a small world called “Iowa.” Now, he is introduced to the whole world through all the international students he talks to.
“You guys are my babies,” Griffin said. “Every year I feel like I’m launching my babies off into different countries, different worlds and wonder what they are going to do, who are they going to be.”
Griffin has been working at Drake for the past 10 years. So far, he has no intentions of leaving whatsoever.
“They’d have to bury me out of the Quad, dude,” Griffin laughed.
Griffin said he enjoys the opportunity to meet so many people who are going to so many different places, doing so many different things and the effect he can have on those students’ lives. That’s why he always strives to be cheerful and happy whenever he is working.
“I can’t come in here all grumpy and bring my problems with me. They’ve got enough problems on their own,” Griffin said. “That’s why I just refuse to have a bad day.”
Griffin seems like he has been here for a long time, but Nam Lam, another Quad worker, was here way before Griffin was. Lam has been working here for 22 years, and she has witnessed a lot of changes within Drake dining service.
Lam said Sodexo hasn’t always been Drake’s food service. Before 1999, Drake used to handle its own cafeteria and hire its own staff and workers. Lam was hired by Drake right after she emigrated from Vietnam in 1995. She then married an American man.
“I was only allowed to work part-time here because I don’t have a high school diploma,” Lam said. “I still work 30 to 40 hours a week, but I didn’t get holiday’s bonus.”
According to Lam, when Sodexo became the food provider for Drake University, they hired all the employees who were working food service for Drake at the time and promoted them all to full-time workers. That’s when Lam started getting the vacation benefits of a full-time worker, which she thought was “very nice.”
Drake students can almost always find Nam at the sub station or the burrito line at Quad Creek. She’ll always greet you with a smile.
Fatma Abdalla is another Quad worker that many Drake students have come to know and love, maybe not always by her name but her catch phrase “thank you so much.” She usually works the cash register at Quad. She always asks about your day and how you are doing, and when she finishes giving you your food, she always makes sure she says “thank you so much” and “have a good day” with a smile on her face.
Abdalla said the students at Drake are a big reason why she enjoys working so much.
“I love the people I work with and most of it is that I absolutely love Drake students,” Abdalla said. “They are all so nice and the good thing is anywhere I go I’d find some of you, and they do recognize me too.”
Abdalla loves it here so much she thinks she would stay forever.
“As long as they still allow me here,” Abdalla smiled.