Whether the soothing vocals of Luther Vandross or the catchy beats of Michael Jackson are playing, the omelet station in the Dining Center is one of the grooviest spots on campus.
All of this is due to Jeff Gladney, a 6’2’’ gentle soul who can be depended on daily for fist bumps and morning pick-me-ups in addition to playing the best music to wake up drowsy students.
“Music calms the savage beast,” laughs the southwest Philadelphia native. “And I play just about everything.”
Gladney, who has worked in Haverford’s Dining Services for the past nineteen years, is beloved by students and faculty alike for his perpetual enthusiasm. And, on Saturday May 14, Gladney will have the opportunity to display his charm at commencement, where he is giving the opening remarks.
“Jeff has so much great energy and I love that he takes an interest in every student,” said Elizabeth Reikoswki ’17, who works the morning shift with Gladney in the Dining Center.
Gladney has worked in both the Dining Center and The Coop since he arrived on campus. Previously a truck driver, Gladney was in between jobs when a friend of his asked him if he would be interested in working at Haverford. When former Dining Center Director John Francone offered Gladney the job shortly after his interview on campus, Gladney didn’t hesitate in accepting.
“I obviously love cooking—I was nine when my uncle first showed me how to cut potatoes and make French fries,” said Gladney, who has three brothers and one sister. “And I like earning money to feed my family.”
“The students here are really what make my job special, though. Interacting with all of them keeps me young and if they need me in any way, I am ready and willing to help.”
Though Gladney spends the majority of his time at the omelet station, his easygoing nature and approachability have allowed him to form close relationships with both students on the full meal plan as well as staff who rarely pass through the Dining Center.
“The other day a student came in and was stressing about a class that she recently learned she might not receive credit for,” said Gladney, who has four children of his own. “I got in touch with Mitch Wein and told her to go visit him to see if he could help her out. I don’t know the end result, but I try to help when I can.”
During the summer, Gladney helps out by putting smiles on the faces of the many younger kids who attend camps at Haverford.
“The campers see me as an old guy, but as a fun old guy,” said Gladney. “Last year there was one camper who made me a paper crane at the end of the summer. It made my day to know I was so appreciated.”
Indeed, Gladney’s calm energy and warm presence are immediately noticed and valued by students shortly after they arrive on campus.
“Jeff has taught me so much new slang, it’s been incredible,” said Kevin Medansky, who just finished his freshman year. “Because of him, I’ve been able to input new phrases into my lexicon, like “DEUCES!” whenever I say goodbye to someone.”
“He’s a fixture at the DC,” added Katie Rowlett ’16, who also works in the Dining Center. “Even if he doesn’t know you, he always makes your day a little brighter.”