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Let’s honour the university’s unsung heroes

Too often we overlook some of the most vital, inspiring and committed people at our university. We often recognize the professors who commit endless hours to not only the academic work of students, but their own well-being. There are those in Student Services who work to provide meaningful accommodation to students. And we can’t forget about the UNBSU who, as I have argued before, are devoted to serving students.

However, there are those smaller, often individual entities at UNB that can turn an awful day good. They can take your stress and transform it into enthusiasm. Many of you will agree with me when I say that Doreen, the unofficial head of the Tilley Hall Cafe, is one of those people.

During my undergraduate degree at UNB, more than once I would finish a presentation and Doreen would be at the Cafe to celebrate with me. I can’t count the number of times I showed up at the Tilley Cafe worn from an all-nighter or the everyday stresses of student life only to be picked up not only by the coffee, but Doreen’s thoughtful and kind presence.

If you haven’t met Doreen, do yourself a favour and grab coffee at the Cafe. The moment you walk in, you get the sensation that you are entering someone’s kitchen. Doreen’s persistent smile and vibrant spirit fills the room. If you can walk away from a conversation with Doreen feeling worse than when you entered, then there’s no one that can help you.

Still, individuals like Doreen are overlooked. In my own opinion, Doreen is an individual who has made a massive contribution to student mental health. Once she knows your name, she doesn’t forget. For god’s sake, she keeps track of how many coffees you buy to ensure you can get that glorious free cup. With Doreen you aren’t a number, you aren’t a customer, you are a part of a community.

Another large group we recognize at the university is individuals who make large financial contributions. Often, these people are recognized with honorary degrees. Of course, these degrees are also handed out based on an individual’s contribution to the university and society as well. However, being wealthy and famous never hurts. We’ve given honorary degrees to recognize the likes of the Kennedys, wealthy benefactors, and a plethora of other high-profile individuals.

In 1966, the university gave an honorary degree to Edith McLeod. Edie, as she was known, was secretary to two presidents before becoming the registrar. All said, she served 41 years at our university. During that time, she was famous for remembering who students were. There is anecdotal evidence of Edie often following up with students after the summer. Edie would remember if you had applied for some job, gotten married, or travelled through the summer and was known for asking how various parts of one’s life were going. She was renowned for even remembering students long after they had left.

Doreen is the new Edie. Not only does Doreen sling the caffeine that keeps most of us going, but she has also displayed, every day, her commitment to students. Her work should and must be recognized. Following this article, I will be submitting a nomination for Doreen to receive an honorary degree from UNB. As a university, we must take steps to formally recognize such vital parts of our community.

Doreen embodies everything this university strives to be. She is hardworking. She is committed. She is connected. She is involved. These are all qualities I have, in the past, pushed to become evident in our administration and faculty (one of those is better at it than the other). Doreen encompasses what you would expect from a Maritime university. A compassionate and thoughtful individual, she always takes the time, no matter how busy the cafe, to ask how you are.

Alongside my nomination, there will be two petitions. The first will be a student petition. Doreen has done so much for us, we must work to have her work recognized. The second will be a faculty petition. I know that Doreen means just as much to numerous faculty members as she does to students. Please, when you see these petitions, sign them.

Finally, I turn to the administration. Not only is this a call to ensure that Doreen gets the recognition she deserves. Senior administrators, I also encourage you to take a lesson. Because of Doreen, students are attending a university where someone knows your name. Doreen is tapped into the university community in a way that you should be envious of. I encourage all of you to spend more time modelling yourselves after Doreen.

Doreen deserves to be recognized and respected for what she has contributed to UNB. Watch out for those petitions and sign them. Let this be our proclamation of what we want our university to be: an inclusive, thoughtful, and connected community. I’ve already said it once and I will say it again. This time, I hope you join with me: Doreen for President.

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