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Cashier in Humanities to Retire After 30 Years

Paul Kalis

“It feels like a family here, which we are; we are a family.”

Over the last 30 years, LIU Post students have come to love chocolate chip and corn muffins. Plain bagels come in at No. 1, sesame second, wheat third. Favorite candies and chips vary. Joan Lavin, the cashier in Humanities Hall, knows what her customers want. She has gone to graduations, been invited to sit in on classes, and has seen students crying, happy, and opening up to her. This September, the Humanities Café will continue without Lavin, as she is retiring.

“I feel I have done my time,” said Lavin. “I will miss everybody. I see almost every student. I am sure they will miss me; at least I hope they do. We have gotten to the point where we can have a one-on-one conversation. I worked in grammar school, high school, and college. I guess you can say that I am going to graduate.”

In 1982, Lavin began working at Hillwood Commons, preparing salads and sandwiches. From the grill, she went to the Winnick Student Center. She then bounced back to Hillwood and into Pizza Works. When that closed, she started cashiering. From cashiering, she was approached to open up the store in Humanities. She remembers wearing a green bib and wrap-around skirt that nobody really liked, along with red, orange, and black taxi-driver colored shirts before the current black on black.

“Students, I have seen them mature in four years, some five years,” said Lavin. “The freshmen will come in out of high school, then they grow and mature, and I tell them no ‘Yos’ and ‘Give Mes.’ They are respectful. I haven’t had one problem with any of the students here.”

In the past, students have come into the Humanities lobby after donating blood, not drinking their juice or eating. One almost passed out on the bench. Another began to have seizures on the front lawn. In both instances, Lavin phoned Public Safety.

“I know exactly what all of my regular customers want,” said Lavin. “All I have to do is look at their faces. I may not know their names, but I know what they want. I have got two girls who come here every morning, lean over this counter, give me a hug, give me a kiss, and ask how are you, how are you feeling. It makes me feel good. Some of them call me ma. I try to give advice to some of them. They ask me or if they say something that’s inappropriate, I will say something to them. They don’t get mad at me. They say I am sorry.”

“The school has its history, you know, it’s past,” said senior and Criminal Justice major Melinda Fuentes. “This woman, she always has a smile on her face. She is always friendly and always polite to everyone. She will certainly be missed. I wish her all the best. Her time here was definitely worthwhile.”

The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 mandated 21 years old as the minimum age for purchasing and publicly possessing alcoholic beverages.

“The Pioneer Room used to be called the Rathskeller, where they would serve alcohol, and you could sit and socialize,” said Lavin. “When they changed the drinking age, they stopped it. A couple of kids were killed leaving campus. One was killed by the Chapel, hit the tree. There was another killed on Northern Blvd.”

On October 12th, 1994, The Buffalo News reported that 300 full-time faculty members went on strike in a dispute about a shorter workweek. On September 27th, 2003, the New York Times reported a 19-day faculty member strike ended, as union members ratified a three-year contract. on September 11th, 2011, the Pioneer reported that full-time faculty went on strike in response to a said walk out on contract negotiations by the University’s administration.

“I just feel kind of bad for her that she had to see all of that stuff,” said Matthew Schwartz, a freshman with an undeclared major. “Good for her that she gets to retire.”

On September 11th, 2001, 19 Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four passenger jets, crashing them into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field. Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks.

“Everyone was totally devastated,” said Lavin. “Students came here crying. You try to talk to them and comfort them, and you’re in shock over this. Everybody has become more aware of what is going on, what’s happening, their surroundings. When they had the Fashion Show, they went out to a club afterwards. One of our students was shot. After that, I don’t hear anyone talking about going to the clubs. They had cards that they would put out on the steps. That got stopped.”

In June 2001, Aramark, a leader in providing award-winning food services, facilities management, uniform and career apparel to health care institutions, universities, school districts, stadiums, arenas, and businesses around the world, took over food service for the LIU Post campus.

“I was here when Lackman Culinary Services had the contract,” said Lavin. “I am glad we kept our jobs.”

One of the biggest changes came on July 24th, 2003, when New York State cracked down on smoking in public and work places. Smoking is not allowed in places of employment, bars, food service, and all public and private colleges, universities, and other educational and vocational institutions.

“That was a big one,” said Lavin. “When Pizza Works was here, where Subway is, there were tables all over and people would smoke left and right. I mean, the place was full of smoke and then they said ‘no more.’ It wasn’t too far before they passed the law. The school decided no more just like they did with the drinking and the gum. We used to have a store in Hillwood where [you could get] anything you wanted. That got stopped. That was across from the Information Desk.”

Several other noteworthy incidents have occurred on campus in recent years, including an attack by 1-800-Flowers and a missing student, which resulted in detectives asking questions, looking, and wondering what happened.

“I may come back just for lunch and just look and listen and see what’s going on because I am going to lose a big family,” said Lavin. “One of our coworkers passed. She was like the mother, the grandmother. She gave her heart and soul to her job. When she passed, it was very upsetting. Things have changed since she has gone, as far as we go.”


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