Friendly barista contributes to supportive community at NDSU
Published April 2016
If we’re lucky, we learn important lessons from the people in our lives.
LaVon Whipple picked up compassion from her mother, an elementary school teacher. She learned patience as a stay-at-home mom of two boys. She learned perseverance and persistence from her husband as he battled cancer. But, by all accounts, she was born with radiant positive energy.
She’s the kind of person who loves to smile, but gets more enjoyment from helping other people do the same. She’s comforting, welcoming and inviting. And if you happen to frequent the Barry Hall Coffee Shop, where she works as a barista, she’s a friend and a mentor.
Whipple is an example of NDSU’s focus on meeting student needs in and out of the classroom. She enhances people’s daily experiences at NDSU simply by being herself.
“I want to be that first smile people see when they walk through the door,” said Whipple, who has worked at NDSU Dining Services for a decade. “I want them to feel like they have family here at Barry Hall.”
Customer service is important to Whipple. But connections matter more.
She has conversations about family, classes, after school activities and personal interests. Whipple wants to know all that’s going on in the lives of the people she sees every day.
And if someone is having a bad day, Whipple is there to offer a hug.
“She is the heart and soul of Barry Hall,” said co-worker Kelly Mertz, “… LaVon Whipple makes me want to be a better person. I can think of no higher compliment than that.”
Her passion to make friends and take care of people at Barry Hall extends to her student coworkers. She often attends NDSU events to support international students who don’t have family in Fargo. She’s also had a few coworkers over for holiday meals when they are unable to make it home.
LaVon, a grandmother of five boys, is most comfortable in a nurturing role. She attends graduation ceremonies each semester to congratulate the people she calls “her students,” the people who stop in day-in-and-day-out for a cup of coffee and conversation.
During this winter’s commencement, LaVon weaved her way through a crowded hallway to congratulate College of Business students on a job well done. She beamed with pride as she headed back down the hall to find her seat for the ceremony. Her students appreciated the gesture.
“She’s the friendliest person I ever met – not just at NDSU – but in my entire life,” NDSU graduate Peter Turner said.
Whipple is an active member of the campus community. She volunteers to direct traffic on move-in day and helps serve a late-night breakfast at the Residence Dining Center during finals week.
“I have the best job ever,” she says with a huge grin. “I love it at NDSU.”
Whipple’s presence at Barry Hall has immeasurably affected students, faculty and staff.
She’s teaching life lessons as unforgettable as she is.
“Thank you,” read an anonymous handwritten note LaVon found on the coffee shop counter one morning. “For being such a friendly and kind-hearted barista. You treat everyone like you know them, and they are so important (to you). … Thank you for adding so much to the world.”