By Kurtis Kendall
Whenever one heads to Holmes Dining Hall here at Fitchburg State, there’s a good chance they’ll run into Joyce Ahearn, the cashier at the entrance of the dining hall. Ahearn has been at the University for decades, having worked at Fitchburg State since 1990. When asked about what she’s seen throughout the years, Ahearn replies, “A lot of changes, but a lot of good changes.”
Joyce was born and raised in Summerville as a city girl, living just outside of Boston. Since Ahearn finished high school, she has always been in the food business, having also worked at Harvard Law School and Tufts University. But for the last 32 years, Ahearn has lived in Lunenburg, with almost 30 years under her belt at Fitchburg State.
“Moving here was a little tough for me, I loved the city life,” says Ahearn. “But I’m glad I did it, I’m glad I raised my kids here.” Ahearn lives with her husband Patrick and has two grown-up children, along with three grandchildren. Joyce and Patrick have been married for 39 years, having grown up in the same area as kids.
“My grandchildren are my No. 1 thing now, I’m always babysitting,” jokes Ahearn in between her greetings to students and faculty as they enter the dining hall. But besides her family, it’s the individuals Ahearn interacts with that mean the most to her. “When you work with the public, they make my day, they really do. I talk to kids about sports, school, jobs. Even shy kids, because I don’t give up saying hi. One kid asked why I kept saying hi to him, I just said back, ‘isn’t that a nice thing?’”
Students on campus appreciate the joy Ahearn brings to her job. “Joyce is super nice and kind,” said Fitchburg State sophomore Ryan Cartularo, “she’s someone who always has a smile on her face whenever I see her.”
“The best thing is the people,” continues Ahearn, “interacting with them, getting to know them. Whether they are faculty, students, or staff. Meeting different kids, sitting and talking with them, I learn a lot. And I like to help them if I can.”
“She’s one of the nicest people on campus,” says sophomore Anthonio Garcia, “and she always strikes up a conversation with me or really anyone going to Daka.”
Joyce emphasizes how the relationships she’s built here at Fitchburg State have followed her wherever she goes. “No matter where I go I see somebody, like kids working at a restaurant or at a grocery store. I’ve run into former students on a trip in Maine and even on a cruise I went on!”
As Ahearn reflects on her time at Fitchburg, she states how retirement is a few years away. Still, she can’t quite wrap her head around someone else being in her spot. “When I go to retire in a few years, it will be weird to think about someone else in my place.
“When I leave here I’ll say it was a good journey, that’s how I’ll think of it. This has been a big part of my life.”