Southern’s Unsung Hero: Roberta Read
Melissa Nunez – General Assignment Reporter
Whether there is sunshine or snow showers, just follow the scent of freshly baked cookies over to North Campus Market, where Roberta Read, store manager, has been a fixture for 25 years. Read said the North Campus Market is her home away from home, where the kids have brightened up her life.
“It is my second home, I love it. I love coming here because I love to react with the kids and I enjoy it. I lost my husband in Vietnam when I was 25, so this is great for me,” said Read. “Before I started working here, I worked for a caterer or two and when I came here, I just got lifted up. I felt great because everybody was so nice and helpful.”
For years, students have known Read by many different names, students even joke that the market should be renamed after her.
“They always keep saying, ‘why can’t we rename the store Roberta’s?’ In fact, they have a big banner [outside] here that says ‘Roberta’ on it,” said Read. “They very seldom call me Roberta. The kids always used to come in when I was at Conn Hall and say, ‘mom, mom, mom!’ Now they try to go, ‘Gram,’ and I go, ‘hey!’ They call me Berta, even a lot of the articles have Berta in them. The kids are really, really good to me. Whatever they want, I will try to do it for them.”
Read said she is also famously known as ‘the Cookie Lady,’ because students and faculty will walk from far corners of the campus just to indulge on some of Berta’s baked goods.
Read added the company before Chartwells initiated the cookies at Conn Hall and when she moved over to the North Campus Market, she decided to continue the tradition there, even going as far as to incorporating holiday designs.
“So we have chocolate chip and macadamia cookies, we used to do M&M cookies too,” said Read. “I love it, I love making them and every holiday I do something different. At Easter I will have bunnies on them and then I like to decorate the store because they enjoy it. In fact, they came in during January saying, ‘where’s the decorations? No decorations this year?’ I said, ‘It’s early!’ You have to come in here in early October just to see Halloween.”
Roberta said whether she is offering students recipes, dancing with them around the store, or exchanging Christmas presents, her memories with them have been lasting and life altering.
“Some of the boys come in, ‘how do you cook this? How do you do this?’ I used to have a little recipe book and I kept it on the counter,” said Read. “I will keep the music on when they come in and they all dance around and they all sing, I love it. With a student last year, she graduated, she was really so nice, she would bring me little things and then at Christmas she sent me Omaha Steaks.”
Read’s exceptional service has been recognized numerous times over the years, receiving various awards, such as the “Commitment to Students Award,” which she received this past year for her dedication to the Southern student community, as well as the “Heroes Aim Higher Award,” in 2010.
Photo Credit: Melissa Nunez – General Assignment Reporter