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Beloved cashier reflects on 17 years at University

Gail McCarthy reminds students to find happiness amid stressful campus life

More than Sunday brunches in the Sharpe Refectory or the aroma of muffins in the Blue Room, Brown students love their dining experiences because of Gail McCarthy. After 17 years at the University, the Brown Dining Services cashier has developed a cult-like following among students, who look forward to her signature sign-off — “Have a good day!” — after she swipes their ID cards in dining halls.

“I’m not nosy, and I don’t want to know people’s business, but when people are stressed, kindness goes a long way,” McCarthy said. “If people are shy or timid or if something just doesn’t seem right, (I) try extra hard to be kind.”

McCarthy’s long career for Brown Dining started in the Ratty at the salad bar, but most current students know her for her role swiping ID cards and greeting students at the dining hall’s entrance. She moved to the Blue Room this semester, where she works behind the cashier stand.

“I’m extra fond of the Ratty because I spent most of my life there,” she said, adding that she had witnessed a lot of “crazy” things during her time. “A lot of it had to do with the football team,” McCarthy said with a laugh, describing pie-eating contests with no hands. “It wasn’t pretty, but it was funny.”

McCarthy began her career as a waitress in Providence, a profession she held for 28 years. But she adores her position at Brown, remarking that its students, faculty and staff keep her feeling young and invigorated.

“I didn’t attend college, so I’m getting the college education I never had,” she said. “This job makes me happy.”

Students are similarly fond of McCarthy’s presence on campus.

“One of the questions to join the Brown Meme page (on Facebook) is ‘Did you say hi to Gail today?’” said Zoe Coleman ’23.

Luke Prestwich ’23 nodded in agreement. “A very common thing on a Brown student’s bucket list is taking a selfie with Gail, or saying hi to Gail, or high-fiving Gail,” he said. “She just has such a deep-rooted connection to the Brown community.”

McCarthy urges students to enjoy their time on College Hill, no matter how hectic or stressful.

“Life is full of choices, and I don’t regret anything,” she said. “It’s truly beautiful here. Make sure you’re having fun and enjoying life.”



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