‘Grandma’ Jayne serves students for 8 years March 22nd, 2012
[The Daily Barometer, March 16, 2012] — Concept manager Jayne Novotny, is a person who many consider the heart and spirit of West dining on campus.
Tuesday through Saturday of every week, she arrives at work by 11a.m. to help open shop.
Her father was a Teamster directly under Jimmy Hoffa, as was her aunt. Novotny cracked a sly smirk as she discussed her father’s work during her youth.
“They all had semis back in the 40s, and my dad ran moonshine all throughout Missouri and Illinois. We lived mostly out on farms or ranches, and that’s probably why I talk the way I talk.”
Not referencing a dialect or an accent when she mentions “talk,” 64-year-old Novotny, much to the enjoyment of her co-workers, has a mouth to rival that of George Carlin. You haven’t heard a dirty joke until you have heard it from a short, rail-thin woman who, despite her pension for snide humor, has become known as the “Grandma” of West Dining Center.
“She is the most feminine male I know,” said Dave, her husband of 35 years.
Since 2004, Novotny has worked at West Dining Center, one of several dining facilities on the Oregon State University campus. She started as a temp, and in 2005 was hired full-time to work in the Clubhouse Deli, which provides soups, salads and sandwiches to students — namely residents of Sackett Hall, West International Housing and the Hawley/Buxton/Poling dormitory system directly across the street.
“First and foremost, I was just out looking for a job.” Novotny said. “And then I got to know the kids, and I knew God had put me here for a purpose. I belong there.”
Prior to starting her job at West, Novotny made rounds of the greater Willamette Valley, attending high school in both Corvallis and Philomath, where she eventually met her husband. The two were temporary nomads of sorts until they ended up in Arizona, where Dave got a job with the Tucson Police Department. While he trained, she worked three jobs at once to help support their two daughters.
Now that their children have families of their own, she and Dave have settled in a Corvallis far different from the one she knew in 1965. But Novotny said she hasn’t had to look far to find “replacement kids.”
“These kids, the ones I work with, or used to and am still friends with, they keep me happy. They keep me young,” she said. “They are giving me a chance to show them about older people and what kind of sense [of humor] some of ushave.”
Those students seem to agree.
“She’s like my Oregon grandma,” said Jordan Guerrero, senior in sports science who worked with Novotny for years. “She’s definitely put a brighter spin on living in Oregon seeing as how it’s gloomy about nine months of the year.”
Swift hands, steady from years of training show horses and holding more jobs than most can count, fly across the food preparation counters everyday as she makes sure to greet her fellow co-workers, many of whom are students at OSU.
Jana Boyl, senior in apparel design, began working alongside Novotny at West Dining Center four years ago, which is when she got her first dose of the notorious humor of “Grandma Jayne.”
“Jayne has definitely acted as a mentor for me,” Boyl said. “I remember seeking her out at work after my first relationship ended. I couldn’t think of anyone better to talk to, because I knew that she would have something to say that would make me feel better. And I was right.”
Many echo this sentiment. In 2009, the RA staff members of the Hawley/Buxton/Poling residential hall units honored her with an award commending her for her invaluable service to the school and her warm attitude toward all students.
A face etched with laughter lines cringes at the mention of some of her “kids” graduating and leaving soon.
A matter-of-fact sense of humor often masks her awareness of the type of role she has played in the lives of the students.
“My favorite aspect of her personality is that she can point out the silver lining of any situation or event, while still being the one of the most down-to-earth women I’ve ever met,” Boyl said.
Novotny has seen two changes in management since she started at West, one of which she claims was lacking in a lot of direction and compassion for student-workers, a void which she chose to fill. ..