Gloria Peterson, food service associate at Southern Miss, can often be found serving comfort food to students at Fresh Food Company. Affectionately called ‘Ms. Gloria’ by Southern Miss students and faculty, Peterson is known for regularly shouting upbeat catchphrases such as “How you percolating,” “It’s Hump-Day” and “It’s Friday!”
On Friday Oct. 5, the Student Government Association surprised Peterson by honoring her as the 2018 Homecoming Parade Grand Marshal. As Grand Marshal, Peterson will join one of the university’s oldest traditions and lead the homecoming parade down Hardy Street and through campus as well as choose the winning parade float.
“When Mrs. Wynde Fits brought up the topic of choosing a 2018 Grand Marshal at one of our homecoming meetings, one person at the table suggested Ms. Gloria before Mrs. Wynde could even finish her sentence,” junior elementary education major and homecoming director Asia Montgomery said.
“Ms. Gloria is one of a kind. She is truly loved by the Southern Miss student body. She is true to who she is and her beautiful personality will bring joy and happiness to anyone’s day,” Montgomery said. “It never gets old to hear her asking everyone who comes through her line in the fresh ‘Hey baby, how you percolating?’ Fried Chicken Wednesdays (Hump Day) and Catfish Fridays would honestly not be the same without her. Ms. Gloria brings so much positivity to Southern Miss, and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that Southern Miss would not be the same without Ms. Gloria.”
Peterson has devoted over 26 years to creating a positive atmosphere for students and faculty at Southern Miss.
Peterson said her love and compassion for both the students and the university drives her to be happy when she serves students at the Fresh.
“I’ve never been to college, but I understand you’re away from home, away from your parents and away from your normal surroundings. You don’t want to come in here and see sad faces. You need a smile every morning, and there’s no harm in smiling,” Peterson said.
“How you percolating,” is one of Peterson’s most well-known catchphrases. In regard to the phrase, she said, “God gave me that. He sent that phrase to me years ago, and I’ve been saying it from then on to try to bring a smile to people’s faces.”
No matter what, Peterson makes an effort to remind students that every day is a great day. Students often say Peterson’s catchphrases and upbeat attitude are their first memories at Southern Miss.
“This makes my heart so happy. When I had an 8 a.m. class my sophomore year, Ms. Gloria’s positive attitude made doing things that early in the morning so much easier,” senior English major Katie Miller said.
Other students who were present during the surprise mentioned that they have never seen Peterson without a smile on her face.
“The more you smile the prettier you’ll be,” Peterson said in response.
Last year, Peterson was named to Aramark’s 2017 Ring of Stars class, which is comprised of frontline employees who proudly serve the company’s customers and consumers. She was selected for her ability to uplift people with a kind word or a warm welcome. Although Peterson’s influence on students is obvious, she had no idea how important she was to the student body.
“I didn’t know people cared about me like this. This is more than an honor; y’all really don’t understand how much this means to me,” Peterson said through tears of joy.
“Honestly, I did not expect Mrs. Gloria to be as surprised as she was. To see her excitement and those tears of joy really showed her love and appreciation for Southern Miss. When she hugged me and cried on my shoulder, I could feel how grateful she was to be chosen as the 2018 Grand Marshal,” Montgomery said.
Students occasionally ask Peterson how she is percolating.
“I love when students sneak that in on me. They’ll be waiting for me not to say anything, and they say it. And it makes me smile. I understand why they smile when I say that,” Peterson said. “By the way, I’m percolating just fine.”