Students who walk into The Fresh on a Friday might hear a certain server yell “It’s Friday!” and be asked how they are percolating. This server is named Gloria Peterson, known by the Southern Miss community as Ms. Gloria.
On Nov. 4, Eagle Dining announced through a Facebook post that Peterson is retiring on Nov. 13 after almost 29 years of service. To celebrate Peterson’s impact on the Southern Miss community, a celebration in her honor will be held from Nov. 9 to Nov. 13.
Peterson said there are many memories that stand out to her during her time at Southern Miss.
“The first time I said ‘How you percolatin’?’, I got an E4, it was awesome and it put me up in the [job] status level,” Peterson said. “And I liked it when they made me Grand Marshal — all of it, all of it.”
Peterson was surprised by the SGA on Oct. 5, 2018 to become the 2018 Homecoming Parade Grand Marshal. Peterson was in charge of leading the homecoming parade through Hardy Street and through campus, as well as choosing the winning parade float. To this day, Peterson said she still can’t believe she was made Grand Marshal.
“I couldn’t believe it, I’m a nobody. I’m just a vessel that God used,” Peterson said. “And then for them — I’m not a teacher, I’m not a principal, I’m not a student with scholarships, I’m a person that works in a cafeteria — for these students to think that highly of me and for the school to say it’s okay to have a cafeteria worker to be a Grand Marshal, I’ll never forget it.”
Peterson said she still has the white suit she wore that day and took the ribbon, folded it up and put it in a plastic bag. She said she will never forget being Grand Marshal and so much more. Peterson said she would never forget the faces that have passed through The Fresh.
“I have been to the doctor’s office and the nurses, the receptionists say, ‘Ms. Gloria, you still at [the school]?’” Peterson said.
Peterson said it is funny when a new student comes into The Fresh and does not know how to react to her. Sometimes, the new student looks at her like she is crazy or like something is wrong with her.
“I [ask] is this your first year here [and they say] ‘Yes ma’am’ [and] I say they’ll get to know me then,” Peterson laughed. “It’s a joy because I miss so many students, of different races and all kinds, and I think I’ve only had one bad experience with one.”
Peterson said she would never do anything to hurt anyone, especially because of an experience her daughter had while she was away at college. Peterson said her daughter called her one day crying and said the cafeteria ladies were mean. So, Peterson told her daughter to smile and go on anyways.
“That’s all you can do — a smile never hurt anyone. Saying hello, good morning or have a good day are the easiest words you can come by,” Peterson said. “If you love yourself, the children and God, all the love in you will come out.”
Peterson said she did not think she would be at Southern Miss for 29 years. She explained that, when she first worked for Southern Miss, she was in a bad spot.
“I was really low and on the verge of suicide, [but] I went to church and the preacher said God is going to give you something,” Peterson said. “[The preacher] said it would be a little something, but I woke up that Monday morning and said ‘How you percolatin’ and that was that little something. That little word went a long way.”
Peterson said she never thought the word would put a smile on someone’s face or that it would change her the way it has. She’s loved all the students who’ve come through The Fresh and tells them so whenever she can.
“I love y’all, [but] I have to go,” Peterson said. “Don’t think this was an easy decision to make, because it wasn’t.”
Peterson said that, while she is leaving, she still plans to come to the Southern Miss campus during special events.
“I don’t know for how long, but I’m not going to work,” Peterson said. “I will still come out here and holler at these children, especially on graduation day.”
Attending graduation is extremely important for Peterson, as she said it is like watching her own children graduate. This is only one testament of her love for Southern Miss, and Peterson said that she’ll miss having fun with the students and her coworkers once she retires.
Lauren Brescher, the marketing director for Aramark, said everyone is welcome to eat at The Fresh even if they do not have a meal plan. Brescher said students can pay $6 on Friday so they can go through the line with Peterson one last time.
“It is just amazing to see her interaction with students,” Brescher said. “I have been here for [six] years, so over the time I have gotten random messages from students who have come and gone, who are international students.”
Brescher said the international students will ask her to pass a goodbye message to Peterson after they have gone back home. She thinks Peterson helps brighten her coworkers days with the way she acts, and will miss her once she’s gone.
“It’s going to be a hard week,” Peterson said.
Peterson’s last day is Friday, Nov. 3. Students are encouraged to stop by and talk to Peterson and leave a note or message for her.