Stewart campus, community fixture over 30 yearsBy Jordan Cissell | 01/30/2012 11:10pm
Sometimes it takes little more than a smiling face behind the cafeteria counter to brighten somebody’s day. Three decades amount to a lot of days to brighten. One face has repeatedly proven it’s up to the task, and it belongs to Nancy Stewart.
“Mamma Nancy,” as Bryant Sports Grille employees and regulars know her, has worked for Bama Dining in various locations and positions for more than 30 years. She is currently the assistant food services director and Bryant location manager.
“I am a Livingston, Ala., native…[who] was seeking a better job opportunity when I first arrived on the UA campus,” she said in an emailed statement.
Stewart has certainly taken advantage of the opportunity. She began her University career as a cashier at the Ferguson Center and has steadily worked her way up to her current role, with stops along the way in Tutwiler, Paty and Burke.
Stewart did more than scoop food onto a plate to get to the level she is today. She feels the true importance of her role at the University lies in her desire to impact students’ lives in deeper, less tangible ways.
“What I enjoy most of all about working here on the UA campus is being able to help students when help is needed or maybe even encouraging them to do better,” Stewart said. “Most of all being a mother figure to the students while they are here on campus away from home.”
However, Stewart’s passion for care and assistance does not stop at students. Many fellow Bama Dining employees credit her lasting positive influence on their lives and careers.
Ed Robertson, residential food service director, said Stewart’s guidance throughout Robertson’s employment has been instrumental in pushing him along the path to his current position.
“I was first inspired by Ms. Nancy early on,” Robertson said in an emailed statement. “I saw a dedicated woman work her way up through the company. Once I realized all the things she was doing and the success she was having, I thought surely if I applied myself I could have similar success.”
In fact, Stewart prompted Robertson’s first steps up the managerial ladder, putting him in charge of Buffalo Phil’s at Burke when he requested more career responsibility.
“Ms. Nancy would check on me each morning, trying not to be obvious that she was checking on me,” Robertson said. “I would share with her certain scenarios I was dealing with, and she would tell me how she handled similar situations. I still use the lessons taught to me by Ms. Nancy to mentor and inspire all the managers and staff at Bama Dining.”
Helping coworkers isn’t quite enough for Stewart, either.
Kelsey Faust, marketing programs manager for Bama Dining, said Stewart also maintains an active role in the Tuscaloosa community, especially through her membership in the Alabama Business and Professional Women’s Club.
“She loves working with this group because it is all about helping young women and working in the community to help when needed,” Faust said in an emailed statement. “When the tornado came through on April 27, 2011, BPW collected books for schools in Tuscaloosa and Jefferson County.”
Thirty years is a long time, and Stewart has observed plenty of changes during her career with the University. In true Alabama fashion, she used football to measure the period.
“I had the pleasure to work with one of the greatest coaches of all time, Coach Bear Bryant…and we have another great legend in the making, Coach Saban, who won two national championships in the last three years,” Stewart said. “What more can I ask for than being part of a great institution?”