Most Kenyon students know AVI staffer Lisa Carver for her omelettes. However, her strengths extend far beyond Peirce breakfast. Carver makes herself available to students as a resource and tries, in her words, “to be somebody who … if you need something, you can come to.”
Though she has listened to and supported many Kenyon students, only recently did she get the opportunity to share her own story with the community. February 15th, Carver participated in the Diversity Advisors’ “Storytime” series, where she shared tales from her life to a notably large crowd.
In her talk, Carver highlighted the importance of remaining positive in light of hardship. She strives to embody this positivity every day in Peirce Dining Hall.
Carver was born in Galion, Ohio but was raised in Mount Vernon. She grew up with six of 11 total siblings, one of whom is her identical twin. While her mom worked full time, she began cooking at a young age for her stepfather, who was in poor health. As a young adult, she moved to Utica, Ohio, where she lived for 30 years. For seven years, she worked at a small store with her twin sister and, after a brief period working as a waitress, she bought the store. For five years, Carver owned and operated the business. As the bills rose, however, she struggled to keep it afloat and was forced to close it.
Kenyon, in comparison to her previous places of employment, was a “big and scary” environment. Carver’s neighbor and AVI staffer Jeff Beckholt had persuaded her to interview for the position. When she got the job in 2009, she moved back to Mount Vernon and has worked at Kenyon ever since. She was excited by the opportunity to work with so many new coworkers and students at Kenyon: “I’ve always been a people person, not a pencil pusher,” she said.
For about six months, she worked preparing salads before moving downstairs to catering. Though she didn’t get to interact with students, she appreciated working the long hours downstairs: “I loved it because I’m a busybody.”
After five or six years, however, she was offered a position upstairs, involving a more manageable 40 hours a week. Despite the chaos of the servery, Lisa has immensely enjoyed working with students directly.
But being cheerful in the omelette line is not always an easy task. “Up until a year ago,” Carver said, “I was in a bad relationship for like three and a half years. It was abusive.” Her ex-partner was also an alcoholic, and she got little sleep and little peace at home. Her position in the servery proved to be a positive force in her life, her “happy place,” despite the overwhelmingly negative situation.
Each morning, she said, “I’d come in here and have a bad attitude … I’d be standing there, cooking eggs, and then I’d hear someone say, ‘Good morning, Mrs. Lisa,’ and it kind of like … warms your heart.”
Kenyon students often write cards to Lisa in appreciation of the care and the individual attention she gives to students — she is known for remembering many students’ specific orders. During her abusive relationship, she felt unsafe bringing these notes into the house. As a result, she would sit in her car, where they were stuffed in the glove box, and read them when she was feeling down. The notes made her feel noticed and valued at a time when she greatly needed the support.
Despite the last several years tinged with loss, abuse and separation, Lisa has managed to maintain a positive outlook. “I always try to make my bad go away by being happy,” she said. This philosophy translates to her relationships with Kenyon students, whom she likens to her own children. At the end of the day, she said, “I just try to give everybody a chance.”