Image Courtesy of the Catholic University of America
By Zachary Lichter
On Sunday, February 5, 2023, Catholic University of America (CUA) cafeteria worker Willie Joyner appeared on Fox News.
Joyner, or as everyone calls her, “Ms. Willie” has been working in the Edward J. Pryzbla Center (The Pryz) for forty-nine years. She wipes down tables and makes sure that there is soda, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, utensils, and napkins in all of the dispensers in the Pryz Food Court. When people see Joyner, expect to hear a student say to her,“Hi Ms. Willie!” and Joyner will respond “Hi Baby!” Other times Joyner will greet people waiting in line at Chick-fil-A and say, “Hi Everybody!,” making many people smile just by her presence and her voice. Joyner has thousands of babies. It doesn’t matter how old someone is, every student and faculty member are considered to be one of her babies.
While Joyner is working, she converses, offers emotional support, and shares a few laughs with students. Sometimes students will receive a hug from Joyner otherwise known as the “Ms. Willie Hug.”
“I’ve enjoyed my meet and greet with the students, with the parents, and with faculty,” Joyner said. “That day to day they let me enjoy being myself. That’s the most enjoyable thing about working here, being myself. I get to have good fun being Ms. Willie.”
Joyner was raised in North Carolina. Her extended family cared for her while she was growing up, who she credits for both spiritual and social guidance. She moved to Washington, D.C. when she was 16 to live with her mother and brothers. Previously, she worked at another local college cafeteria, at American University, where she joined the union at just 19 years old. Joyner spoke of experiencing harsh living conditions and had to work from the early hours of the morning to support her family. The local union, UNITE HERE Local 23, and has fought for better contracts for food service workers. Joyner moved to Catholic University in 1974, where she remained involved in the union.
At Catholic University, she has worked in many roles including supervisor.
Currently, her job title is “customer service liaison.” During her time on campus, Joyner witnessed new companies running food services, new places to eat, and new buildings. When it came time to open Garvey Hall, named after former President John Garvey and his wife Jeanne in December 2022, the administration decided to name one of the dining rooms after none other than Ms. Willie.
Senior nursing major Elizabeth Mastoros gave her comments about the new dining hall.
“Ms. Willie makes the food court feel like a family dining room,” Mastoros said. “She is exceptionally kind and caring and just makes sharing a meal ten times better. I was absolutely thrilled when I heard Ms. Willie was getting the dining room named after her in Garvey Hall. I think it is a wonderful testament to showcase her years of hard work and dedication at CUA. I hope it made her feel as loved as she makes us feel every day.”
When Joyner was interviewed by Shannon Bream of Fox News Sunday, she was excited to be on the news for a good thing, which she considers a blessing from God. When the interview aired on February 5th, she stayed home from church and watched the interview with her daughter over the phone. She enjoyed watching the interview and attended a later church service. The CUA Community is lucky to have Joyner here on campus, making people smile, laugh, and brightening people’s days.