Staff Spotlight: Twila Sylvia, the Student Whisperer

Twila Sylvia from Bon Appétit at the University of Portland

Twila Sylvia from Bon Appétit at the University of Portland

Meet the estimable wry Twila Genevieve Sylvia, who has worked for 18 years in Bauccio Commons at the University of Portland, Bon Appétit Management Company CEO Fedele Bauccio’s alma mater.

Job? “Washing tables and listening to students.” Age? “None of your business, although I have a great-great grandson.”

Works lunches five days a week. Keeps a sharp eye out for students who are crying, sitting alone, who want to talk. “They get so homesick,” she says. “They get lonely. They like to see a friendly face. I listen a lot. A lot of them stay in touch after they graduate, sure. I get letters and cards and visits. One student wrote a paper about me for class. We forget they are just kids. They’re so tall and they seem so confident but they get awfully lonely. At least they have me, is how I look at it. I have the time for them. Sure I do.”

How many kids has she spoken gently to and listened carefully to, in 18 years? About 15,000, by our count.

There are many quiet ways to do great things. Thank you, Twila Sylvia.

Reprinted with permission from Portland Magazine’s Spring 2016 issue