By Maggie Little—
Students can catch her five days a week saying one of her many recognizable phrases:
“Is that it, sweetheart?”
“How are you doing, pumpkin?”
“You have a blessed day, my love.”
Her voice is indistinguishable in Davidson Hall, as is her warmth. She has a radio on a stool next to hers. She cranes around to tune it. “Girl, I can’t miss the last church song of the day! It keeps me moving,” she said.
Terry Beard, affectionately nicknamed “Davidson Lady,” has worked at U of L for 26 years. Beard says she doesn’t mind the nickname. In fact, she embraces the title students gave her. If she doesn’t know the students or faculty by name, she says she can always recognize a familiar face.
“This one,” says Beard as she points to a student at the counter, “He gets the same thing: a Pepsi and a chicken Caesar wrap. That’s what he likes, and I make sure he has it.”
The student nods in agreement. “Pretty much.”
Beard is a generous spirit. Earlier that day, she offered to pay for a man’s sandwich if he was low on Flex points. A few years ago, a student was desperate for something to wear in the International Fashion show, so Beard offered a gown on loan. In her church community, she donated many items in her closet to a young woman who she “knew would take care” of the clothes.
Car wrecks, work schedules, failed tests and new haircuts are all part of the casual conversation Beard has with the people who see her day in and day out.
“They know me. They are just my pumpkins and booboos, and I feel bad because sometimes I have no clue what their names are because it’s just too many to remember. But that’s why I name them my babies,” says Beard.
Beard said students tell her at least a few times a week that they follow her on Twitter. “I didn’t even know I had a Twitter! I guess someone set me up. A boy comes in here all the time and tells me my name comes in and out (of his feed).”
It’s not clear if Beard is just a popular topic among tweeters, or if students took it upon themselves to create a “Davidson Lady” profile; either way, it’s an action to show the affection is mutual.
After 26 years at U of L, Beard said she stays at this job because of “the children,” what she calls the students who pass in and out of Davidson Hall. “It’s the grace of God, and y’all’s smile,” Beard said.
From her counter in Davidson Hall, Beard has witnessed a lot of change in the student body, particularly in fashion.
“When I say changed,” recalls Beard, “I remember when it was just a fashion show here. Kids would actually get up at six o’clock in the morning just for fashion. They would meet over in the SAC to see who had the best outfit.”
Beard realizes times are different, when students roll into class in their sweats.
“I’m so proud of them. They don’t care, because I know they are going for an education,” Beard said.
It’s hard to fathom a lady with a contagious smile and attitude to have a bad day, but she confides that it happens.
“The first thing I do that morning is get up and pray to have strength. I always let the kids know if I’m having a bad day or a headache or something.”
She recounts an especially hard time in her life, when she “broke down” one day at work. Students walked behind the counter to console her, and she even received cards from U of L faculty and staff.
Growing up as the youngest sister of six other siblings, she recalls that a close knitted family—and a good church community—are reasons for her positive outlook on life.
As a kid, she remembers getting in trouble for talking to strangers. At this, she giggles saying, “I’ve never cared, because people are beautiful.”
Now, students look forward to their morning coffee break, if only for Terry Beard to brighten their day.
Photo by Emma Goble / The Louisville Cardinal