On Thursday evening, over 100 students and community members came together in Frick Auditorium for a celebration of gratitude as students recognized “Hidden Chaplains,” members of the community “who change their day in small but meaningful ways” on campus.
Seventy-one members of the campus community were recognized and their names read aloud during the reception.
Before the names were read, Renee Louis ’19 explained that the purpose of the event was to recognize staff members who improve the daily lives of students in ways that may often go unnoticed.
“As a graduating senior, the last four years have certainly had its ups and downs,” she said. “The encounters and relationships that I have had with some of the people here … whether they be brief and sometimes silent encounters or the deeper and longer friendships with people I’ve known for the past few years. All of these are treasured.”
She explained that her relationships with many of those being recognized gave her a sense of community on campus. She knew this was her experience, but after reading a number of the Hidden Chaplains nominations sent in this year, she realized how universal of an experience it is.
Louis noted that many people at the University are often lauded for a number of different accolades, but there is very little recognition of simple kindness, which she thinks is “often just as rare.”
Louis went on to speak about Laura Wooten, University staff member and lifelong poll worker, who was nominated as a Hidden Chaplain before her death earlier this year. She read aloud a blog post about Wooten from another student, who had written that Wooten “was more of a fixture of [their] Princeton experience than many of [their] professors” and that they hope to one day become “half the community member that she seemed to be throughout her entire life.”
After the names were read, the floor was opened for community members to recount stories and talk about times where community members made differences in their lives.
Remy Reya ’21 nominated Sergio Arevalo, who works in the Wu and Wilcox dining halls and greets Reya with a “Hello, my friend!” every day. Reya wishes he could have nominated the entirety of the Campus Dining staff.
“There’s something that can be said for unsolicited kindness,” he said. “There’s more room in this world for kindness, for smiling, for patting people on the back, for making everyone your friend, and that’s what I feel like this staff does.”
Arevalo said that he understands that students have stressful lives and makes an effort to reach out and welcome them to the dining hall as a way to ease some of the stress. He loved being recognized, and seeing many of his coworkers recognized, as it showed him that his efforts were making a difference.
Sherri Brucks, who works at “late meal” in Frist Campus Center and was recognized this year for the second time, also sees value in the event.
“It makes you very happy to come to work every day. You enjoy coming to work when students let you know how appreciative they are,” she said. “And you don’t realize what the students do for us and what we do for the students until something like this lets you know.”