South Dining Hall monitor featured on ‘Good Morning America’ shares her story
Tom Naatz | Wednesday, November 28, 2018
In 2011, after spending 24 years working at St. Michael’s Laundry, Pam Jobin decided to retire. However, the grandmother of 10 — with one great-grandchild — soon discovered that she missed work.
“I was bored,” Jobin said.
After a year of retirement, Jobin contacted a friend who was one of the managers of South Dining Hall (SDH). The manager was able to get Jobin a job as one of the dining hall monitors. Last week, her work as a monitor landed her and her 70th birthday celebration a feature on “Good Morning America.”
Jobin explained that the job in the dining hall appealed to her because it would allow her to engage with students.
“I thought, ‘You know what? It’s something I would like because I’m still interacting with people,’” she said. “I like South and I love the people and I love the students and the ambiance.”
As she began her new job as a monitor, Jobin said she sought to emulate the example of Lila and John Ritschard, a husband and wife who worked as monitors in South Dining Hall. Both have since passed away.
“I always admired how they had such a camaraderie. They had such a relationship with the kids. Everyone knew Lila and John,” Jobin said. “She was kind of a mentor, she would always give you that talk. She was so loving and just everything.”
Early on in her time as a monitor, around 2012 or 2013, Jobin “hit it off” with a then-resident of O’Neill Family Hall. That friendship eventually spawned a deep connection between Jobin and the residents of O’Neill, particularly the men of section 4A. Ever since that first friendship, Jobin said, the men of O’Neill 4A have “passed [her] down.”
“His name was Matt. And he was just so funny. I’d go up to him and say, ‘Now listen. I don’t want to get upset with you,’ if they were doing anything,” she said. “But they would always — if they did do something, they never left a mess. Like I said, they just kind of passed me down.”
Nick Martinez, a senior living in O’Neill 4A, has played an important role in developing the connection between Jobin and the dorm. He said Jobin has been an important part of his Notre Dame experience.
“Section 4A of O’Neill is a very tight-knit community. We do everything together, including eating dinner together every day,” he said in an email. “I can distinctly remember my first dinner with 4A at SDH. Pam was working, and she was extremely excited to meet the new freshmen of 4A. Already having known the sophomores, juniors and seniors, she introduced herself to us freshmen as our ‘newly adopted Notre Dame Grandma,’ and that’s exactly what she ended up being.”
Whenever the residents of 4A are at dinner, Jobin stops by their table to check in and say hello, Martinez said. She’s friends with all of them on Facebook and serves in a familial role for the group.
“For a lot of us that are far away from our families, Pam fills that void,” Martinez said. “She’s there to support us, laugh with us, and even keep us in line when we need it. She truly is a part of our Notre Dame family.”
For her part, Jobin said she embraces her role as “Notre Dame grandmother” to the men of O’Neill.
“Sometimes you can tell when they’re quiet and they’ve got a paper. You just give that little pep talk,” she said. “But then they give me a lot of love. I get the hugs, the ‘How are you?’ and just that kind of stuff. They just treat me like they would probably their grandmother. And I always tease them. I said, ‘I can be your good grandmother, or I can be your worst nightmare grandmother.’ But they’re just cool boys. I just love them.”
The bond between Jobin and the O’Neill residents often persists after the students graduate. For example, she said she will be attending the wedding of one of her “boys” in the near future.
Every year, Martinez said, O’Neill 4A has celebrated Jobin’s birthday in some small way, usually gifting her a bottle of wine. However, Jobin turned 70 this year, and Martinez said 4A decided to give her a surprise celebration at SDH.
“We all put money in to get her flowers, wine, cookie cake and we even all made her homemade cards,” he said. “On top of that, I contacted a friend of mine at WNDU to get Pam’s story featured on the news. With the help of Ruth [Pajor] and Karen [Reed, managers at South Dining Hall], we were able to get all of the 4A O’Neill guys, and some honorary 4A friends who adore Pam as well, in place. Pam’s daughter and granddaughter came as well. The moment she walked into the dining hall, she began to bawl tears of joy, which was awesome.”
The celebration caught Jobin completely by surprise.
“I had no idea,” she said. “I am not ever at a loss for words. I’m a gabby person, and I love to talk. They got me good. I just could do nothing but cry.”
Martinez’s friend got the story on the local news. From there, it was picked up by ABC. Martinez said he was thrilled that Jobin was able to receive such recognition.
“I could not think of someone more deserving of the attention,” he said. “She means so much to us, so we were happy that the surprise was well-received. Pam is a light in all of our lives, and we are so blessed to have her.”
The birthday celebration came as Jobin prepared to temporarily step away from her post in South Dining Hall, as she will undergo knee surgery Wednesday and will probably not be back until the end of January. Jobin said she will miss the students most while she is away.
“[I’m going to miss] looking at the faces and knowing their different stories … I’m going to miss the kids,” she said. “And I know they’re not kids, but to me they are kids.”
Martinez said O’Neill’s dedication will not fade during Jobin’s absence.
“Until she returns, we will just have to visit her at home with dinner every once in a while,” he said.
As she reflected on her time thus far as a monitor, Jobin recalled one particular Friday night before a home football game on which 4A residents chanted her name in a crowded dining hall.
“A lot of times on Friday night before a home football game, they’ll do this chant, ‘We love Pam! We love Pam!’” she said. “I remember they did it one time on the East side and they did it and so many adults and parents were here, and they were walking out and said, ‘You must be Pam. Boy, they sure do love you, don’t they?’ And I said, ‘I love them just as much.’ … They’re just my heart and soul. I love these kids.”