Need a hug? Just go to the card office in the Hamilton-Williams Campus Center.
Most students, faculty and staff probably know Nancy Tumeo as “the card office lady,” but Tumeo does a lot more than generate student IDs and track food points.
In nearly 20 years at Ohio Wesleyan, Tumeo has held her position in the card office and in the hearts of students. She has plenty to share about the struggles of adjusting to college, dial-up technology and the power of 47 cents.
Q: So how long have you been working at OWU?
A: I started fall semester 1997. They hired me for three months and I’m still here. They were going to change the position, which they’ve never done. Actually, I went home that summer and my boss came and asked me to come back, and I said, “No, I don’t want to come back.” But, he begged me to come back, and so I did. And, I have to tell you, it’s probably one of the most rewarding jobs, not because of what I do but because of the students.
Q: How did you get your start in the card office?
A: There was an ad in the paper… I was in the process of buying a new house and the bank said, “You’ve got to have a job.” I saw this position and so I came in and I got hired. I really had no intentions of coming back [after the three months], and here I am going on my nineteenth year.
Q: What has kept you at OWU for so long?
A: The flexibility in my job. I have a lot of time off and can carry my medical benefits year around. But again, it comes back to the students. While I furnish reports to every department and everybody on campus, I deal mainly with the students. Everybody has to come through here to get a card, and that way I get to know all the students and get to know all the faculty and staff.
Q: What is it about interacting with students that makes you enjoy your job?
A: I’ve adopted many students. Bought hats and gloves for them in the wintertime. Approached professors to help a student. I’ve gone to see if the student was properly coded for what they’re being charged. Students talk to me. They tell me a lot, and that’s the reason I like my job.
Q: What part of your job do most students not know about?
A: Not only do I make ID cards, I control everything [students] do with that card: security, their food points—on-campus, off-campus—accounting, their debit money, library card, replacing the cards. Not only helping the students, but also speaking to their parents. The accounting depends on all my records for balancing accounts. Anything you use that card for has to come through here, and I control all that with this equipment… The equipment is very, very old. It’s still dial-up. The only thing I’d wish for is to have newer equipment.
Q: Are there any weird or crazy ways a student has lost their ID?
A: I have probably heard every excuse. And I think two years ago there were two girls in a race. One had replaced her card 27 times and one 28 times, and I went at them just like they were my own kids: “Do you know how much money you’ve spent on cards?” Some kids just leave their cards in their dorms and they just don’t want to go back and get them, and I yell at them like their parents because I can give them a charge card to eat on, but I can’t get them back into their dorm without a card. Lots of different excuses why they’ve lost them. Dogs chewed them up. Put them in the dryer. Just can’t find them.
Q: What is the most difficult part of your job?
A: Maintaining the old equipment, especially offcampus. I’m still using dial up communications and we now have seven restaurants off-campus [where students can use food points]… When the registers go down on campus the cashiers call me. Every time the electric flickers off and on this old equipment goes down.
Q: Do you have any thoughts or advice you’d like to share with students?
A: I kind of see students blossom in their sophomore year, and I see them laid-back as freshmen. They’re scared to go get somebody to eat with them or afraid to walk up to the table to sit down with strangers. Some of them have a hard time introducing themselves with others and they’ll come in and talk to me. I’ve had so many kids come back and talk to me and thank me upon graduation. One student stood in front of me as a freshman and he just had tears in his eyes every day, and I made him come in and give me a hug me every day. And upon graduation he said, “I would never have stayed if it hadn’t been for you.” Comments like that are why I like my job so much. And I still stay in touch with some of the international students that have moved on… Their parents have invited me to many countries, but I won’t go. There’s a girl that graduated in 2010 and she’s studying to be a doctor, and I went up to Johns Hopkins [University] in Baltimore to spend the day with her. It’s just fun to stay in touch with the students and have them come back. I get many hugs. I can’t explain how wonderful it is because I’ll do a lot of little favors for kids. I know how to help them. And they’re like my own kids… They tell me lots of secrets, and I keep them. A little girl came up the other day and she was practically in tears and she wanted to buy a blue book…and she didn’t have any money, so I dug out 47 cents and said, “Go get your book.” I just ask them to do a good deed for somebody else. Now, 47 cents isn’t much money, but she needed that blue book and if I can help somebody for 47 cents and make them happy, it’s made me happy. One year school started and a father called me and he said, “My daughter’s standing in the middle of the university outside.” I asked him what building she’s facing, and he told me, and I said, “Tell her not to move.” I ran out and found her. She was lost. She didn’t know where to go. It amazes me. I always said they should have higher classmen out there with a sign: “Ask me. Are you lost?” Because the freshmen are always lost… It’s just a job that I come to every day and I just take it as everyday work. Other people may not find it so interesting or fun, but I enjoy the interaction with the students.
Q: So do think you’ll stick around in this position?
A: I hope to. I hope so.