To Fordham students, Nancy Bettancourt is known as the sweet lady who works for Sodexo and swipes people into the Rose Hill cafeteria. Since 2005, Nancy has been a staple within the Fordham community.
Even though nearly all students at Rose Hill know Nancy, they don’t actually know Nancy. Despite her constant presence at the entrance to the Marketplace, Nancy remains one of the invisible people at Fordham; one who does so much for the Fordham community behind the scenes, but is often overlooked.
So, famous Nancy, let’s start this interview with some basic questions about yourself. When were you born and where are you originally from?
Famous Nancy, I like that title. I was born in 1952 and am from the Bronx.
What led you to Fordham?
I came back to the Bronx after 25 years of living away from New York when my mother became ill 20 years ago. After she passed away, my father asked me to stay here. I then took the job at Fordham, and the rest is history.
What did you do prior to coming to Fordham?
I worked for the post office delivering the mail. I also had my own little catering business that I started in Washington, D.C. in 1984, so I’ve been in the food industry for years.
What has kept you in New York for the past twenty years?
My father is 88, and I’m his primary caretaker. I’ve wanted to leave New York, but he doesn’t want to leave because he has his brothers and the rest of his family here, and he wants to stay with them. I also stayed in New York because I took care of my four grandchildren when they were younger.
Did you always want to work in the food industry?
No, I wanted to be an aerospace engineer when I was young, and went to college for it. I was at the top of my class in math at Cathedral High School in Manhattan. After high school, I got married to a marine, and then went to college at Prince George’s Community College in Maryland, where I majored in aerospace engineering. During my sophomore year at Prince George’s, I decided to leave college and take a job at the post office. Since I was a young mother at this time with two small sons, I had to do that. It upset me that I didn’t finish college because I was at the top of the class with all guys surrounding me in the engineering program.
Wow, aerospace engineering. That’s really cool. Do you think you’ll ever go back to school?
No, it’s been so long since I’ve been out of school. If I gaze at the stars, it’s with my own personal telescope now, honey.
So other than being an aerospace engineering major, what else would Fordham students be surprised to know about you?
They would probably be surprised to know that I was a letter carrier, and that I walked seven miles a day when I worked at the post office. And that I had 700 customers and I remembered all of their names. The students here would probably love for me to remember their names. That’s why I call everyone baby, sweetheart, and darling even if I don’t know their names, so that they feel like I know them personally without actually knowing them.
How about winning a bet on the Kentucky Derby? Because that is the rumor floating around these days about you. Is it true?
Yes. That was about three years ago, and I won $2,500. The Kentucky Derby was in May, so when school ended, I went on vacation to Puerto Rico for three weeks with the money because that is my family’s homeland. That is where my mother and father are from.
So now that I know some background information about your life, as well as some fun facts about you, let’s talk about Fordham. What is your favorite thing about Fordham?
The kids, they keep me young. Y’know, I’m 61 and they keep me young.
You look great for 61, by the way.
Thank you, honey. You guys all fill my heart, so that’s what I love. That’s what keeps me here.
What is your least favorite thing about Fordham?
Probably having to pay for parking. Eleven dollars at the gate every time I want to come to work isn’t great.
Do you have a favorite Fordham memory since you started working here in 2005?
My favorite Fordham memory has to be when we got hit with the hurricane in 2011, and how wonderful Fordham was to all of us employees. They provided us with Ram Van transportation, driving us to and from a hotel to make sure that we were able to get back to work safely. They were so generous to all of their employees, making sure that everyone was safe.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen in the cafeteria?
Spring weekend, 2006. A young man came in the cafeteria in his underwear and he had a towel wrapped around him and was totally drunk. I tried to tell him that he couldn’t come in, but he didn’t listen, and he came in and got on the table. I had to call security and said, “Please get this poor child out of here before he hurts himself.” So that was definitely the craziest thing I’ve ever seen here.
That sounds like typical Spring Weekend antics.
Yes, you kids can be crazy.
Other than crazy, if you could choose one word to describe the student body at Fordham, what would it be?
Friendly. I always greet people in the manner that they need to be greeted, and most, if not all people, greet me in return with the same friendliness that I try to extend to everyone. The people are great here.
A lot of people I have talked to about you have said that you are a motherly figure for people at Fordham. How do you take that?
I love that! I always try to treat people here like their mothers would treat them. I guess I’ve developed a level of trust with the students here over the years, and I love that. After you’ve been a mother and a grandmother, and your kids don’t want to be cuddled anymore, and then you come here, and the kids are missing home and missing Mommy, they show you that, and I love stepping up to that role to be whatever Fordham kids need me to be. So yeah, motherly figure, I’ll take it any time, baby.