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Evangel says goodbye to a “true angel” with the retirement of “Miss Joan”

October 16, 2013 | Ashli O'Connell


You probably won’t find an article about the dining hall cashier on every college website. But every college doesn’t have a Miss Joan.

For 12 years, “Miss Joan” Brink has been one of the first faces that students see each day. Sitting at her post at the entrance of the dining hall, she greets every student with a smile – and almost always by name – as they enter for breakfast and lunch.

Brink does more than just scan students’ prox cards to charge them for their meals. She asks them how they are doing, inquires about their families, prays for them when they are sick, dresses up with them on spirit days and plays along with their practical jokes.

“Everyone knows and loves Miss Joan,” says Ian Richardson, a senior.

“Her smiling face is the first thing you see when you walk in, so she is in that way the ‘face’ of the dining hall. I think the only person on campus who can rival her popularity is President Spence – she’s been that influential. It’s amazing how much a difference she has made in transforming the normally mundane task of scanning ID cards into one of the most uplifting parts of our day.”

That warm smile will be missed, as Joan Brink is set to retire on Thursday, October 17, 2013 – a day the university has declared “Miss Joan Day.”

This will be the second time Brink, 71, has retired.

She first retired from Springfield Public Schools in 2000 after working as a cook for nine years. This time, she says, the retirement is for good. “I’ve prayed about it and the Lord has shown me that now is the time to be home, and I have to be obedient to that.”

Brink says retirement will allow her to spend more time with her husband of 51 years, Blace, as well as her children and grandchildren, who live on the West Coast. Blace, who is 85, has had heart trouble recently and she wants to have more time for him.

But it is with mixed emotions that she leaves Evangel.

“It’s just been an absolute honor to work here,” says Brink. “Evangel is a very special place.”

Todd Lanning, director of food services, refers to Brink as an angel.

“Joan has impacted me deeply with her faith and her dedication to her position,” says Lanning. “She is constantly doing something for a student, constantly. It might be a homemade pie she brings from home for a student who is not feeling well, or it might be money she puts on a student’s account anonymously because they are having difficulty making ends meet. She is a friend, confidant, counselor and true angel to so many.”

Brink says that it is the students who have blessed her. “I remember a couple of years ago when I hurt my foot and it was in a boot, and the students just came around me and prayed for me and cared for me. It was so special,” she says.

Lanning says stories like that illustrate the depth of love students have for her. “Miss Joan treats every student as if they were her grandchild, and the students in turn treat Joan like she was their mother or grandmother.”

Richardson says that grandmotherly love especially impacted him as a freshman. “As a new college student, I had to adjust to being away from my family and eating my meals in a setting much different than I’m used to, but having Miss Joan greet me every day in her grandmotherly way makes walking into the dining hall still feel like coming home,” he says.

Brink says she has tried to be mindful of the needs of freshmen throughout her years of service. “I believe God just gave me what He knew they needed,” she says. “He knew that the students needed for me to know their names, and He gave me the ability to remember them.”

She recalls a time she received a letter from an alumnus saying that the most pivotal moment of his freshman year was when she first called him by name. “He said that he was so lonely when he first got to Evangel and he was planning to go home because he felt like nobody knew him, but because I knew his name and made him feel welcome, he decided to say.”

Those kinds of letters from students are what it’s all about for Brink. “I get those letters and I just say, ‘God, it was all worth it.’ I just wanted to be a positive witness for the Lord and show the kids how much I care about them.”

Lanning says that while Brink’s retirement will leave a void in the dining hall, it will also be a reminder for staff to continue living up to the example that she set. “Joan’s service is a constant reminder that we are here for the students, and not a paycheck.”

 

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