40 years of smiles: A glimpse at Mrs. Rachel Washington’s time at Southeastern


Abigail Fischer

Washington holds a banner gifted to her when she retired. The banner is signed by faculty, staff and students.

Happy, caring, hardworking, funny – these are qualities that come to mind when students and faculty talk about the lady affectionately known as Mrs. Rachel.

Rachel Washington retired March 30 from the Mane Dish after working at Southeastern for 40 years. She is known for her hard work and dedication to making students and faculty smile.

The 72 year old has worked various jobs throughout her life, including housekeeping at Seventh Ward General Hospital, working at the deli in the old Hammond Winn-Dixie and working at Trey Yuen making egg rolls and fried rice. However, she always found herself back at Southeastern.

“When you want to work and you have an obligation, everything looks good,” Washington said.

Washington credits Southeastern and its community for being there when times were tough, saying they gave her a job that allowed her to pay her mortgage and other expenses.

Washington was 33 years old when she started at Southeastern in 1982 working the line in the old cafeteria. She was there for nine years before she was transferred to the University Center as a custodian. Washington remained there until she retired for the first time in 2007.

During her time as a custodian, she met many people who noticed her hard work and rewarded her for it. Washington received the custodian of the month as well as the custodian of the year award. She was dedicated to her job and was one of the few custodians who came back to Southeastern in 2005 to help clean up the university after Hurricane Katrina.

Washington also participated in multiple events hosted and catered by Southeastern. She received multiple recognitions for these events, many of them thanking her for her hard work and positive attitude.

One praise written by human resources administrator Jessie Roberts in 1990 thanked Washington for her help at two employee events.

“I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation for your assistance in helping to make our new employee orientation program and our first employee benefits fair a success. The professional manner in which you assisted our guests did not go unnoticed. Any suggestions which you may have which would help to improve our programs are welcome. We appreciate your support,” Roberts wrote.

Washington worked at Southeastern for 25 years before retiring for the first time in 2007. She then worked at the Hammond Winn-Dixie for a year before taking a hiatus from work until rejoining Southeastern in 2015.

Missing Southeastern and searching for a job, Washington accepted a position through Aramark and joined Southeastern’s faculty at the Mane Dish. Just as before, Washington quickly became beloved by students, faculty and visitors alike.

“I make them laugh for some reason; I make their day. You would be surprised what some of them would say,” Washington said.

Her friendly smile and cheerful attitude lifted students spirits whenever they visited the cafeteria. Some students claimed they only went to the Mane Dish to see Washington.

“Her presence in the Mane Dish made it better and was the only reason why I ate there,” said freshman kinesiology major Teresa Huerta.

Washington spent six more years making students and faculty smile when they visited her at the Mane Dish. She has many memories and experiences with the students at Southeastern and wishes the best for them.

“I hope they finish their education; that’s very important and keep up with what is happening in the world,” she said.

Washington currently lives near Roseland, La. and plans on spending her retirement relaxing, spending time with family and taking care of her flowers.