Tony Page laughs as he talks with a customer on Monday, Sept. 25, at Fresh Food Company. (Photo by Brodie Curtsinger)

From the Magazine: Unsung Heroes

Steam rushes into the air; a rag drips with sweat. A vacuum sings with each push, and a bus engine roars. These are the sounds of workers on the Hill.

According to WKU’s website, there are 2,508 employees, in addition to those employed by independent contractors such as Aramark, working to provide a functional, pleasant environment for students to pursue their futures. 

“Itís just a great experience,” Tony Page, a cashier at WKU’s cafeteria-style restaurant, Fresh Food Company, said. Page works every weekday and said his top priority is to put a smile on the kids’ faces.


Page said he decided to work at Fresh after working at Boys & Girls Clubs, centers for troubled teens and as a middle school football coach.

Tony Page smiles as he talks to a customer on Monday, Sept. 25 at Fresh Food Company. Page said that he uses his free time to take care of his dog, watch sports games and travel with his friend, Joe Phillips. (Photo by Brodie Curtsinger)

Page said a positive attitude is necessary to maintain a friendly and welcoming environment. He said his job goes beyond working the cash register, as he aspires to help students directly.

“One of my student friends was having a hard time, and I had the chance to talk with him,” Page said. “He went back and told his mom, and she made me a cake as a thank you.”

Page said maintaining this mindset inside and outside of work helps him through difficult times. 

“You gotta love everyone,” Page said. “So every day that I see mountains in front of me, I’m still going to be smiling.”

Mitchell Vandeveer, a driver of WKU’s Kentucky Street bus route, shares a passion for his job.

“This just gives me a chance to do what I love to do, and that’s being out, not stuck in front of a computer in an office all day,” Vandeveer said.

Mitchell Vandeveer makes sure everything is in the right place before he drives his daily route around campus on Tuesday, Sept. 12. “More importantly, our number one thing is keeping students safe,” Vandeveer said. (Photo by Lauren Howe)

Vandeveer said he also enjoys getting to meet the wide range of students on the bus and learning more about them.

“You get to meet a lot of people from different countries and backgrounds,” said Vandeveer. 

Prior to working at WKU, Vandeveer was employed at a document destruction company for 18 years driving trucks with large shredders on the back. He also worked as a bus driver for Jefferson County Schools. Vandeveer said all three jobs require a commitment to safety.

“It’s rewarding,” Vandeveer said. “Knowing we’re playing a part in keeping the world moving, like, getting students to class hopefully on time. And most of all … number one is keeping them safe. Timeline is secondary.”


As students tear through the buildings on their way to learn, the buildings can quickly become messy. 

Carolyn Howard is a senior environmental services attendant. Howard’s job is to maintain a clean environment in the buildings on the Hill.  

Howard said she has been working as an environmental services attendant at WKU for 17 1/2 years. She said she has been assigned to many buildings across campus, but a favorite building of hers was the Fine Arts Center.

“The professor was Jeff Jensen, and he always made us laugh,” Howard said. “The art department is supposed to be messy; we have the cleanest art department. He told us we didn’t have to do it, and I said, ‘Sir, that’s our job, to make sure everything looks good.”

Carolyn Howard wipes down the front desk on Monday, Oct. 2 at the Suzanne Vitale Clinical Education Complex. It was the last time Howard deep-cleaned the building in her 17-year career. (Photo by Brodie Curtsinger)

Outside of being an environmental service attendant, Howard said she takes pride in her grandchildren and the relationship she has with them.

“I love to bake outside of work, and the most popular among my grandchildren is my no-bake cookies,” Howard said.

In addition to her passion for baking and family, Howard said she loves to travel.

“I just got back from Alaska. It was chillier than expected, but so beautiful,” Howard said.

Howard said she decided to take a trip to Alaska as a precursor to her retirement, which is set for the fall of 2023. She said she is sad to be leaving the relationships she has made behind.

“I want someone good to take care of my family here; they are all so special to me,” she said. “I am almost brought to tears speaking on it because I am leaving and starting a new chapter in my life.”

Howard said interacting with students has made an impact on her.

“They just go above and beyond to make it feel like a family,” Howard said. “These people are family, and not just the staff and employees but the students as well. I love the students just like they’re my own.”


Howard said she is thankful for the relationships she has built at WKU. 

“I was tearing up the other day talking about leaving, and one of the students came up and hugged me. It really warmed my heart,” Howard said. “I just want to thank everyone for helping me for all these years.”