Meet Denise Leslie: Cedarville University’s ‘resident grandma’

By Avonlea Brown

The food-service workers on campus are familiar, but often overlooked, faces. Many of them are fellow students and others are staff who have spent enough time at Cedarville University to call it a second home. One of those familiar faces is Denise Leslie, or as most of the student body has come to know her, the Stinger’s Lady. 

Though they may not remember her by name, any regular customer of Stinger’s can recall interacting with a smiling older woman in a grey t-shirt with short, white hair tucked under a black baseball cap. Leslie may not stand out to every student on campus, but her personality impacts those around her and makes her memorable.

Unlike many of the campus faculty and staff, Leslie is not a Cedarville alumnus. She grew up in the town of Cedarville and attended the local high school, but chose to begin working rather than pursue higher education. 

Leslie got married shortly after she graduated and moved with her husband to Jamestown, which is the farthest she ever went from Cedarville. She took a pause from work to be a stay-at-home mom to two kids, who now have kids of their own. After watching her children grow up and leave home, Leslie worked a couple of retail jobs before retiring. 

Two and a half years ago, Leslie got a call from an old high school friend about the opening at Cedarville University. Even though she was skeptical about her chances of success, Leslie applied because of her passion for service and her desire to contribute to others’ lives. 

“I didn’t think they were going to hire me because I was so old, past the age of retirement,” Leslie said. “But I got a call a little after the interview that said I had the job and here I am.”

Once she settled in, Leslie developed relationships and establishing herself as someone the student body could feel comfortable with. She wanted her young customers to feel at ease when they approach her at the register. 

“I don’t want to pry into students’ lives, but getting to know them is great,” Leslie said. “And to be friendly to them and give them someone to talk to if they need it. They might feel like they can talk to us when they don’t want to talk to another student.”

While this is the case for some students, others are just happy to see a smiling face. 

“I love that she is so personal,” said Emily Cone, a sophomore Professional Writing and Information Design major. “Every time I go to order she asks me what I have planned for the weekend and I think that’s so nice.”

Part of what makes Leslie stand out to her students is her seemingly unending joyfulness.

“I go to Stinger’s often when they are first opening in the morning and I always see her when they open the gate to the register,” said Ellie Norman, a sophomore Marketing major. “She is always smiling and says something nice to me, and I think ‘Wow, she could choose to be really grumpy this early in the morning, but she isn’t.’”

Leslie also has the ability to remember the faces and names of her regular student customers. Even if she doesn’t recognize the student, they still receive a “Howdy Ma’am” or “What can I do for ya, Sir” upon approaching to order. Her favorite pastime is “giving the students a hard time,” joking around with anyone that will play along. 

Outside of her job, Leslie makes every effort to support the student body by attending campus events. 

“I can’t possibly learn every student’s name,” Leslie said. “But I try to find out if they are in a sport, theater group, or other activity on campus. I go to the sports games and theater productions and try to support them in that way.”

She can often be seen in the bleachers during a basketball game or hidden in one of the rows of the Devries Theatre. Without her black cap, Leslie is nearly indistinguishable from the dozens of supportive grandparents and family members who attend such events.

“I have kids who are your parents’ ages,” Leslie said. “So I’m basically a grandmother to all of you.”

Leslie is not only loved by her customers but also by her coworkers in Stinger’s. Katie Bell, a Social Work and Spanish double-major, has worked with Leslie for three semesters and said she thinks of Leslie as a role model for student workers. 

“I feel like she’s never not working,” Bell said. “She is always helping with customers, or helping fellow staff, or doing something to make things run smoothly. She has a work ethic and professionalism that you don’t always get from fellow student workers, and it is helpful to have that diversity of age.”

Leslie’s personality and work ethic are a product of her faith, which she tries to live outwardly in her job. She attends a Methodist church in Jamestown, where she serves as a trustee, a secretary and has been actively involved in since she was young. 

“I think it’s very important that everyone has God in their lives,” 

Leslie said. “If you don’t have that, you have nothing.”

With the future of Stinger’s on unsure footing, many student and non-student workers are nervous about their job security.  But Leslie just hopes for the chance to remain at the university, serving and connecting with the student body.

“As long as they’ll have me,” Leslie said. “We don’t know with Panda Express coming and Stinger’s going up into Chucks, we are unsure about who will go where and when, but I would love to remain here if I can. Getting you guys laughing and giggling is what I like to do.”

Avonlea Brown is a sophomore Journalism major and the Campus News Editor for Cedars. She enjoys reading, traveling, and learning new things.

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