If you know Joyce, then you know joy

Dining Services cashier Joyce August poses for a photo on campus. Joyce has been working at Union for three years, following 23 years as a bartender at a restaurant in a Capital District Off-Track Betting location. (Cat Blewer | Concordiensis)

Joyce August, one of Dining Services’ many employees, works at the left-side cash register in Dutch Hollow, and she never fails to greet you with enthusiasm, a smile and a genuine, thoughtful, “How are you doing, honey?”

As Avery Novitch ’16 noted, “Joyce is great because she takes a real interest in the students’ lives. She can always tell when I’m having a bad day, and when I am, she can always make me smile.”

She has been working here for three years, and she says her favorite part of the job is the students. “I love the kids,” she said, which was obvious, as she stopped many times during the interview to greet students. “I think I live my kids’ lives vicariously through you guys. When they were in college, I couldn’t go to the things I go to here as often. I’d go to special things, but I go to everything here. ‘Joyce, the a cappella group is performing.’ OK, if I can make it, I’ll go. If I can make it, I go to everything.”

And she does. She’s a regular at Union Men’s Hockey games, attending almost every home game, as long as she isn’t working. She was hesitant to admit that she goes to all the games, saying, “I’m a big hockey fan at school. I go to all the games. But I don’t know if I should say that, because the other kids, I don’t go to every one of their games.”

Joyce is an avid sports fan. Her favorite football team is the Green Bay Packers, and she roots for the New York Yankees when it comes to baseball. She believes, “You should have two passions in life, and mine are sports and music.”

It’s unsurprising that the Yankees are Joyce’s baseball team, because she’s of local stock: She was born and raised in Schenectady, growing up, “down here near the college. This was a boys’ school when I was growing up, all boys.”

She had originally wanted to go to Skidmore for art, “But then I got married at 18.” She had her first child, Michele, when she was 19, and two boys after that.

Until her children got to high school, Joyce was a stay-at-home mother. She said, “I loved being a housewife. I loved cooking, I used to wallpaper professionally because I did it at home, I used to make all my own clothes. I mean, I was really and truly one of those kind of old-fashioned housewives.”

But she used to worry and wonder, “ ‘What am I going to do when they get out of school?’ Because I was really a housewife, truly a housewife.” So, when her three children were in high school, she accepted a part-time job offer at a restaurant some friends owned.

“I said, ‘I don’t know anything about running a restaurant.’ They said, ‘We don’t know anything either, we just need somebody that we know that could be honest.’ So that’s how I learned everything in this business. I waitressed, I cooked and I learned how to tend bar.”

While her children were finishing high school, attending college and starting their careers, Joyce was getting the work experience that led her to Union. She worked at a restaurant in a Capital District Off-Track Betting location for 23 years, until she lost her job, “because, you know, you have to be 10 to be a bartender. They like you to be itty-bitty babies.”

Joyce now holds jobs at Union during the academic year and the Saratoga Race Course during the summer months. At the track, she works as a “whitecap,” which is an usher.

Working both jobs means that she doesn’t get to see her children as much as she would like, because none of them live in the Capital Region anymore, but, she said, “I like what I do. I love people, so both jobs are people jobs — the track is a people job, this is a people job.”

As for her family, she and her husband divorced when she was 40, but, “We’re friends. We have family dinners.” Her oldest and youngest children live in Florida, and her middle child lives in New York City. Her youngest turns 50 in June.

Her oldest child and her only daughter, Michele, lived in Manhattan for 30 years, until she “couldn’t stand the cold anymore,” Joyce said. “She had a business in New York — she was a model agent, and an agent to photographers after that, opened her own business. But then the digital age came and it kind of changed everything, and she got tired and it got very expensive. So she moved down there” to Florida.

Joyce’s middle child, Gregg, “is an accomplished musician. He got his master’s at Juilliard.” Joyce explained, “He’s a freelancer. He teaches at UConn, adjunct, jazz. He’s in the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra,” and he’s played at Lincoln Center. He lives in New York City and “goes up once a week” to teach at UConn.

Joyce’s youngest son, Jeffrey, is a mechanic who owns his own business and has two children, Max and Miles, whom he let Joyce name. She explained that she chose the name Miles after Miles Davis, because, “We’re jazz lovers.”

She said her ex-husband was a jazz musician and, “my mother’s family all sang jazz.” But Joyce does not sing. “No, I got none of those attributes. Just the appreciation, real appreciation, and the enthusiasm.”

Joyce has one piece of advice for everyone at Union: “Just be nice to people.” And she lives that advice in each interaction she has with the students, faculty and staff here.



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