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“The heart of Main Hall”: An interview with Toni Davis

Photo by Celine Butler

Though popular science deems multitasking a myth, Toni Davis, Lead Cashier at the P.O.D. in West Chester University’s Main Hall, might give cognitive psychologists a run for their money. At 12:15 on a Thursday afternoon, the P.O.D. proved to be a hotspot for hungry students, faculty and staff fixing for a lunchtime pick-me-up. Despite the seemingly endless influx of customers, Davis still managed to complete this interview and perform her job flawlessly. Since the beginning of my academic career
three and a half years ago, I’ve witnessed Davis’ endless energy and enthusiasm in her work life. I decided to ask her a series of questions in order to better understand the woman who has become a campus icon.

After all, in the words of graduate student Meg Barnett, Davis is “the heart of Main Hall.”

Antoinette, AKA Toni, Davis was born and raised in Philadelphia. She’s lived in Pennsylvania, California, Virginia, Texas and Maryland, though she currently resides in her hometown, the City of Brotherly Love. Davis has worked at West Chester University for 12 years, faithfully managing the P.O.D. for six. Out of the several locations she’s worked at across campus, the P.O.D. is easily her favorite.

When asked about her favorite part of the job, she didn’t hesitate with her answer: the people. She smiled and gestured to the students buying snacks and coffee and recognized the faculty and staff for their kindness. When I asked how she gets through difficult days, she explained that her customers never fail to improve her mood. For every customer that passed through the P.O.D. that day, I could tell that the feeling is mutual.

Davis enjoys watching cooking shows and comedies on television. After asking her if she cooks, she replied with, “Of course!” Naturally, I followed up with a question about her favorite meal, and she declared steak and potatoes to be her number one pick. “I know you’re a vegetarian,” she relayed with a laugh, showcasing her incredible memory and attention to detail. I hadn’t mentioned my diet in months, and despite the heaps of people that pass through daily, Davis still remembered my dietary preferences. I took her comment as evidence for why the WCU community loves her – she listens to and laughs with every person she encounters. In an often fast-paced, high-stress world, it helps knowing that someone out there cares about the details.

Davis listed her family as her proudest achievement. When I asked her about her children, there was one main takeaway: they are all good parents. She has four children, one son and three daughters, and each has provided her with beautiful grandkids to cherish and enjoy. She admires each of them for their commitment to their kids and remarked on their efforts to give each child love and opportunities. Her mother is also her role model, and when I asked why, she put it simply: “She is just a good mother.” Davis also told me that she resembles her mother quite a bit in character and personality. If Davis is any indication, then her mother must be a remarkable woman.

While a trip to the emergency room isn’t exactly the definition of a fun night out, Davis found a welcome surprise during a recent visit to Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia. According to Davis, one of the men working at registration is a WCU alumni, and he recognized her the moment she came in. “This lady, she took care of me when I was in school,” he exclaimed to his co-workers. The exchange left her smiling, despite the unpleasantness of the situation that landed her there. She also relayed another heart-warming encounter, this time shopping at her local grocery store. “Your voice… It sounds so familiar…” a former student proclaimed. After a bit of reminiscing, the fellow shopper remembered the source of the familiarity. From there, the two struck up a happy conversation. If you ever see Davis out and about, make sure you say hello. Based on the enthusiasm with which she shared these stories, it makes her feel good. And, knowing how I feel after chatting with her, it will undoubtedly brighten your day as well.

Ann Kennedy, Administrative Assistant to the Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, expressed appreciation for Davis’ wonderful energy. “She literally makes me laugh every day,” she said. “I enjoy having her here, and I look forward to seeing her on a daily basis. When she’s not here, we feel it.” Davis makes an effort to talk to each and every customer that visits, going above and beyond to spread joy to everyone who crosses her path. She described herself as lovable, fun and giving, though these three words alone cannot do justice to Davis’ incredible spirit. Davis’ influence transcends Main Hall, and she has done wonders to improve morale across campus. In her own words, she “will go a million ways to make sure things are done right.” For this, she deserves endless appreciation.

Celine Butler is a fourth-year history and psychology double major with a minor in French. CB869071@wcupa.edu

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