Nebraska’s Flora Espinosa has served as a welcoming smile to generations of hungry Huskers.
Hired to work in University Housing’s dining services in 1972, Espinosa spent 22 of her 46 years as a dining hall checker, scanning NCards and punching meal tickets as students shuffled in for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Armed with a friendly smile and gentle demeanor, she interacted daily with thousands of students, growing into a source of support for any Husker in need of a kind word or motherly advice.
“I was in Super Saver the other day and one of my former kids, who is from Venezuela and living here now, came running up to say hi,” Espinosa said. “This happens to me all the time when I go out. I may not remember them all, but these students remember me. I love it because they are some very nice people.”
University Housing celebrated Espinosa’s recent retirement on Aug. 8.
For nearly all of her career, Espinosa worked in the recently-demolished Cather-Pound-Neihardt Dining Center. She completed her career in the new Cather Dining Center, which opened in 2017.
Espinosa also worked in the dining center bakery and in a handful of other food service jobs; however, her time as a checker remains a favorite.
“I would try to help students out as much as I could,” Espinosa said. “I was there if they needed someone to talk to and I would always ask them how school was going. I loved talking to our students.”
Espinosa moved to Lincoln in the early 1970s after immigrating to the United States from Colombia.
“I had a cousin who was living here and she wrote these beautiful letters telling me how great the United States are,” Espinsoa said. “I had to see it, so I came here with my legal papers.”
In her first year, Espinosa lived with a local family and communicated via dictionary, gradually learning how to speak English. A friend from Cuba told Espinosa about the university and recommended she seek employment on campus.
“It was some pretty good advice,” Espinosa said.
Her fondest university memories include interacting with students, assisting co-workers and dancing in the dining halls with her daughter.
“I can’t believe it’s been 46 years already,” Espinosa said. “I really enjoyed working at this amazing university, especially with my co-workers and the very nice supervisors. I have so many friends because of my time here at Nebraska.”
In retirement, Espinosa plans to spend time with her daughter and travel.