For a teenager, especially one who is living away from home at boarding school, a smile, food, and hug are the simplest, most profound acts of love one can receive. Edna Peters, GP ‘11, ‘14 made sure that each Proctor student who walked into the dining hall experienced all three forms of love each day for more than 40 years. Today, we celebrate her life and her profound impact on the Proctor community.
Since her arrival on Proctor’s Dining Services team in 1979 (Edna worked in Housekeeping for a few years prior), Edna touched the lives of thousands of Proctor students through her unique ability to simultaneously make students feel loved while still holding them accountable for their actions, always with a spatula in hand. Her famous waffles and cookies provided sustenance to us, however, it was her hugs that consistently brought life to groggy students each morning.
A stalwart on the sidelines of athletic contests, with a special affinity for cheering on Proctor’s football and basketball teams, her role at Proctor transcended the dining hall. Edna, like so many others in the Proctor community, recognized her job did not start or stop when she arrived in the Cannon Dining Hall early each morning to prepare breakfast. Rather she understood her impact on young people’s lives reached far beyond her culinary skills. Her impact on those around her each came from simply knowing, caring for, and making sure each student felt loved.
Edna’s mindset, encouraged by longtime director of Dining Services Art Makechnie, permeated the entire team, and inspired others across campus to set aside their designation as “staff” or “faculty”, and to embrace the notion that all adults at Proctor are here for the kids. Her legacy lives on in the current Dining Services team and the hugs they offer kids each day as they come to meals and navigate their days.
Perhaps the greatest lesson Edna taught us is the impact one individual can have through living an intentional, consistent life that puts others at the center of all they do. A post sharing the passing of Edna on our Instagram account sparked dozens of comments from alumni spanning five decades. Each had their own memory, their own stories about how Edna made them feel special, and yet they were remarkably consistent in their deep appreciation for her daily presence in their lives.
Sometimes we think we need to have these big, magical, transformative moments to truly impact a young person’s life, but what we learned from Edna is that we simply need to show up for our kids. We need to be there. Everyday. We need to ask how they are doing. Give them a hug, and maybe make them a waffle or some cookies. Often, the simplest acts of love are the most profound. Thank you, Edna, for showing us how to make a difference and how to love our kids, your kids.
Longtime colleague and friend, Art Makechnie, shares his appreciation for Edna at her retirement celebration in August, 2017. Art beautifully articulates Edna's impact on others.