For over 41 years, Bertha Hughes dedicated her whole life to our University. In those four decades, she accumulated 250 sick days without using a single one of them. According to Evelyn Herrera, a custodian in the Plangere Center, “the University was her everything.”
Hughes passed away on August 16 due to complications with cancer. Hughes was the Custodial Supervisor, and was in charge of all custodians working on the academic side of campus. She began her employment at the University on December 4, 1969 as a custodian.
In 1994, Bertha was promoted to Custodial Services Supervisor.
She made sure every building was spic and span every day and students were comfortable in their academic environment.
She also dedicated her time to following every University team, going to most of the basketball games and cheering on the Hawks.
President Paul G. Gaffney II said that she “was a vocal and enthusiastic Hawk athletics fan and ‘guardian’ over many of our student athletes.”
Marilyn McNeil, the Vice President and Director of Athletics, was very close to Bertha, as was most of the Athletics Department.
“She was a mom of everyone’s team. Student athletes looked up to her and loved to listen to her advice and criticisms. She will be missed…it’s a very empty seat,” McNeil said.
Patti Swannack, Vice President of Administrative Services, was Hughes’ longtime friend.
“Bertha was a tough task master of those she supervised, a woman who did not suffer fools gladly. She would not ask anyone to do anything that she herself would not do,” Swannack said.
“When asked to make sure that something was addressed on campus, Bertha always responded, ‘I’ll take care of it’ and she did.”
In 2003, the first year the University’s Stafford Presidential Award of Excellence was given, Hughes was nominated by many of her peers to be among one of the first recipients of the award.
Kim Carpenter, a custodian in Wilson Hall, worked side by side with Bertha for over seven years.
“If she wasn’t here, she was at church. To her, God came first, work came second. She was very dedicated,” Carpenter said.
Bertha also worked as a Sunday school teacher at the Second Baptist Church in Long Branch. She did everything she could for her community and ran from place to place, volunteering her time to help the less fortunate.
“I feel that she’s not here anymore everyday… it’s too quiet around here,” Carpenter added.
Marlene Dixon, Administrative Assistant in Operations, went to church with Bertha and always valued her dedication to volunteering.
“She did a lot of cooking at our church for ‘Meals at Noon,’ an event we do to feed our community. She was an all-around person and so extremely dedicated. She even influenced a lot of the student athletes to come to our church,” Dixon said.
Eddy Occhipinti, Assistant Athletics Director for Marketing, Advertising and Promotions, spent a lot of time around Bertha during his undergraduate studies and while working for the University.
“There’s no way to replace the spirit that she had for our athletics. She loved Monmouth, it was her everything,” Occhipinti said.
Bertha was also known for bringing humor to University faculty and administration during bad days.
“I knew Bertha for over two decades. Her friendly greetings and smiles brought warmth to my office and the rest of Wilson Hall. She cared deeply about others and the quality of her work. I truly miss her. May her name be a blessing,” Saliba Sarsar, Associate Vice President for Global Initiatives, said.
In celebration of her life and her 41 years at the University, the University asks for donations to perform the following: dedicate a tree adjacent to the MAC, dedicate a brick along the Hawk Walk to honor Bertha, and create an athletic scholarship in Bertha’s name. Donations can be made in the Office of Human Resources or Facilities Management.
“Bertha’s passing was very sudden. We were not prepared. It has been hard for many of us to accept that she is truly gone. She will be deeply missed,” Swannack said.
Hughes leaves the following behind to mourn her untimely passing: two sons, Jeffrey and Reginald, granddaughter Shacina Renee Hughes, father Neil James Hughes, daughter-in-law Terry Hughes, half-sister, Doris Hinton, and a host of cousins and wonderful friends.