You know her face, you may know her name, but do you know her story?
Photo courtesy of Humans of Marist College
Suzanne Rizzo is the ever-friendly barista of Hancock Café, AKA the woman who saves the lives of caffeine and sleep-deprived Marist students on a daily basis. Since the building opened its doors five years ago, she has welcomed students and faculty with a smile as warm as the coffee she serves. A Marist alum herself, she has worked with Sodexo for nine years after selling a business she previously owned with her husband.
“I love interacting with students,” she says. “It never gets old to watch the progression from scared, vulnerable freshmen to mature adults ready to take on the world.”
Rizzo (“Like the character in Grease!”) started working with Sodexo after coming across an ad in the Poughkeepsie Journal. She originally worked as a supervisor in the dining hall, where she missed one-on-one interaction with students and, to her husband’s dislike, had to work weekends. She moved to Dyson two years later, working Monday -Thursday until the café’s closing hours.
“My husband is retired and our kids are grown and out of the house,” she explains. “He was eating dinner alone every night, so I looked for another position.”
Five years later and she has become a staple to the Hancock Center, though she returns to Dyson almost everyday to have lunch and visit the faculty.
It’s no surprise that Rizzo often develops relationships with Marist students and staff, but nothing quite compares to her connection with the Class of 2015. She watched the class grow from freshman to senior year, creating a bond with several of the students during the years. To express their love and appreciation, the Class of 2015 invited Rizzo to their senior ball, which just so happened to land on her birthday that year.
“It was such an incredible honor,” she remarks. “When I showed up everybody kept saying, ‘You really came!’ I felt like a rockstar.”
Besides being a Marist celebrity, Rizzo is a wife, a mother to three children and a self-made world traveler. After her father passed away 27 years ago, she and her mother would visit Europe to ease the anniversary of his passing. The pair visited London eight times, as it was her mother’s favorite place. Keeping with tradition, Rizzo spent the past summer backpacking through Europe. With her daughter, she visited six countries in three weeks, staying in hostels as they traveled.
As she told Humans of Marist College, “[Life is] an adventure. You never know where it’s going to lead you, but enjoy the trip, enjoy the traveling and the journey it takes to get there.”
Spoken like the optimist she is, Rizzo encourages Marist students to make their time in college “the time of your life.”
“Just enjoy yourself. You’re never going to get this time back.”
Suzanne, thank you for the positive energy you exert constantly, for doing your best to remember our names and, of course, for making the coffee that gets us through the day. Marist is lucky to have you.