Story by Erik Potter

Fred Wyss poses for a portrait outside The Restaurants at Southwest
Fred Wyss. Photo by Christa Keers

Everyone else has their first name on their name tag. Not Fred Wyss. He has a whole sentence: “HimynameisFred.”

It says a lot about what brings him to work every day at Tiger Avenue Deli in The Restaurants at Southwest — and every day for the past 21 years at Campus Dining Services.

Wyss is motivated to give the best customer service he can. That means not just fast and accurate service but also a caring, human touch.

“I have a concern for people,” Wyss says. “When you’re preparing their food, you have a few minutes to visit with them. When I ask them, ‘How are finals, classes, what’s new in your life?,’ they know I’m not just asking questions. I care about what’s going on with them.”

And unlike the meaningless “How are you?” pleasantries most people exchange throughout the day, Wyss takes the time to listen to his students and reflect back to them so they know he heard them.

The time spent being served at the deli is a short part of anyone’s day, but Wyss tries to make it a meaningful. It certainly has meaning for him. Several years ago, someone shared a story at a staff meeting that stuck with him. It’s the famous story of President John F. Kennedy touring the NASA space center. At some point Kennedy sees a janitor and asks him what he’s doing. The janitor replies, “I’m putting a man on the moon.”

Wyss doesn’t teach in a classroom. No matter. “I help make successful students,” he says. “I’m not the only one, but that’s what I do.”

And the students notice him for it. Wyss has been invited to graduations. When he’s on campus during the evening to attend a concert or an event, he’ll have students walk by, smile and say, “Hi, Fred.”

“They’re recognizing me, and I think it’s because I’ve served them well,” Wyss says. “I’m an ordinary person doing an extraordinary job, and it’s a gift from God.”

Wyss’s work and contribution to Mizzou were recognized May 21, during Staff Recognition Week, with a Chancellor’s Outstanding Staff Award. The award comes with a plaque and a $2,000 prize.