Better be Betty: the Bon’s leading lady revealed

Betty Patten poses for an image behind her desk at the entrance to the Bon. (MOLLY KIEFER/PIONEER LOG)

Thought you knew Betty? Get to know the one friendly face sitting between you and your food

By LESLIE MUIR

IF YOU’VE EVER visited Fields Dining Hall, chances are you’ve been swiped in by Betty Patten, the sweater-clad greeter who is well-known and respected amongst students. From her chair at the front of the Bon, Betty has watched tens of thousands of students pass through over the eight years she’s held the particular position of greeter. She’s gotten to know some of the students who come and go, but we collectively know very little about the friendly face we pass by every day.

Growing up and working in Chicago, Betty caught on to the pizza trend before the city was known for its deep dish.

“We had an Italian restaurant that we put pizza in, because back then when we did this in the late 50’s, pizza was just starting out. There was only one other pizza place anywhere near us and we ran him out of business,” Patten said.

Her other successful restaurant venture was a drive-up hotdog stand, something more common on the eastern half of the United States. When Betty moved to Portland in 1979, she had connections from previous food management positions that placed her at Lewis & Clark.

When she started working at LC 35 years ago, Betty was a chef in the main kitchen. Eventually Saga Food Service, who ran food management at LC before Bon Appétit, asked her to run the restaurant at the Law School. That gig ended up lasting 12 years, and the experience was incredibly rewarding. Not only did she run their food service, Betty got the extra opportunity of attending some classes. “I was auditing classes, and that was so cool. The professors were so sweet. And the kids used to tease me, ‘Did you do your homework last night?’ ‘Did you get all that reading done, I didn’t get mine done!’” She fondly remembers taking courses on Elder Law and International Law, and enjoyed the “family-like” aspect the community has at the Law School. When she transferred back to Templeton, she took the position of door greeter and enjoys her job to this day.

In addition to holding multiple positions in the food service at LC, she’s worked under three different managing companies and has watched the dining hall be remodeled three times. The biggest change she’s noticed with Bon Appétit are the menu titles and dish names, which sometimes stump even her. When asked if she has a favorite meal here at the Bon, she says she enjoys the variety, especially the healthy eating options Bon Appétit brought with them. The only thing that she doesn’t like about her current job is sitting by the windows during the wintertime, which can get cold, though She’s quick to add though, that she really enjoys her job.

Betty has had daughters, sons, and grandchildren all work at LC with her over the years in different food service positions. They’ve all moved on since then, but she says the entire family shares a passion for being in the kitchen. When asked what she likes to do in her downtime, she says spending time with her children and grandchildren, as well as reading Christian romances and sleeping.

Among her hobbies, Betty likes to collect rocks and has a rather large collection thanks to Law School students. Students and professors who traveled to different parts of the world would bring her back rocks from their trips and she now keeps them all in one large box. Her newest collection is of porcelain clown dolls, which she says are cute and petite.

Not only did she appreciate the Law School students, but she enjoys interacting with the undergraduate students as well. “They are really sweet kids. If I’m off a couple of days, they want to know where I’m at and when I come back. [Students ask] ‘Are you okay?’ and they tell you they miss you,” Patten said.

She’s even okay with our bare feet. When asked her opinion on the issue currently being debated on campus over whether students should have to wear shoes in the dining hall, she responded with kind indifference. She suggests that there isn’t anything being brought in on someone’s feet that isn’t also brought in on a shoe, and that the school can’t legally stop the shoe-less anyway. She’s more worried about student’s stepping on glass outside or hurting themselves, but she doesn’t mind so long as they’re happy. She added, “One kid told me it makes him feel free. Well that’s okay.” When asked if she had any words of advice for LC students she greets every day, she concluded, “Just be honest to yourself. If you do that, I think you’ll go pretty far.”

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