Nearly everyone on campus knows Boozel Deb, checking in students with an eternally positive attitude. But far fewer people know Deb Mellor, accidental SRU icon and self-proclaimed people person. When she isn’t swiping cards or busing tables, she has a lot going on, including a second job and frequent social media appearances.
Mellor has worked in Boozel Dining Hall for 12 years. She was part-time until last year, when Aramark took over and did away with part-time shifts. Before Boozel, she held multiple management positions in food service.
“I have always been in the people business,” Mellor said. “I was in the restaurant business for a long time [as a] manager, bartending, helping co-own a family bar, so there’s that.”
Mellor grew up in Indiana, then moved to New Mexico, where she met her husband. They eventually came to Pennsylvania for her husband’s job and to be closer to their families. There, she built a family of her own.
When the company her husband worked for went under, Mellor helped him start a business of his own. It’s still up and running today. She continues to run the office in the mornings, but in her words, “my kids were grown and gone, so I picked up this job [at SRU].”
Mellor’s local influence began with a series of Twitter polls in January 2020. The @BarstoolSRU Twitter account set up a March Madness-style bracket themed after “SRU Person of the Year”.
“Students started coming in and saying ‘Deb, you’re winning’,” Mellor said. “And I was like ‘winning? Winning what?’ And they’d laugh. I finally said, ‘you’ve got to tell me what you’re talking about’ and they explained … I didn’t give it a second thought.”
In the end, Mellor beat out 31 other contestants, including President Behre, the West Lake geese, Boom Box Guy, and even Rocky.
The following year, Mellor’s daughter Rachael entered her in a Today Show contest called “Flip Your Fall”. According to the show, the contest “[shines] a light on one deserving viewer”. Rachael cited the poll as a reason why Mellor should win.
As most students know, she did. In September 2021, Rachael surprised her at work with flowers and a video call from Hoda and Jenna, hosts of the Today Show.
“She’s the hardest worker, she … inspires me, she keeps our family together,” Rachael said during the video call. “Students love her, we love her, she’s just the greatest.”
In January 2022, mother and daughter experienced the most life-changing result of the contest: a free, five-day trip to Hawaii.
“It was a wonderful trip,” Mellor said. “They put us up in a hotel in Waikiki within walking distance of everything. … They did a nice job with that.”
She occasionally appears on her daughter’s Tiktok, as well as the Boozel Deb Instagram account. Both were Rachael’s idea. Mellor called her social media appearances “so much fun that we decided to keep things going”.
Mellor stated the events that increase her popularity on campus are “always happening around me”.
“I must say, in all my years, it’s been a really wonderful experience with our student body,” Mellor said. “I feel like it keeps me young. I can feel that energy and I love it.
I like to talk to students. I don’t get a chance to, really, because I work the dinner shift and it’s busy. But if someone came along and wanted to talk, I’d listen.”
Mellor thinks her time working in restaurants have made her “a good sounding board”.
As for her philosophy on life, she had three succinct points.
“Keep it real. Have fun and be positive. That’s one thing I really try to do, is keep it positive.”