RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. — College students across Arkansas are wrapping up the fall semester, and that means it's time for final exams.
At Arkansas Tech, members of the alumni association spread out across campus to make sure students are fed before their tests, and one volunteer goes above and beyond every semester.
Shirley Dodd, known on campus as "Ms. Shirley," is a well-known face on the Arkansas Tech University campus. Odds are you will see her attending events and volunteering throughout the year. And there's no doubt you will find her inside Witherspoon Hall come semester's end.
Fall and spring, if students are taking final exams, Ms. Shirley is ready to greet them with breakfast.
"I work for all four days [of finals]," Dodd said. "Most people just work one. But I'm bossy."
Her muffins, donuts, and fruit are notorious. And so is her encouragement.
"This is going to raise your grade," she told one student while handing him a donut.
"Good luck," she told another.
Fall 2021 is Ms. Shirley's first semester back serving breakfast after a break because of COVID-19.
"I think it kind of bridges the gap between students and school and those that have graduated," she said.
Before that, she hadn't missed one since starting in 2008.
"I like the interaction with the kids," she said. "They're the stuff that makes this interesting. I kind of wonder with my repeat customers — and I do have repeat customers — what they'll be doing in five years? And my imagination is marvelous."
That imagination has come a long way. Ms. Shirley never dreamed she'd even go to college. With the encouragement of her guidance counselor, though, she enrolled at Tech in 1955 and graduated in '59.
"I wouldn't be sitting here talking to you if it weren't for Tech," she said. "That's just the long and short of it."
Ms. Shirley went on to teach in Little Rock and Russellville before becoming a guidance counselor herself. Now retired, she loves giving back to a place that's given so much to her — one pastry and one conversation at a time.
"I would encourage any student in the state of Arkansas to come and see what's going on here," she said. "We have something for everybody. Good things are happening here."