August 29, 2005
Banquet celebrates 60 years for Helen Jenkins
BY eric rangus
The Emory community, past and present, came together Thursday, Aug. 11, in Cox Hall to pay tribute to long-time food service staff employee Helen Jenkins in the best way possible. They ate.
A lunchtime banquet honored Jenkins, who officially retired on Aug. 1 after more than 60 years of service to Emory. Official records are incomplete, but it is believed that Jenkins is the longest serving employee in Emory history.
Having touched the lives of tens of thousands throughout those six decades, it was only appropriate that the guest list was a notable one, and everyone in attendance was unified in their appreciation for the guest of honor.
“No one ever dedicated more to Emory than you,” said John Temple, former executive vice president and chief operating officer. He retired in 2003 after 20 years at Emory—Jenkins was here for all of them, as well as for many years before. Temple was one of several prominent members of Emory’s extended family (former President Jim Laney was another) in attendance.
“We have all benefited from knowing you.” Temple continued.
At the age of 24 and fresh out of college, Jenkins began her Emory career on March 5, 1945, as assistant director of food services. She was promoted to director in 1955, and when food service was contracted to an outside vendor in 1984, she became food service liaison, a position she held until her retirement.
While she has been retired for nearly a month, Jenkins hasn’t stayed away from campus. She is helping train the new food service liaison and will continue to serve as a consultant in the near future. The celebrations to honor her have not subsided, either—the most recent was a modest dessert reception in the Dobbs Center, Aug. 16.
The Aug. 11 banquet menu was pure Jenkins—in more ways than one. It consisted of some of her favorite Emory-centric dishes. They included Depot Chicken Salad and Helen’s Lemon Meringue Pie and Emory Potato Salad. The menu, which was attached to an
envelope recipe holder so diners could take it home, also listed some asides that put each dish in its historical perspective.
The nonalcoholic flavoring for the intriguingly named Tipsy Citrus Cup was purchased in gallon jugs and kept under Jenkins’ desk. The meringue pies once were baked 50 at a time to feed hungry Sunday crowds (the pies on the banquet afternoon were palm sized and remarkably tasty).
The menu also gave some insight into the preparation of Emory Potato Salad. The potatoes were sliced with paring knives: “Back then you couldn’t cook without a paring knife,” read a Jenkins quote, reprinted on the menu. “Brides always got a French knife but rarely fruit or paring knives.”
She also told the story of the “vegetable ladies,” whose responsibility was, as the title implies, to prepare vegetables for the diners. “For example, mustard or turnip greens would have seven washes prior to cooking with the first wash containing salt to kill any snails.”
“I didn’t know I had so many people who knew me,” said Jenkins, modestly surveying the room, which contained some 70 people. “I have my children here, so maybe they’ll listen to me now.” At the head table were her two children, Ron Jenkins and Barbara Riddle, and one of Jenkins’ five grandchildren, Beth Riddle.
With an assist from her granddaughter, Jenkins opened a gift box presented to her by Senior Vice President and Dean for Campus Life John Ford. It contained a gold watch emblazoned with the Emory shield.