Noteworthy News

Beloved campus fixture, perpetual smiling face, Jan O’Brien passes away

The Western Carolina University community is remembering and mourning Jan O’Brien, a longtime dining services employee who passed away Monday, Dec. 5, at the age of 84.

Remembrances are scheduled for Friday, Dec. 9, at Cullowhee United Methodist Church with visitation in the downstairs fellowship hall from 9 to 10:30 a.m., followed by a memorial service in the sanctuary beginning at 11 a.m. Burial will be at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Suitland, Maryland.

Jan O’Brien was a smiling and welcoming presence for students and others at the WCU dining hall.

Jan O’Brien was a smiling and welcoming presence for students and others at the WCU dining hall.

Known for her smile for everyone coming through the cafeteria and her motto, “sharing is caring,” O’Brien was a positive fixture and influence for countless students, faculty, staff and visitors for more than 25 years. She was known for remembering students’ names and had a bulletin board of their photos near her register. She retired as a WCU employee in 1997 but continued to work with Aramark-WCU campus food services until May 2015.

News of her passing went viral on WCU (and other) social media platforms late in the day on Dec. 5 and has continued, with condolences and fond memories being shared.

A native of Washington, D.C., O’Brien made Miami Beach her home for 35 years before coming to Western North Carolina and becoming a resident of Sylva in 1989. She loved to travel, visiting 49 states and more than 20 countries.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Jan O’Brien Sharing is Caring Scholarship Fund, payable to the WCU Foundation. Checks should be sent to the WCU Development Office, 1 University Drive, Cullowhee, N.C. 28723, while online donations may be made at by writing “In memory of Jan O’Brien” in the comments section.

Categories | The Reporter

Photos | WCU News Services

Commencement 2017
Commencement 2017


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