By Robin Riskin
John Francone, Haverford’s Student Services and Quality Assurance Manager, packed up his things from his Dining Center office and left Saturday morning.
Dining Center Manager Corey Wilkinson wrote in an e-mail that Francone left the College to pursue other opportunities, and “that’s all we can say.” He does not know what will happen with Francone’s role in Dining Services.
Catering Manager Bruce Levine said he was told it was a “personal matter” and did not have any more information.
Lynn Whalen, Food Service Shift Organizer, said she’s “very sorry” that Francone is gone, but she doesn’t know why and is not at liberty to say anything more.
Francone himself declined to comment. Members of the administration could not be reached before press date, including Dick Wynn, Vice President for Finance and Administration; Joanne Creighton, Interim President of the College; and Bernie Chung-Templeton, Bi-College Director of Dining Services.
Many of the staff at the Dining Center (DC) were not sure about the circumstances of Francone leaving. Some said they did not know what had happened. Others referred to Francone being fired.
“Everybody has theories, but nobody knows,” said Tom Walker, General Food Service Worker.
Kossi Mawoussi, General Food Service Worker, feels such loyalty to Francone that he himself plans on leaving. Mawoussi, who comes from French-speaking Togo, had been tutoring Francone’s wife in French when Francone gave him a job (Francone’s wife also works at the College, as Assistant to the Vice President of Institutional Advancement).
“My God! The one who saved me,” Mawoussi said on Saturday. “I heard two days ago that he [Francone] wouldn’t be working here… Just two days ago, they told me, they sacked him away… I heard that he has to go, so I have to go too.”
Throughout Francone’s 24 years working at Haverford’s Dining Center, he was known for his dedication to student-dining communication. He would often personally buy foods for people with special requests, such as salad dressings and cereals. For about six or seven years, he kept a popular thread on the online Go! Boards to post announcements and respond to students’ feedback on Dining Services. He even had his own “Francone smiley” created by popular demand two years ago.
Last September, Francone left a post where he cursed at students in response to criticism on his “Food Awakenings” thread. Shortly thereafter, he went on leave to tend to “family business,” according to an announcement made on Go! by Chris Mills, Director of Communications.
Last October 6, Dining Services announced a new email and online suggestion box. Francone returned as Director of Dining Services after Thanksgiving last year, but he stopped posting on “Food Awakenings.” Since this academic year, his title has been listed as Student Services and Quality Assurance Manager.
Staff at the DC have expressed sympathy for their former boss.
“I know he was good to me. I never gave him no problems, he never gave me no problems,” said Larry Booker, General Food Service Worker. “I couldn’t see why he got fired. I’m a little disgusted myself. He always talked to me, always helped me, asked me if I’d like a bottle of water while I was working.”
“He would help you, chip in and all. Matter of fact, he would try to do most of the work himself,” laughed the above-mentioned Walker. “We used to call him Speedy.”
Walker and Booker said that Francone was back on Sunday morning, moving out more of his belongings. “He seemed like his regular old self, cheerful. He didn’t seem down,” Walker said.
Stephan Mataxas, General Food Service Worker, found out Francone had left earlier Saturday morning when he showed up to work that afternoon.
“I hate to see people losing their job. I’m sorry it happened,” he said.
Felix Atkinson, Lead General Food Service Worker, said he did not know what happened, “but who wouldn’t feel upset if a man loses his job?”
Many of the other staff declined to comment.
Student workers at the DC Saturday night were surprised to hear from this reporter that John Francone had left that morning.
“I am shocked,” said Minh Hoang ’15, who was working the evening shift that Saturday. “[Francone’s] a great guy who really watches out for all the workers. He tries to make sure everyone’s happy. I can’t believe [it].”
Sharoda Worby-Selim ’14 saw Francone Saturday morning when she came in to work and didn’t realize he’d left the same day.
“That makes me really sad. I love him. He’s been really great to the students as far as I know,” she said in a phone interview.
Zac Werrell ’13, another student worker, had noticed Francone wasn’t at the DC when he came in to work on Sunday. He asked one of his supervisors what had happened, “and they divulged all that they were allowed to divulge,” Werrell said. “I don’t know why John left.”
That afternoon, Werrell was still processing the news.
“John would always come in the dishroom when we needed help,” he said. “He’d give a bright big smile. He made it feel like a family working here. That’s a large part of why I’m here, because of him… He’s probably the best boss I’ve ever worked for, and I’ve worked in a lot of food industry.”