An extraordinary woman whom some call the face of Johns
Hopkins will retire this month after
more than six decades of service.
Minnie Hargrow, known by seemingly all as "Miss Minnie," has
been a constant on the Homewood
campus since 1946 and a beacon of cheerfulness for generations of
Hopkins students. She worked her
first 34 years in the Levering Hall and AMR I cafeterias and
since 1981 has served as an assistant to
four university presidents. Known for her upbeat attitude and
constant smile, Miss Minnie long ago
reached iconic status.
She officially retires on Aug. 31, just a month shy of her
To celebrate her many years of service to her beloved Johns
Hopkins, the university will throw
Miss Minnie a grand farewell from 4 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept.
6, in Levering's Glass Pavilion. The
event is open to the entire Johns Hopkins community.
Hargrow, now 85, said the reason for her retirement is
health-related; specifically, arthritis in
her legs and arms that have made it increasingly difficult to
walk stairs and lift objects.
"That made the decision for me," she said. "So, it's time
for me to get out of Dodge."
Otherwise, Hargrow said, she'd be happy to continue to perform
work she loves for a university she
has deep affection for.
Born on a farm in North Carolina, Hargrow moved north in the
mid-1940s after her husband
returned from serving in World War II.
She came to Johns Hopkins on Oct. 1, 1946, to work in the
cafeteria. Her aunt worked for the
university at the time and had encouraged her to apply. She had
previously worked two years at the
student cafeteria at George Washington University.
When she arrived at JHU, the Homewood campus was a much
different place. It had only eight major buildings and the
student population was strictly male, all of whom wore suits
She lived in West Baltimore then and had to take three buses
to get to work at 6 a.m. every
day. She fondly recalls the day she could afford a car.
She spent her first nine years serving breakfast, lunch and
dinner to faculty, staff and
students and served the next 25 years as a food service
One day in 1981, a representative from the President's
Office came over to Levering to ask
Miss Minnie if she knew of someone on her staff who could replace
the retiring assistant to the
president. She had a quick reply.
"I said, yeah, me," said Hargrow, who is lightning quick
with a laugh and a smile. "I didn't think I
would get it, though, because I thought [President Steven Muller]
would want a male. But they came
back two hours later and said, you've got the job, when can you
As the president's assistant, Hargrow sets up for meetings,
greets people, sorts mail and does
whatever else is necessary. She jokes that she probably spends
more time in President Brody's office
than he does.
She also is famous for doing favors for people in the
office, whether it's to get them a cup of
coffee or even cash a check at the Johns Hopkins Federal Credit
Union. Since everyone at the bank
knew her, they never asked questions.
In addition to Brody, Hargrow has worked for Muller, Bill
Richardson and Daniel Nathans. Four
very different men, she said.
"Each one had a very different style," she said. "Someone
once asked me how have I managed to
work for all these different presidents. I said, by doing it
their way. I got along with all of them.
When I found out their way, it was easy for me."
In addition to her duties with the President's Office, she
has volunteered countless hours for
the United Way and a local nursing home, where she "likes to take
care of the old people."
What has kept her at Johns Hopkins for six decades? Hargrow
said that she simply loves the
"It's like a family here," said Hargrow, whose daughter,
Brenda Brockman, also works in the
President's Office. "I enjoy everybody. It's always been a
pleasure to come into the office every
Jerry Schnydman, executive assistant to the president, said
that it will be a sad day when Miss
Minnie leaves Hopkins. He said that she comes into the office
every day with a smile on her face and
always has a kind word to say.
She can also scold you when you've done something wrong, he
Schnydman learned the hard way, when he was an undergraduate
and he and some fellow
lacrosse teammates loosened the tops on some salt and pepper
shakers in the cafeteria where
Hargrow worked at the time. Schnydman said he got an earful.
"She loves to tell others what I was like as a student, but
then she always adds, 'Just look at
him now, big shot working in the President's Office,' " Schnydman
said with a laugh.
He said that her kindness and spirit are legendary.
"She is like a mother and grandmother to everyone here," he
said. "She's just been a rock for
everybody. She is an extremely honorable and caring person. I
have been working in this office for
nine and a half years, and every day I come in and say: 'Good
morning, Miss Minnie. How are you today?'
And she always says, 'I'm doing just great.' That's her in a
President Brody said that Miss Minnie sees the good in
everybody and everything.
"She is always upbeat, never without a smile on her face,"
he said. "I don't know what we're
going to do without her."
Schnydman said that Miss Minnie's position will not be
filled and that her responsibilities will be
assumed by others in the office. Just as well, because her shoes
would have been impossible to fill.