Stephen Lappen—more commonly known as “Woody”—is one of the most recognized and revered people at Babson College, a friendly face who has served thousands of students, faculty, and staff as a mainstay on campus since the 1980s. Woody is intertwined in the fabric of Babson, whether it be famously remembering exactly how people like their coffee or attending an arts performance or an athletics event. The supervisor of Dunkin’ and former supervisor at the Gourmet Bean (taken over by Dunkin’) inside the Donald W. Reynolds Campus Center, Woody spent his first 13 years at Babson working at the Exchange in Park Manor Central.
You have worked at Babson since 1984. What has changed, what has stayed the same, and what has kept you here after all these years?
“Besides the obvious of seeing a lot of presidents come and go, students and staff, as well, I believe the diversity has grown over the years. I love meeting students from other parts of the United States and the world.
“The students are basically the same, focused on business, but computers have changed everything. I believe they are studying more, and when their computers break down, there are more problems. Keeps them busy.
“What has kept me here is the camaraderie among the students, staff, and faculty. I love to see the students, coaches, staff, and faculty who I’ve come to know. For instance, a coach will ask me if I’m coming to their game tonight, and I tell them I’ll be there.”
Being an institution within an institution, how have you approached your daily work and interactions with people?
“I love being in touch with all of the faculty, staff, and students, and taking an interest in their daily lives. For example, I’ll ask students how their exams were or how their weekends went. Same goes for faculty and staff. Getting to know them is really nice, and hopefully our conversations make them feel good. Some will tell me how things are going at home and what they’re doing, which is always interesting. I like that. Just a simple greeting means a lot to people, and if they’re having trouble, a simple cup of tea and ‘good morning’ goes a long way.”
What have you taken from your connections with students, staff, faculty, and others, and how would you describe Babson students?
“The students keep me young and make me think about the way I view the world politically, socially, and they help me be a better person. Same with faculty and staff, going to a sporting event, meeting up with people, that’s special. They talk about their lives, they might invite me to a Christmas party. Meeting them outside of work is fun, and they teach me a lot about the way faculty deals with the students and the staff also. Babson students are very knowledgeable, and most of them know what they want. They’re focused really, so we’re kind of lucky.”
How has life at Babson changed for you since March, and what are some of the differences from your typical day pre-pandemic?
“We no longer take cash or credit. People can only order on the app. Of course, there’s less interaction with the customers, which is really big. And, of course, I don’t get to go to any athletics or dance ensemble events. In fact, some of the customers do like ordering online, but I talked with somebody today and he said he likes ordering here but sometimes it’s nice to come down and talk to you, which I can’t now since we’re so busy. Well, once in a while I can.”
Whether it be an arts performance, an athletics event, or any major happening at Babson, people have come to expect to see you there. What makes the campus experience rewarding for you?
“I love to see the customers. For instance, in a play, I love to see the customer on stage. Same with the athlete, as I love to see them competing in their particular sport. I try to get to as much as I can, but sometimes I can’t so it’s rewarding to go to some of the performances and games.”
Two More for ‘Woody’ Lappen
What does Babson mean to you?
“Babson means so much to me, the lifelong friendships, getting to know so many people, and to be a part of the campus life. It means a lot to me to come to campus every day and serve them coffee, which I try to do the best I can to serve each person the same way. I take great pride in remembering how each person likes their coffee. This year is a little more difficult, but when I see their face, I generally know what they want. I think that’s a good quality to have, to make everyone feel special.”
Right now, what are you …
- Reading? “I really like House of Sand and Fog, and The Moth is a bunch of short stories, real-life situations. It is fascinating. For instance, someone goes into Mass. General and uses their elevator, and it doesn’t work too well. Stuff like that. I like James Patterson for his murder mysteries. I like a good mystery.”
- Watching? “I used to love to watch ‘Seinfeld,’ a nice comedy to keep me going. ‘King of Queens,’ ‘Everybody Loves Raymond,’ ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ For the movies, my favorite is I love sci-fi. ‘X-Files’ is really my favorite of all time. I love the original ‘Star Trek’ and all the different movies there. Of course, the 007 series. Sean Connery is the best one. He had the greatest one-liners.”
- Listening to? “I love rock, and since I love to dance, back in the day I used to like disco. That’s going to get a chuckle. Most music I like to dance to, but when disco was big, I used to like going to the clubs (laughing).”
- Doing in your free time? “In my free time, my hobby for years is go to lighthouses and meet up on them and hopefully visit if I can. My wife and I have stayed in a couple, at the Rose Island Lighthouse in Newport and the Race Point Lighthouse in Provincetown. At the Cape (Provincetown), we stay in the Keeper’s House. In Newport, we stay in their beds underneath the light house. We bring our own food, and it’s very nice. Hiking and biking, I love to hike and bike. I’ve also learned a lot from my wife. I love planting flowers with her in the summertime. We love it.”
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