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The Queen of the Castle

For four plus decades, Rose Girouard has been serving table at BU


If you want to know how to set up the BU Castle dining room for a wedding, ask Rose Girouard. How to properly greet distinguished visitors at BU President Robert A. Brown’s door? Ask Rose. How to serve strawberries that met the exacting standards of the late University president John Silber (Hon.’95)? Ask Rose.

There’s a reason her Dining Services colleagues call Girouard “the Queen of the Castle,” although her realm extends well beyond the Bay State Road facility that’s a favorite site for events and parties (and soon to be the new alumni center). The petite, impeccably coiffed Girouard has been an integral member of the waitstaff for 44 years, and “she knows every little thing—every system and every procedure,” says Dining Services director Barbara Laverdiere

She’s had plenty of time to learn, and the 81-year-old great-grandmother of three shows few signs of slowing down. “When someone asks if she’s going to retire,” says Laverdiere, “she says no, she’s too young.”

Girouard did her first Dining Services shift in 1971. A single mother of three young boys—her husband was killed in an accident just after the youngest was born—she had long been accustomed to making her way in the world. She’d been a secretary at Household Finance and a lunchroom monitor in the Newton schools. A friend who worked at BU asked Girouard to join her on the waitstaff. “I said, ‘No, I don’t think I’d like that,’” she recalls. But the friend kept asking, and finally, Girouard relented. “I said, ‘OK, I’ll come, I’ll come.’ I just didn’t want her to ask anymore.” She’s never looked back.

And while she’s “Queen of the Castle” to her colleagues, she could equally be called “the server of Silber.” She and Silber arrived at BU the same year, and Girouard personally waited on him, both at his residence and at University functions. Attending to the needs of the formidable and famously exacting president was not a job for the faint of heart, but the two clicked, and she has nothing but fond memories of the man she unfailingly refers to as “Dr. Silber.”

“I was his waitstaff for these many years; I knew him very well,” says Girouard. “He was a wonderful gentleman whom other people did not know, and they don’t recall him as so wonderful, but I think he was.”

Rose Girouard setting table

Now 81, Girouard says she has no plans to retire. “I take pride in what I do,” she says simply. “I feel I do a good job.” Photo by Jackie Ricciardi

Wonderful, perhaps. Easy, no. “I mean, the man was a perfectionist,” she continues. “He wanted things done his way, and he molded me without me knowing it. I did make mistakes, and I always thought, oh, boy, he’s going to fire me. If he didn’t like you, you weren’t going to be around.”

Girouard appreciated being held to a high standard, she says, and Silber, in turn, appreciated her discretion and her candor. “He liked me because I minded my own business; I did my job. One time, at a party, a trustee put her arm around me and said, ‘The Boston Globe would love to get ahold of you.’ I said, ‘Why would they want me?’ She said, ‘Oh, what you could tell them.’ I said, ‘What I could tell them? I’m only here to pick up dishes and replenish glasses. I don’t stand around listening to what they say; I could never tell them anything.’”

She says that Silber knew she could be counted on for discretion, just as he knew she would offer her frank opinion when asked. He showed her the photo when his official portrait was shot, asking, “How do you like this, Rose?” Her response: “I really don’t like it, Dr. Silber. It’s too busy; all you see is the background.” He had the photo retaken. Once again, Girouard wondered if she’d put her job on the line. “He said, ‘Rose, you don’t tell me what you think I want to hear.’ He didn’t like ‘yes’ people,” she recalls. “That wasn’t how you got along with him.”

Then again, Girouard seems to have a knack for getting along with others. Her gracious and welcoming manner has made her a natural at greeting party guests at the door as they arrive. “She knows every name, every trustee, all their dietary needs, every idiosyncrasy, and she never forgets,” says Laverdiere. “She loves taking care of people, and she wants every guest to feel special. You can’t train that.”

But that doesn’t stop Girouard from trying. Part of her responsibilities is training student workers, most of them some 60 years her junior. Many octogenarians might find the task daunting; for Girouard, it’s exhilarating to spend time with young people. “They give me energy, the way they fool around. It’s wonderful. These students are terrific. Every student has given me something. The boys are wonderful. They’re so kind. I tell them all, ‘Your mother brought you up right.’” It’s a two-way street.

“She loves taking care of people, and she wants every guest to feel special. You can’t train that.”
—Barbara Laverdiere

“The young people have an incredible amount of respect for her, and for her institutional knowledge,” Laverdiere says. “They treat her sort of like the grandmother who knows everything. She nicely teaches them how to do things, and when she admonishes, she does that nicely, too. I could not see my own parents sitting in a room full of 20-year-olds. She’s just comfortable in that atmosphere.”

Girouard has nothing but praise for the managers, supervisors, and colleagues she’s worked with over the past four and a half decades. “Everyone here is just so nice, so kind,” she says. “I’ve had wonderful managers, wonderful directors. Every new group that comes in, we just seem to get along. I’m very fortunate—very, very fortunate.”

And while she may be one of nature’s optimists, she does have some pet peeves—chief among them a certain faux pas. “I don’t like people who double dip,” she says firmly. “That is a bad thing with me.” And she’s seen her share of odd behavior at the functions she’s worked. “I don’t like it when people put their rolls in their water glasses. I don’t know why you’d do that.” (If anyone might know the answer to that one, it would surely be Girouard.)

The very embodiment of the principle “the customer is always right,” she does her best to comply with guests’ requests, however odd or unreasonable. “You never argue,” she says. She’s much more inclined to dwell on the many occasions when guests have gone out of their way to offer a compliment or to praise her work. “I take pride in what I do,” she says simply. “I feel I do a good job.”

It’s physically demanding work, and although Girouard has scaled back her hours a bit, she’s not making any plans for retirement just yet. When that day arrives, she says, she’d be very appreciative if a little party were thrown in her honor.

As if. “That will be a party to rival Commencement, when she leaves,” says Laverdiere. “I can’t imagine the guest list. I know how many current and former senior level administrators would want to be part of it, and trustees—never mind all the student waitstaff that she taught and assisted. That will be a very special event, a very, very well-deserved, but sad day. We’ll send her off with the biggest hurrah ever when she finally hangs up the apron.”

Jane Dornbusch can be reached at jdornbusch@verizon.net.


30 Comments on The Queen of the Castle

  • tobe berkovitz on 02.28.2017 at 6:49 am

    Rose is a wonderful part of the BU family.

  • Susan Rinaldi on 02.28.2017 at 7:03 am

    Over the years I’ve enjoyed many of the BU Today profiles on long time employees. After reading this one on Rose, it made me think of an earlier piece on Lee Morris http://www.bu.edu/today/2015/lee-morris-aramark-dining-services/ Both put a face on people whose institutional memory no doubt could tell a tale or two about past BU events, people, intrigue and mysteries (uneaten rolls in water glasses). A little over 26 years ago, Rose catered our wedding reception at the Castle. Like many brides, I guess, I can not recall many specifics about that day but I do have a vivid visual memory of Rose serving my father (now deceased) and I oysters. I also remember that the reception and planning of same went off without a hitch. And, Rose’s profile here reminds me why that was the case. May Rose have many more weddings and events ahead of her at BU.

  • Dexter A. Dodge SMG 56 on 02.28.2017 at 8:27 am

    As a BU Trustee for 24 years ( now emeritus ) I enjoyed a great deal of interaction with Rose over that time span. She always gave me a big hug accompanied with a wonderful smile. This is fitting tribute to a very gracious lady whom I miss seeing.

    • Richard Vendetti on 03.06.2017 at 1:41 am

      I’ve been at B&G for 32 years and have seen a lot of hard dedicated workers at BU. Nobody more hard working ,dedicated , honest, even sometimes funny, then Rose.I have had the pleasure of working with Rose on most of the same functions and have admired her professionalism throughout the years. My family ,including grandchildren,have metRose and still ask how she is doing. If you want a real education just look in Roses detection, for hard work and loving dedication. Your carpenter

  • Susan Tomassetti on 02.28.2017 at 8:32 am

    When Rose is at a function you KNOW it will run flawlessly. She proved this over and over again throughout the years. The article is spot-on about her remarkable memory, Dr. Silber’s fondness and trust, and the precise but gentle way she works. Bravo, Rose!

  • Virginia Sapiro on 02.28.2017 at 8:33 am

    Rose was one of the people who most made me feel at home when I came to BU. She is so warm and so gracious and has the most amazing memory in the history of the universe. Thank you!

  • Mom and BU staff on 02.28.2017 at 8:40 am

    What a delightful story about a delightful and extraordinary woman! I was eager to read the story because of the title. When I saw Rose’s photo, my mind shouted “I know her!” Though the years I’ve worked at BU (not Rose’s number) I’ve attended many events at the University where Rose has been “on duty.” I believe she treats all she meets as she did Dr. Silber, with graciousness, respect, and her personal touch of joy. Keep rockin’ Rose!

  • Samantha Khosla on 02.28.2017 at 9:04 am

    It’s not a party without Rose.

  • Gabriella Campozano on 02.28.2017 at 9:32 am

    Rose is an absolute gem & a diligent worker!! I remember working alongside her back in 1991 during commencement receptions. I recently went to visit her and she still remembered me and my family!

  • Linda Wells on 02.28.2017 at 9:44 am

    Rose always made special events extra special. Lucky the students who were able to train under such a master of competence and decorum.

  • Lisa Doherty on 02.28.2017 at 10:04 am

    I love my Rose, not just Queen of the Castle but all of BU! So pleased that she received this wonderful recognition and great article. Cheers to Rose~

  • Tom Fiedler on 02.28.2017 at 10:06 am

    Rose does far more than serve people at BU functions. She makes everyone feel welcome and comfortable, as if they’ve been invited into her living room. Which, come to think of it, is what BU is to her. Jane has written a wonderful and worthy tribute to the “Queen.”

  • Dave Hollowell on 02.28.2017 at 11:35 am

    Great article on a wonderful lady. I was a new staffer at BU when Rose arrived and attended many an event over the next 16 years where Rose made sure everything ran smoothly. When I re-engaged with BU in 2005 through the BUAC and now Overseers, I was happy to see Rose was still smiling and as welcoming as ever. Thank you, Rose, and I hope to see you at many more BU functions.

  • Sara Johnson on 02.28.2017 at 12:12 pm

    It’s good to see Rose recognized for the remarkable job she does. She’s absolutely the best. She makes sure everyone feels welcome. Congratulations, Rose, on a job well done!

  • Susanne Jordan on 02.28.2017 at 12:13 pm

    What an uplifting article to read. She sounds like an amazing person and her work ethic is inspiring…

  • natalie mccracken on 02.28.2017 at 3:31 pm

    Years ago I published a photo captioned something like, “If you go to BU events you know Rose and Marie.” One of my favorite events remains a Howard Gotlieb New Years party at the Castle when Rose alternately waited table and danced with guests, equally elegantly. Recently I was at a Gotlieb Center event feeling bereft: Rose wasn’t there. Because, I see, she is now queen of the castle. But then she always has been.

  • Daniel Solworth on 02.28.2017 at 3:40 pm

    Wonderful piece on a deserving subject. I remember meeting Rose when I first arrived at Boston University, an eighteen year old college student. Now, some years later, and in a far different role at the University, her treatment of me and interaction with me has not changed, but she does remember the young Freshman attending events she was working – she will forever embody the level of service and the standard of events that BU has come to be known for. Thank you for sharing this wonderful encapsulation of Rose’s contribution over the years. I look forward to her continued presence making us all better.

  • Nancy Ammerman on 02.28.2017 at 8:13 pm

    Lovely story. I’m so glad to know more of Rose’s story. I see her so often and am always glad when she’s part of an event I’m attending.

  • Abby Elmore on 02.28.2017 at 8:58 pm

    The best BU functions are those that start with a hug from Rose. I remember Rose from my days as a student, staff member and now spouse to a staff member. She always asks about my kids by name – as I know she does for so many of the people she has come to know over the years. She is a BU treasure.

  • Tracey Sharp Rezendes on 03.01.2017 at 9:15 am

    Rose embodies the principles of hospitality. She is a wonderful human being and a true BU treasure.

  • Christine Wynne on 03.01.2017 at 11:12 am

    Thanks for creating such an uplifting tribute to a remarkable person. Three cheers for Rose! I am grateful for and learned from her grace, wisdom, and humor. Her presence here at BU is one of the things I cherish about my job.

  • Lady Haber Kornberg on 03.01.2017 at 1:28 pm

    Rose is an example for the rest of us: efficiency obscured by warmth and kindness. Whenever my husband and I hosted a function, if Rose was there, I knew I could stop worrying, relax and enjoy myself. She is a love!

  • Deborah Higgins on 03.01.2017 at 2:15 pm

    Rose is the epitome of selflessness and excellent service. I had the pleasure of working with Rose and will never forget her and am honored I got to know her. What a wonderful legacy she has created! Good for you Rose!!!

  • Karen Shaffer on 03.01.2017 at 6:13 pm

    Rose! Such a great, great lady. I was always happy to know Rose was on my event when I worked at Conference Services.

  • Ryan Roth Gallo on 03.01.2017 at 7:56 pm

    Rose is such a treasure. She made such a strong impression on me as a law student in the 90’s due to her genuine kindness and attention to detail that I was overjoyed to see she was still working and making her hospitality magic when I returned as an Overseer and Trustee several years ago. I am so happy to see that Rose is receiving public recognition for her amazingly loyal and impeccable service to the BU community.

  • Chris Muller on 03.01.2017 at 9:41 pm

    As the former dean of the School of Hospitality, I always knew I was at an “A” event when Rose was there to great the guests. She is the very embodiment of Hospitality (with a capital H), a model for everyone in the field, or in life. Thanks for making us all feel so welcome.

  • Ken Menges on 03.03.2017 at 12:03 am

    Rose is the light of the university. Always so loving, so thoughtful, so perfect. Such a joy. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • James Girouard on 03.04.2017 at 11:51 am

    Such a wonderful article about an awesome lady. I have always known how generous n caring she is and I am so proud to be her son. Just like at BU she is the queen of her castle at home also. Mom, you have always been the best and we are so proud of everything you have accomplished in your life, including raising us three boys. Congratulations on being recognized for the wonderful person you are!!
    Love your son Jimmy

  • Sheila McCann on 04.07.2017 at 9:27 am

    Happy to see this feature about Rose. Her presence graces every event she serves.

  • Jen Guillemin, Director ad interim, School of Visual Arts on 05.31.2017 at 8:32 am

    Rose is a gem, and this article is terrific. Every time I see Rose at an event she greets me with kindness and a big smile. She always asks, “Do you have your bike today?” as I often enter the room carrying a helmet. People like Rose make institutions into places of warmth and connection. Much gratitude to Rose and to Jane Dornbusch for writing this article.

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