A Legacy to Keep

Fourth Estate/Leigh Norman

Well-known Southside employee leaves Mason


Robert Daniels is always smiling. His kind eyes and salt-and-pepper beard have been a welcome sight for Southside diners.  

He spent years sitting at the register or preparing sandwiches. Sometimes he just pushed a cart full of dirty dishes. Regardless of his task, he gave a warm “Hey, baby!” or “How’s it going?” to every diner. 

Robert Daniels is one life that has changed many. Now he’s off to change more, this time in Washington, D.C. 

Daniels was the Southside dining hall customer service specialist for the past seven years and will soon be a supervisor for the George Washington University Hospital dining hall. 

Caitlin Weaver, a junior majoring in integrative studies, was the first to notify the Mason Generalposting Facebook page about Daniels’ departure. “He always told me ‘hey darling,’ and asked how my day was,” Weaver said. 

When students heard Daniels was leaving, reactions were varied. Some were thrilled to see him advance and others were saddened. 

So many had a story about Daniels that a group of students created a mass document for everyone to type out their memories. A wide variety of students contributed, including students who have already graduated.

The document, now 21 pages long, was printed and given to Daniels on his last day. After only two days, there were over 12 pages of heartfelt compliments, well wishes and tragic moments — all remembering Daniels’ special radiance.

Jay Wilson, computer science alumnus, told a story many students understand: a late night, a long assignment and a breaking point. Wilson retreated into Southside to work on statistics homework and Daniels, as he did for many students, noticed his frustrations. 

“It was visible how much I was struggling … [Daniels] came up to me and asked if I’d want to move over to the quieter, fenced-off section of Southside so I could focus on my project,” Wilson wrote. While Wilson’s assignment ultimately did not get completed, he learned something more valuable. 

“There was more to life than just school. I’d gotten so buried in work over the past semester… I’d forgotten there was anything else that mattered,” wrote Wilson, “People deserve kindness above all else and [Daniels’] everyday act of generosity toward me reminded me of that.” 

As the Mason community reflected on his service, Daniels himself remembered much more, with tears brimming in his eyes. “I just want to tell you all how powerful, beautiful and wonderful y’all are … I have totally enjoyed every second in the presence of all your bright spirits and equally bright minds.”

Finally, Daniels leaves Mason one final piece of advice: “Keep remembering to SMILE: meaning see magic in living everyday … that should be easy to do because the magic is in each of your mirrors each day.”