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Italian-born custodian looks after students, crooning in Spanish as she works

L.A. Cicero Annunziata ?Lucy? Maestrini

Annunziata “Lucy” Maestrini started on June 13, 1969, as a custodian in Stern Hall. From there, she went to the Row Houses for a spell, then on to Florence Moore, Wilbur and Lagunita. She began at Roble when it reopened in 1989 after a major seismic retrofit. And this year, she is being honored with the Amy J. Blue Award.

BY MICHAEL PEÑA

The residents of Roble Hall have in Annunziata "Lucy" Maestrini a custodian, a confidant, a supplies manager and a songbird. Maestrini hails from a small village in the mountains of northern Italy, but when she sings, the verses often come out in Spanish.

She also speaks Spanish to other custodians on campus, having learned the language in Germany, where she worked in a can-making plant filled with immigrants from Spain. She was 19 at the time and had left her hometown of Montevecchio to be with her new husband, who had landed a job in Germany.

Five years later, they came to the United States to be closer to her husband's mother and father in Menlo Park. Working at the Sacred Heart parochial school, Maestrini cleaned for the nuns and served food to students in the cafeteria. She came to Stanford three years later and has worked ever since as a custodian in the Department of Student Housing.

Maestrini started on June 13, 1969, as a custodian in Stern Hall. From there, she went to the Row Houses for a spell, then on to Florence Moore, Wilbur and Lagunita. She began at Roble when it reopened in 1989 after a major seismic retrofit. And this year, she is being honored with the Amy J. Blue Award.

"This is really a recognition of our custodial staff," said Teresa Riseborough, housing supervisor for Roble, Lagunita and Governor's Corner. "Lucy, who has been here for 35 years, got recognized for the high dedication to the service she provides for our students and for who she is as a person."

Maestrini takes great care in looking after Roble's facilities. On the eve of a big dorm party one year, she showed students the location of electrical equipment, extra garbage cans, cleaning tools, ladders and decorations. Even before students could complain about a broken vacuum, Maestrini brought a new one to a resident assistant's door. And she tells the RA when students have been throwing up in the bathroom.

"Even when Lucy has to remind me that my residents' hygienic habits are becoming 'filthy,' she does it in a direct and firm manner that shows the utmost professionalism and care," Eli Carrillo, a resident assistant at Roble, stated in his nomination letter. "It is no exaggeration when I say that Lucy has become a mother figure to the dorm."

Just before the seismic-retrofit work at Roble began in the late 1980s, administrators were forced to empty the dorm as soon as its unsuspecting residents returned from winter break. Maestrini and a team of other housing staff came to the rescue with humor and sensitivity to help them pack and move.

"That's 311 students who had to be relocated to other parts of campus," Riseborough said. "Lucy came through as a strong leader in that situation."

Riseborough said such genuine devotion makes it easier for students—regardless of their cultural background or their preconceived notions regarding janitorial staff—to respect the custodians for their work and character. Maestrini is one of three full-time custodians at Roble.

As for the singing, Maestrini said she doesn't have a favorite tune. During her rounds, she summons whatever song sticks out in that mental catalog of melodies that stretches all the way back to the mountains overlooking Montevecchio. And what comes out is often a medley of Spanish, Italian and sometimes English.

"The residents of B-wing, her primary area of work, enjoy hearing her whistling and singing while she works," Carrillo wrote. "The legend of Lucy's kindness and dedication to the students of Roble does not simply span my class year. Having talked to previous RAs, [I know] Lucy has always been a beautiful force in Roble."