By ALEC HUDSON – STAFF WRITER
Going to Jazzman’s is a daily ritual for many at Centre College. Whether it’s rushing to get a coffee before class or buying protein shakes after a workout, there never seems to be a shortage of customers.
Part of this is because of the high-quality staff that works there, including arguably one of the most friendly and recognizable faces on campus — Denzal Doneghy. The 26-year-old has been working for Sodexo for six years and during that time has gained the admiration and respect of many students and staff.
“I like the atmosphere of working here,” he said. “I try to take time to talk to students and see how their families and holidays are going. To me it’s part of being human, not caring so much about yourself and seeing how others are doing.”
Doneghy’s kindness and ability to engage with people comes from a genuine sense of gratitude for each day. That gratitude itself, though, comes from a difficult past that has affected him to this day. Most of his childhood was spent in Lexington and Louisville, Ky., though he was born in Danville, because of medical problems that his mother and brother faced.
“I had an autistic brother with scoliosis who needed to be taken care of, and when I was ten, my family discovered my mom had lupus,” Doneghy said. “They truly made me who I am, my mom and my brother. My brother was like my superhero even though he was younger. He had so many back surgeries that seeing him go each time was like seeing him die and be resurrected again.”
Even with the medical difficulties of his mother and brother, Doneghy still enjoyed a supportive family who helped him get through the times of trials. But in 2011, both his mother and brother died within six months of each other, something for which he did not feel prepared.
“Everyone has a dark past, but I needed to regain myself after so much loss,” he said. “And I did that through peace and happiness. When you lose someone close, you want to know that they’re okay. I’ve been blessed with upbeat, positive dreams of my mother and brother together. I don’t go to church like I should, but I know I’ve experienced them in dreams.”
Though he has endured hardship and loss, Doneghy is not a sad or pessimistic man.
“When I wake up I thank God for the day,” he said. “Everyone is trying to live for positivity. I try to help by having a lending ear to all who need it.”
Aside from his college job, he lives with his dog Joe and takes care of his six-year-old son. For Doneghy, having a child was “the best thing — period. They make you better. My son says he wants to work for Centre like me and take classes. I just hope I can set a premium example for him.”
Since he has invested much more time at Centre than any student, Doneghy has a few notes as far as changes that he would like to see take place across the student body, especially in the way that students view each other.
“Well, a pay increase for the Sodexo staff would be nice,” he joked, “but aside from that, I feel that students need to meet different people and not get attached to cliques. I hear people gossip and talk negatively about others, but Centre students are all nerds. We’ve all experienced being mocked or being made fun of. I just wish the campus would come together more. We need to be honest that we all have flaws but we all also have great things about us.”
In the end, Doneghy would simply like everyone to be grateful for the lives that they are living.
“You never know when your last breath of life comes, and I want to make sure that I’m giving off positive energy even if I’m old and wrinkly,” Doneghy said. “Honestly, I don’t know what life is or is supposed to be, but I’m living it.”