Jan Piayai initially agreed to provide support at the Hamilton College Mail Center as a substitute for someone recuperating from an illness. Fourteen years later, she’s just as enthusiastic about her job as the day she began. “I love the interchange with people,” she says.
That’s why Piayai manages the stamp window, where students send letters and packages. Getting so much face time with the Hamilton community gives Piayai the opportunity to watch freshmen mature into seniors. “People change a lot,” she observes, referring particularly to the self-assurance she sees in students who return from programs abroad. And their experiences have in turn made an impact on Piayai. “It’s helped me not to be small-minded,” she says. It also gave her the courage to travel overseas to visit her own daughter, Marie Piayai ’09, currently in Thailand on a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship. The duo dined on tantalizing cuisine, visited temples and soaked up a culture that was a far cry from that of the village of Clinton.
Breaks such as those are rare for Mail Center staff members, who work even when Hamilton students are on vacation. In an era when campus communications are email-centric, online ordering has increased the number of packages coming in and shipments going out. Although the pace slows a bit during breaks, Piayai confesses she misses the students after only one week. But she takes comfort in the postcards from far-flung destinations that paper the walls of the Mail Center in Beinecke. With staff members like Piayai treating students like family, it’s not surprising students and graduates remember to write “home.”