University City

‘Miss Daisy’ was like a mom to Cone University Center student workers at UNC Charlotte

As a freshman at UNC Charlotte, Kendyl Messer worked at Cone University Center’s Candy Shoppe for two months before she was promoted to building manager.

Her supervisor had spotted her strong work ethic, her ability to train and manage people, and her unwavering sense of pride for a job well done.

Daisy Urban would have been pleased.

At the Nov. 5 CONE-vocation, part of a weeklong celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Cone University Center, Messer became the inaugural recipient of the Daisy Pearl Pugh Urban Scholarship.

The $500 award goes to a Cone Center student worker who exemplifies the qualities its namesake demonstrated every day of her 25-year career at the university.

“That’s my mom,” said Urban’s son, Rob, who presented the scholarship to Messer, a nursing major. “Those were her values.”

As assistant director for auxiliary operations at the Cone Center, Daisy Urban was responsible for the hiring, training and managing of hundreds of student workers during her quarter-century tenure.

But on campus, she’s remembered most for her ability to strike just the right balance between firmness and gentleness with her students.

“The students called her Miss Daisy,” said Associate Vice Chancellor Jim Hoppa, who worked with Urban from 1987 until she retired in 2000.

“When you met her,” he said, “you might think, ‘Wow, here’s a woman who may be tough to get close to, because she could be a stickler.’ But the students were drawn to her, almost like magnets.”

For many students living away from home for the first time, Urban became not just a supervisor, and not a friend, but more like a surrogate mother.

“She told them like it was, and it was not always what they wanted to hear,” said Hoppa. “But she was caring.

“They went to her when they were happy. They went to her when they were sad. They went to her when they had problems.”

Many would bring their parents to meet her, and later on, after graduation, their babies.

When she died of cancer shortly after her retirement, Urban’s son heard from many of them about the connections they felt with his mom.

In his speech at the ceremony, Urban spoke of his mom’s passion and commitment to the university, and her belief that it would continue to grow with the hard work of its community.

“She put a lot of herself into the job. She sort of taught me by example, and I think all of her students, by example, that you get out of something what you put into it,” said Urban.

“I have tried to apply that in my own life and career, and I think a lot of her students have done the same.”

Messer didn’t know much about the scholarship’s namesake before the ceremony. But once she did, she said she was proud to be its inaugural recipient.

“She seemed like a very caring person who loved her job and loved her student employees,” said Messer.

Hoppa said Daisy would have been proud of the first winner, too.

“She would have hired Kendyl in a heartbeat,” he said. “She would have been really impressed with her.”