Behind the Uniform: Amer Safa

The ’82 Grill, located in downstairs Paresky, is a popular hangout spot for students looking to avoid the bustling crowd usually found in Whitmans’ dining hall during dinnertime. At the Grill, students can get a customized pizza with the swipe of an ID, made on the spot by a member of Dining Services  behind the counter. Because these workers are responsible for creating some of the best pizzas on campus, we thought it was necessary to hear their stories.

One member, Amer Safa, particularly stands out. This is probably due to his vibrant personality, which is a constant mood-lifter during the stressful weeks leading up to the end of a semester. I sat down with Safa an hour before his shift began to get to know more about the congenial man beneath the chef’s hat.

Originally from Lebanon, Safa came to the U.S. in 1998. At the time of his departure, Lebanon was at war, and he didn’t see much of a future for himself there. He described his hometown as a “small and simple” one and recalled that there “wasn’t much room for dreaming” while growing up. When he left his hometown in 1998, he was in search of more opportunities. He made the trip to the U.S. alone, with his family following soon after. I asked him what the main difference was between living here and Lebanon, and he replied, “Life’s too fast here; you don’t stop and look around.” He described America as being very materialistic, a concept he was not familiar with back home. “I was naive in so many cases because I was transferred from simplicity to complication. I’m still naïve,” Safa said.

When Safa first arrived in the U.S., he decided to go to Michigan. There, he found work at General Motors and worked as a contractor for 12 years. In 2010, Safa lost his job with General Motors and began looking for work elsewhere. During this time, he came across an advertisement for a temporary assistant manager position at Williams. Being, as he recalled, “out of a job at the time,” he answered the advertisement and was soon called for an interview. The interview went well, and he was offered the job soon after. He accepted the offer and made his way to Williamstown alone, with his family staying behind in Michigan. It was not until July of that year that his family joined him in the Berkshires.

After working as a temporary worker at the College for a while, he was eventually offered a permanent job at the ’82 Grill and has been a regular employee since September 2011. Safa enjoys his job, describing every day as a “memorable one.” His duties include taking down the many orders students request and preparing the pizzas. One of his favorite aspects of his job is meeting new students when they come down to the Grill.

Safa’s family is also important in the Williams community. His wife works at the College as a substitute teacher at the Children’s Center. Of his three children, one is currently studying political science at the Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield. Safa also enrolled in the Berkshire Community College and earned his associates degree.

Eventually, Safa would like to go back to Lebanon to be with family and friends, although he notes that things may not be so simple in his hometown these days.

Before he leaves, he hopes to encourage students to take advantage of the incredible resources Williams has to offer and to not be afraid to push themselves. “Nobody should ever underestimate the power of the human being,” Safa said. “If you don’t put yourself on the line, you’ll never know how powerful you are.”