The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Sly serves up coffee and advice with a smile

Java City barista Dan Sly is popular among students for his infectiously positive attitude.
Christina Parrish
Java City barista Dan Sly is popular among students for his infectiously positive attitude.

Java City barista Dan Sly is popular among students for his infectiously positive attitude. (Christina Parrish)

On a college campus where professors have Ph.D.’s and give lectures to hundreds of students, Dan Sly has just as much, if not more, to teach.

Sly wakes up every morning at 5:30 in his North Dallas apartment. He drives 15 minutes in his 1993 blue Ford Taurus to the SMU campus to be at work by 6:30 a.m.

His tortoise-rimmed glasses frame the wrinkles and bags around his friendly eyes, yet his personality is unaffected by age. Freckles scatter across his dark skin, but his giant smile tells the real story.

Sly, 44, greets everyone with a bright grin behind the counter at Java City in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center. There’s a sincerity to his demeanor that keeps his friends, most of them SMU students, coming back.

“Most of the kids around campus are very nice people,” said Sly, who is the Java City supervisor. “They’re the reason I’m still here – they keep me motivated.”

Sly interacts with students who are facing many uncertainties, such as life after college. He offers advice to people that is sometimes more valuable than any finance or biology lesson.

“If you get nothing else in life, get an understanding of yourself,” Sly said.

Sly has made many friends since working at Java City and helps to make the café friendlier.

One of his regular customers is SMU grad student Kaushik Josiam.

“Dan was one of the first people I connected with when I started at SMU. He was the only person willing to talk,” Josiam said. “He makes me want to come here.”

Josiam does not have to order his tea with milk when he comes in Java City because Sly knows his order.

“He even remembers that I use five packs of sugar,” Josiam said.

Sly’s co-worker Donald Johnson loves working with him.

“Dan is very understanding,” he said. “He is someone I look up to as a role model.”

Johnson says that Sly has taught him a lot about finding happiness in life and being excited to go to work.

“He teaches the students a lot because he motivates them to find what makes them happy in life.”

Sly was born in Dothan, Ala. but spent most of his childhood in Newark, N.J. One of nine children, Sly moved between Florida and Alabama before he finally arrived at SMU three years ago.

“I was traveling for seven years visiting family and came to Dallas to visit my brother, who was the supervisor at Umphrey Lee,” Sly said. “When I ran out of money and had to go to work, my brother got me a job here.”

Sly is an employee of Aramark, the company that provides SMU’s food services.

According to its Web site, Aramark has consistently ranked in Fortune magazine’s list of “America’s Most Admired Companies” since 1998. Aramark was also ranked first in its industry in the 2006 Fortune 500 survey.

When Sly first started at SMU, he worked in the pizzeria in the basement of Hughes-Trigg, which is no longer there. Then a job opened up at Java City. He grabbed it.

“They hired me because I had a smile, and it’s the best thing that ever happened to me,” said Sly.

Daryl Karp, retail operations manager for Aramark, has been Sly’s boss for four months. In that short amount of time, Karp has witnessed Sly’s exceptional character.

“Dan is one of the best I’ve seen,” Karp said.

Sly works Monday through Friday and usually stays late.

“I never really know when I’ll finish for the day. I should be leaving at 3:30 p.m., but we’re so understaffed,” Sly said.

Currently, Sly cannot leave SMU because Java City is understaffed. But this summer, he hopes to start a boiled peanut business in Tampa, Fla. That way he can be closer to his family.

“I don’t know if Dan will go to Florida, because he is so loved up here,” Johnson said.

However, Sly is set on following his dreams.

“I wanted to start it last summer, but my boss got married so I had to stay here,” said Sly. “But this summer, I’m doing it no matter what.”

Karp has high hopes for Sly’s future, but not in Florida.

“I hope he does stay here,” Karp said. “When we begin expanding I want to move him up to an assistant manager role.”

When Sly is not serving up strawberry smoothies and café lattes, he enjoys playing pool, bowling, skating and dancing.

He recently bought a pit bull puppy named Sassy.

“She’s just like having a kid. It’s so much fun.”

When Sly went through a divorce two years ago, he found his body shutting down from the stress.

“I was feeling guilty for some of the things I had done,” he said.

This pressure caused Sly to go into depression, which made him seek a doctor to find peace within himself.

“The doctor told me, ‘If you want to live longer, you’ve got to be happy.’ And I’ve been smiling ever since.”

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