Bowdoin would not be Bowdoin without Hubbard Hall, Ivies, the Bowdoin-Colby Hockey Game and—of course—the card swipers at Moulton and Thorne. You know their names: Connie, Dave, Pat and all the rest. They stand as the hallowed gatekeepers of Bowdoin’s top rated dining halls. Only one of these swipers, however, earns the distinction of being the fastest—Irene Gamache.

Though she has worked in Bowdoin dining for the past 28 years, Gamache has earned the title of fastest swiper only in the past couple of years when she started working her now-favorite dining job. Before becoming a card swiper, Gamache worked a wide array of other Dining Service jobs including positions at the deli, the salad prep room and the cafe.

“I just like being with people,” she said.

Gamache has lived in Maine all her life. Born into a large Franco-American family in Lewiston, Gamache grew up speaking French with her two brothers and one sister. In fact, when she first started school, she didn’t know any English and had to teach it herself.  

She spent the first two decades of her life in Lewiston and Auburn before meeting her late husband on a blind date set up by her cousin.

 “One day my cousin asked me if I’d go on a blind date with him and a friend that I knew,” she said. “And the rest is history!”

 The two were married a year later at St. Joseph’s Church in Lewiston before moving to Brunswick, where Gamache and her husband raised their two daughters.

Altogether, she has been in Brunswick for about 45 years. During her tenure at Bowdoin, Moulton Union has undergone several changes. The Pub, the Café and the mail room, for example, all used to be crammed into the same space alongside the dining hall.

Gamache’s favorite food, however, has stayed the same. “I like ham,” she said. “Any kind of ham is good!” 

 She also admits to having a bit of a sweet tooth.

“Chocolate is my weak spot,” she said. 

Aside from desserts, Gamache enjoys spending time with her four grandchildren, doing word search puzzles and seeing musicals at the Maine State Music Theatre. And—of course—swiping thousands of OneCards every week.

Gamache noted that students are the ones who keep her so upbeat. 

“Some of you will come in and be jolly and that’ll make my day,” she said.

As far as names go, Irene said she knows maybe half of student names. Oftentimes she will try to pinpoint some distinctive characteristic about a student—hair, height, style—to help her remember. 

Irene attributes Bowdoin’s dominance in the realm of collegiate dining to great chefs and managers. But there are others who deserve just as much thanks: the long-time full-timers, like Irene, who work hard day-in and day-out to keep the food coming and the cards swiped.