Not unlike a typical grandmother, the first thing Aldora Green — known to her friends as “Granny” — did when I met with her was make me a plate of steak and mashed potatoes.
The 81-year-old works at West End Market as a Golden Pro: someone who comes back to work after retiring. Unassuming in her collared uniform shirt and knee-length skirt, the tiny woman who works behind the counter of J.P.’s Chop House has made a large impact on campus, touching the lives of everyone she meets.
She has had close relationships with each of the presidents during her 67-year tenure at Virginia Tech and Radford, particularly with the Lavery family.
Most importantly, she has opened her home, her wallet and her heart to every student she has met. While "Granny" is a relatively new nickname, given to her by a student who did not have a biological grandmother, she has been called “mama” by coworkers and students for years. Even students who do not know of her history quickly get a sense of her authority.
“She just brings an authoritative presence and a presence of experience and professionalism that most student workers in the Chop Shop don’t have,” said Jonathan Neri, a freshman political science major who began working with Green this year.
Humility to Honor
Green has won multiple awards, including the prestigious Presidential Service Award in 1995; the Heroine Award, an award for perfect attendance; the In the Limelight Award; the Black Caucus' Outstanding Award; and the Ring Dance Appreciation Award. She has also won Radford’s President’s Volunteer Service Award and the Black Caucus’ Outstanding Award.
Of the plaques and framed awards that ornament Green’s walls, a high school diploma is surprisingly not one of them. In fact, Green has not received formal education, with the exception of three years at Christiansburg Institute. Everything she knows she has taught herself.
“It’s not what you learn in a book; it’s what you can teach yourself,” Green said. “The most important thing in life is having confidence in yourself and good common sense. Common sense will carry you quicker than a book will carry you. You have to let it guide you. That’s what has guided me.”
Green came from a humble background, but she never speaks of her family’s lack of money as a limitation. Instead, at an early age, she taught herself how to mold simple objects into something beautiful. As a child, she turned orange crates into coffee tables using wallpaper, cut glass and cloth.
“It looked like furniture,” Green said. “It all came natural to me. I just started fiddling with stuff, and I liked to do it.”