At the Center for Constructive Alternative lectures, Hillsdale students engage in vigorous note-taking while learning from renowned speakers. For many returning CCA guests, however, the most memorable face is that of ‘bartender Bob.’
Australia native Miroslaw Nej, who goes by Bob because of its simpler pronunciation, has been bartending at Hillsdale College for longer than the Searle Center has existed.
He first connected with Hillsdale around 2007 during his wife’s tenure as the executive assistant for John Cervini, vice president for Institutional Advancement.
The college needed a bartender for an event and, because of his experience as a part-time bartender at a restaurant downtown, his wife recommended him for the job.
Bob said after that first event, he just kept coming back.
“I’ve worked CCAs, I’ve worked homecoming,” he said. “I’ve worked deck parties at John Cervini’s house. I’ve worked parents weekend. I work wherever they need me.”
Once Saga Food Service got its liquor license, it encouraged Bob to fill out an application with the college’s catering company.
Seven years later, when Bon Appetit took over Hillsdale’s food services, Bob began working with them.
Hillsdale College Director of Programs for External Affairs Matt Bell said Bob has been tireless in his efforts to deliver excellent bar service at CCAs and other events.
“Bob has been a mainstay of college program hospitality for many years,” he said. “I hope he never decides to take his permanent trip to Australia.”
Bob spent his childhood in Australia and now frequently travels between his two homes.
He retired from life in the land down under a few years after he married his American wife. She was a schoolteacher in Australia when she met Bob and the two married, but they moved to America when she grew homesick.
Bob said he does not prefer life in one place over another.
“I love living in Australia and I love living in Hillsdale, so whenever I’m in Australia I miss Hillsdale and whenever I’m in Hillsdale I miss Australia,” he said.
One thing Bob is sure about is how much he enjoys bartending for the CCAs. What makes the events special among the college’s other events, he said, is the opportunity to get to know people.
“To be honest, I don’t remember most of their names, but I remember what they’re drinking,” he said.
He has a reputation among many for remembering peoples’ drink order, despite how well-attended the CCA is. Director of Catering for Hillsdale’s Bon Appetit Management Company Anna Harutunian has observed many of his interactions.
“Bob has made good connections with people attending the CCAs,” she said. “He knows most peoples’ drink orders and begins making them for people before they even place their order.”
When asked about this skill, Bob humbly replied, “I don’t know what it is, I think it’s just a bartender thing.”
Bob said he has no crazy stories from any CCA as they all go smoothly for him. He performs his job and enjoys what he does.
“He is an example to all those who wish to perform their duties well,” Bell said.
As long as Bob continues to bartend for Hillsdale, it’s safe to say that the drinks of those attending the CCAs will be in good hands.