Coop Cathy: Getting to Know the Legend Behind the Counter

While a small university, Colgate can strangely seem so large at times. Some days, familiar faces can be few and far between. But there are a select few people on campus who have become bastions of familiarity and friendliness to everyone who comes their way. Cathy Natoli — known affectionately by the moniker “Coop Cathy” — is one of those few people. Natoli is nothing short of an icon on Colgate’s campus. For the past 12 years that she’s been at Colgate, students and faculty alike have been impressed by her work-ethic, amazed at her ability to remember faces and names seemingly at the drop of a hat and enamored with her friendly and positive attitude towards everyone. 

You might be wondering: how did Natoli end up at Colgate to begin with? Her decision to come here was rooted in the good-natured aspiration to give back to what she believed in.

“I was a stay-at-home mom. As our three children grew up and left home, I wondered if there was another way to put my mom skills to use. I prayed on it for about a year and I have come to believe that God sent me here to take care of all of you. In essence, I serve Him by serving you.” 

Natoli is no stranger to the trials and tribulations of working at Colgate; it is an environment that can be difficult and demanding. But someone doesn’t stick around in Hamilton for as long as Natoli without loving what they do. The buzzing student population is what she enjoys most.

“There’s an energy here that I don’t experience anywhere else. It keeps me feeling young myself. I also love watching all of you students grow into confident and capable young adults. It’s endlessly fascinating to me.” 

As a professional in the food-service industry, you might be curious as to what Natoli’s go-to fare is both on and off campus. Well, as for her favorite on-campus food, Natoli was upfront with her answer.

“I am a pizza girl. Any kind, any time.” 

As if that wasn’t relatable enough, Natoli’s favorite place in town just so happens to be a favorite among the students, too.

“My favorite place in Hamilton is Royal India [Grill]. In fact, my husband and I both chose it for our birthday dinner this year.” 

As a veteran of the Colgate dining scene, Natoli also has the skinny on all of the behind-the-scenes action that the rest of us wouldn’t think twice about. When asked to spill the tea about something that we wouldn’t know about Colgate’s dining services, she championed her co-workers.

“I would have to say the huge amount of time and care it takes to produce the volume, variety and quality of food items every single day. I might be the face you see every morning, but there are so many staff you might not be aware of that make this all work.”

Natoli has also been witness to quite a few shenanigans in the dining halls over the years. She recalled what she thought was the single craziest thing she’d seen in a Colgate dining hall.

“A few years ago, a flash mob danced in Frank. It was awesome!” Natoli said.

The video, for those of you who would like to revel in a glorious moment in Colgate’s history, can still be found on Colgate’s Youtube page.

In typical Coop Cathy fashion, she leaves us with a bit of positivity — in the form of some words of wisdom — to make our day just a little bit brighter: 

“[1] Be positive! My husband taught me about the power of positivity and it changed my life. [2] Be open-minded. The world is full of great people. Let them in. [3] There is no such thing as a small kindness. They all count. I know this because I have received more than my share from all of you.” 

Perfect advice from a veritable living legend of Colgate’s campus. Rock on, Coop Cathy — we love you!