TCU employee Lieu Ngyuen shares early life experiences

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 Market Square employee Lieu shows off her 'Super Mario' costume on Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012. Photo by Matt Johnston. Graphic by Julie DeVincenzo.

Lieu Nguyen needs neither an introduction nor to be called by her full name; she is known simply by her first name, Lieu.

In the seven years Nguyen has been a cashier in Market Square, she has become well known by students.

“We all love Lieu. Everyone knows who she is. Everyone is friends with her on Facebook.  She is our campus celebrity,” first-year Morgan DeCuir said.

Sophomore Alex Terzo agrees and said “I’ve never met anyone so passionate about the students here, and I just think it’s incredible how much of an effort she makes to know everyone. She is definitely a blessing to the TCU community.”

Students brag about her constant smile, her larger than life Facebook personality, and her uncanny ability to call many students by name, but few know about her identity outside of TCU. 

Born in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam in 1953, Ngyuen learned English in high school and worked for the United States embassy in Vietnam for three years before immigrating to the United States just eight days before Sai Gon fell to the Communists in April of 1975. She said she landed in Orange County, Calif. when she was 22 years old. 

“It was lonely, but you had to survive and pay the bills,” she said. “I didn’t think much about what I left behind.”

Soon after her immigration, she interviewed with an electric company for the same job as another young Vietnamese man. After both were hired, Ngyuen and her future husband, Wayne Nguyen, worked together for a decade. They married in 1976 and started a family while he studied engineering at California Polytechnic State University.

After the birth of their three kids, her husband’s company relocated them to Fort Worth in 1986. 

Ngyuen said they expected to stay only a year, but after the first year, they just kept giving Fort Worth more time. 

“It is not as crowded as the life in California,” Ngyuen said. “It's great place to raise kids.”

In Fort Worth, Ngyuen was a stay at home mom, but she said after her three children left for college, she became bored and restless, so she applied to work for TCU and was hired as a counter attendant.

The Huffington Post recently released an article naming counter attendants as the fifth lowest paying job in the nation, but Ngyuen said her role extends beyond swiping cards.

“No one likes to be the cashier, but at my age, if something makes you happy, it is more important than the money,” Ngyuen said. 

Although she has been offered a job as supervisor on multiple occasions, she has turned down promotions, saying that she rejects the responsibility in favor of learning the “sweet stuff” about students instead.  

On her job in Market Square, Ngyuen said she sees herself more as an unofficial mother to all students. She said she understands how scared the freshmen are coming into a new place, because she knows well what it is like to be a stranger foreign location.

“Somebody out there loves you and cares for you,” she said. “Even if that somebody is not your family, that somebody will be me.”  

This is her legacy.

“I know why I still work here,” she said. “I love to hear the people return the love I give. [The love] will always be in my heart and my soul.  I want to think that I have done something in my lifetime.” 

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