M&M’s. Milk chocolate sweets encapsulated by a colorful shell.
Mary Ruthi, professor of sociology, offers these sweet treats in a bowl near her office as a kind gesture to students and professors, hoping it will brighten their day.
Ruthi has been a part of the faculty since 1978. The M&M’s date back to just over five years ago.
“We used to have a secretary who had a desk outside of where my office is, and she had a candy dish,” Ruthi said. “And the students really like that. When she moved to a different position, the dish went with her, and people were complaining, ‘Where’s the M&M’s? Where’s the candy?’ And then I thought, ‘Well, I’ll try putting candy out.’ Once I started, there was no stopping because people were like, ‘Where’s the candy? The candy dish is empty?'”
Ruthi continues to put M&M’s in the lounge each day, not for recognition, but as a gift to students.
“I think some people really enjoy it,” she said. “I will see students go by on their way to class and grab a handful of M&M’s, and it seems to make them happy. And it’s not terribly expensive. I figure it’s the least one can do to try to brighten up people’s days a little.”
Many students are unaware of where the sweet treats come from.
“I think probably most students don’t have any idea where the M&M’s come from,” Ruthi said. “I think they just think they drop from heaven like manna, you know. They’re just there. And that’s okay, because they don’t necessarily need to know that I’m the one who does it.”
Though Ruthi provides an unlimited supply of M&M’s each day, only regular chocolate ones are available in the lounge. In order to get special M&M’s, one has to visit her office.
“They do have to talk to me, though, if they come into my office to steal the quality M&M’s,” Ruthi said.
Sophomore Tashnah Dixon is one such person. When asked how often she visits her office …
“… everyday,” Dixon said. “At least four times a day.”
Ruthi keeps the special M&M’s in her office because some people are allergic to peanuts.
“I’d hate to have someone die,” she said.
With her warm personality and her constant supply of M&M’s, Ruthi has visitors frequently.
“Dr. Ruthi is amazing,” Dixon said. “She’s amazing! She’s my campus grandma, so I’m always with her.”
“It would be an unusual day if I didn’t have visitors,” Ruthi said. “Sometimes, I just see students grabbing M&M’s, and they stop in and say ‘Hi!’ ‘Bye!’ And then they’re on their way to class or wherever.”
Students aren’t the only ones that eat the M&M’s. Professors like Dwight Brautigam also stop in for a treat.
“On occasion, not every day, but more days than I should,” Brautigam said about digging into the M&M’s.”I appreciate her efforts to make all of us fat.”
In order to supply M&M’s all day, Ruthi goes through a couple of medium-sized bags each week, totaling six to eight bags a month. Ruthi is solely responsible for providing the M&M’s. She spends at least $60 per month and almost $250 per semester.
“When someone does something for us we don’t expect, we tend to feel like we owe the universe something, or we owe God something,” Ruthi said. “And maybe people will be willing to go out and do something nice for someone else.”