DES MOINES, Iowa — Service with a smile. “Hi Erica, hi Chris,” shouts the cheerful voice inside Drake University’s Hubbell Dining Hall.

For over 15 years, Drake students like freshman Claire Price have become used to the familiar face of Marietta Jackson. “Being the first face that greets me in the morning is amazing. It makes me want to get up for breakfast. It makes me want to get up in the morning,” said Price.

Drake senior and all-conference basketball player Maggie Bair says Jackson made an immediate impression on her first day on campus as a freshman.  Bair said, “She’s just a constant fixture of happiness and kindness at Drake all the time.”

Despite what may seem like a repetitive job duty, Jackson loves every second and so do the students. “They’re like my kids. I’m like the mom away from home. I see them every day,” said Jackson.

Jackson’s joyful outlook is facing strong adversity. “This has been a very difficult time it has not been pleasant at all,” Jackson said.

In January she was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer.  “When I have chemo I’m gone those days and then days I’m really sick but other than that I try to be here because I need to see their smiles,” said Jackson laughing.

Days after the Bulldogs ended a memorable women’s basketball season with an NCAA tournament appearance, Bair began an online fundraiser for Jackson’s medical costs. It has since soared to tens of thousands of dollars in fundraising money in just a few days.  Bair said, “Knowing how many people love her and knowing how many people she loved throughout the years, in a way I’ve been surprised but also not really.”

Just outside the dining hall is a mural with some of the most iconic places on campus like Old Main, the Olmstead Center, the historic Blue Oval track, and the Knapp Center. It’s fitting that it leads to a woman that students say has played such an important role in their on-campus experience.  “It’s really inspiring. It inspires me every day to keep coming to class and keep trying because if she can do it I can do it,” Price said.

For Marietta, smiling in the face of cancer comes naturally.  “Watch this,” said Jackson as she pointed to a dining student. “Hi Ernest. See that’s how. They smile at me. Their smiles are infectious,” said Jackson.

It’s a cancer fight that Marietta is quick to note she’s not alone in defeating.  “I am surrounded by so much love so many prayers and I am truly blessed it’s awesome,” Jackson said. She added, “I have a whole university of support.”

A hopeful victory against cancer that she will no doubt be doing with a smile.  Jackson said, “If God lets me live today there is the reason why. You live each day to the fullest.”

You can donate to Marietta’s medical costs here.