Recipe for Community: Connection, Cookies and Campion House

Man scoops cookie dough onto baking sheet
Student bakers, like Ben Lepper '25, churn out 100 cookies per day, six days a week.

How the Chaplains’ Office’s beloved baking tradition began and why a Campion cookie is more than just a sweet treat.

Six out of seven days a week during the academic year, anyone can walk into Campion House and enjoy a freshly baked cookie. That’s a fact that sounds simple enough, but one that has evolved from ingenious marketing by the Office of the College Chaplains into a beloved campus tradition nearing its second decade.

The history

The magic of the Campion cookie began in the 1990s with the late then-chaplain the Rev. Michael F. Ford, S.J., a secret recipe (more on that later) and an eyebrow-raising pecan budget.

“Back then, three nights a week, we'd have dinners with students at Campion, and Fr. Ford would make his famous cookies for dessert,” recalls Marybeth Kearns-Barrett ’84, director of the Office of the College Chaplains. “Fr. Ford would make these very large, chocolate chip cookies with lots of (expensive) pecans; alumni from that time will remember them. He served the cookies with ice cream from Kimball. That was the beginning of the ‘Campion cookie.’"

White farmhouse-style building viewed in the distance with trees in the foreground
Tucked away on the eastern edge of campus, Campion House has been home to students, faculty, staff and Jesuits, and has served many purposes.

At that time, Campion, where Fr. Ford lived, was a small Jesuit residence and the Chaplains’ Office was located in Hogan Campus Center. In 2000, the Jesuits living in Campion moved to the larger Jesuit residence in Ciampi Hall and the Chaplains’ Office relocated from Hogan — the bustling campus hub — to Campion, a nearly 100-year-old two-story farmhouse tucked into a quiet corner of Mount St. James.

Constructed in the early 1900s, Campion had a variety of uses over the century and was often used as a residence, first  for College staff, later for students, and eventually as a small Jesuit community. With the arrival of the Chaplain’s Office, it became office space, but unlike anywhere else on campus, it was office space that also boasted with a full kitchen and living room, just like a traditional home.

“We had this wonderful space, but the trick was getting people to walk in,” Kearns-Barrett explains. The answer to attract foot traffic and students? Cookies, inspired by Fr. Ford’s famous treats.

The bakers

The Campion cookie quickly grew in popularity and variety, and the chaplains turned to student bakers for help in the kitchen. In 2007, the role of Campion baker became a work-study position.

Today, student bakers churn out 100 cookies per day, six days a week — Monday through Friday — for any drop-in visitors to Campion, and on Sundays to serve after Mass.

Hand writing on a chalk board
Ben Lepper '25 notes his cookie of the day, at right.
A plate of freshly baked cookies

“It's a coveted position,” says Laura Nelson, hospitality director for the Chaplains' Office. “We interview students and have them come in and bake a test batch for all the chaplains to taste.”

Now, there are also 15 years’ worth of alumni bakers, many of whom are keeping Campion’s hospitality tradition alive in their post-Holy Cross lives.

Ben Lepper ’25, Campion baker
English major, French minor
Wellesley, Massachusetts

“I’m a tornado in the kitchen. I move fast, and I'm pretty frantic. That also means I usually have the cookies out of the oven by 9:30 a.m., so I'm frequently done early. I’ve become a well-oiled machine. I use the same chocolate chip cookie base and just swap up the mix-ins. I've memorized it, so at this point, it’s second nature,” he says.

Man takes cookies off a sheet pan with a spatula
“I’m a tornado in the kitchen," Lepper says. "I move fast, and I'm pretty frantic. That also means I usually have the cookies out of the oven by 9:30 a.m."

In fall 2023, Lepper specifically built his class schedule around having the job, so his classes begin in the afternoon. “If one of the other bakers needs to call out sick, I’m able to come in. I didn't expect to turn into Mr. Campion Cookie, but it’s just special, the way we're able to do something that makes people's days better,” he says. “I don't consider myself super religious, but I see Campion as a really cool place to hang out on campus.”

Favorite cookie? “I’m a big candy corn fan (I understand that’s polarizing), and one of my fellow bakers made a candy corn cookie that I loved. Another baker made a really good gluten-free white chocolate cookie.”

Amanda (Dipersia) Cantrell ’10, former Campion baker & cook
program manager, Boston Children's Hospital medical-surgical ICU

“The cookies gave Campion that home-away-from-home feeling. It made a difference for a lot of my friends and other students on campus to have a place like Campion to go, whether they were stressed or just wanted a snack walking back from the library. When I was a student, I worked in the admissions office over the summer, and I always mentioned that I baked and cooked at Campion so that applicants, even from that early stage, got a sense that Campion is more than just where the chaplains’ offices are.

Today, at Boston Children’s Hospital, I have a large staff of about 40 people. For the holidays, I make all different cookies for them — pizzelles, sugar, chocolate amaretto. Sharing my passion with other people brings me a lot of joy.”

Favorite cookie? “Good old-fashioned chocolate chip”

Charlotte “Lotte” Kearns ’20, former Campion baker & cook
Ph.D. microbiology student at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
New York, New York

“It was always peaceful baking at Campion. I played my music and made cookies for a couple of hours, then watched people come in and enjoy them. That was the best part. It was a way to connect. People always connect over food. And you made new friends because people would come in to have the cookies and then introduce themselves.

“My aunt is actually Marybeth Kearns-Barrett, but nepotism can’t get you the job! I had to do a trial bake, like everyone else. I’m from Vermont, so I made maple cookies and I got hired.

“I live with my sister now (she’s an alum and also a former Campion baker), and we regularly cook or bake for people at our apartment in New York City. I love to see the happiness it brings them.”

Favorite cookie? “Chocolate chip, or pumpkin chocolate chip”

The ingredients

The ingredients don’t just appear in Campion, just like home cooks, someone has to shop for them. That’s where the Campion shopper, another work-study position, comes in. Bakers decide what kind of cookies to make and then send in their lists of needed ingredients.

In line with Campion’s commitment to being a welcoming place for all, there are designated days offering vegan and gluten-free cookies.

Evan Walker ’24, Campion shopper
economics and mathematics major 
Arlington, Virginia

“At the grocery store, my strategy comes from the layout of the list I'm given; it separates the items into produce, dairy, baking goods, frozen items and ‘other.’ I look for cheaper options and organic options. Guessing the kind of cookie based on the ingredients list is definitely one of the fun parts.

Man pushing shopping cart in grocery store
Campion shopper Evan Walker '24 does the weekly grocery shopping for bakers.
Man holds an armful of groceries in a store
"Guessing the kind of cookie based on the ingredients list is definitely one of the fun parts," Walker says.

“I enjoy discovering new foods and food conversions/measurements. For example, I remember searching the grocery store, front to back, for whatever a ‘shortening stick’ was. … I now know what and where they are! Also, I often get items listed like ‘8 ounces of x’ or ‘3 lbs. of y.’ What I used to check on the package or scale, I can now eyeball, which I find gratifying.

“Campion House is a very welcoming, friendly environment. This past semester and the current one, I find myself stopping by to do work, read a book or just hang out.”

Favorite cookie? “I had a really good s’mores cookie recently. I'm still holding out for a key lime cookie, though.”


During the pandemic, a small number of students remained on campus, unable to return home. “We wanted those students to still have a feeling of comfort and connection,” Nelson says.

So Nelson began a cookie-making operation from her home kitchen in Princeton, Massachusetts. A student came to collect the treats and delivered them to Rev. Jim Hayes, S.J., ’72, associate chaplain, who then walked campus, handing out cookies sealed with a “You’ve Been Hayes’d” sticker to students wearing masks or social distancing.

It comes down to belonging — being able to come to a place where you can seek comfort and make friendships, connections and community.

Laura Nelson, hospitality director, Office of the College Chaplains

Nelson also distributed cookies to colleagues still working on campus, and she organized giveaways and mailed cookies to the student winners at their homes.

“We were able to continue this tradition of hospitality that's so important to the Chaplains' Office, for the community,” she says.

More than just a cookie

The Chaplains’ Office brings incoming first-year students through Campion during orientation to have their first Campion cookie. “I always say to their parents, ‘If your kid is having a bad day, tell them to go to Campion for a cookie,’” Kearns-Barrett says.

Campion is a unique building on campus as it was built as a home, so it sports a full kitchen and a living room, and students are encouraged to drop by anytime to enjoy the space.

“The kitchen table is like your kitchen table at home, where you can do your homework,” she adds. “Or you can sit in the living room and unwind. At some point, someone else is going to walk in and say hello and you’re going to feel seen. It's very simple, but it makes a difference. “

“Serving others is deeply rooted in the history of the College Chaplains’ Office and in Jesuit education,” Nelson notes. “It comes down to belonging — being able to come to a place where you can seek comfort and make friendships, connections and community.”

Fr. Ford passed away in 2022. In tribute, Campion bakers made Fr. Ford’s famous cookies, his way.

The recipe? Kearns-Barrett reveals, “Everyone thought this was a secret Fr. Ford recipe, but it turned out he just used Duncan Hines boxed mix and threw in lots of pecans to make the cookies extra big!”