A place at the table
by Amanda Marble (’01) and Zach Marble (’04)
It is difficult to think of one’s college experience and not remember time spent in the campus dining hall, which we fondly referred to as “The Dex” during our college years. Others may remember it as Saga, The Rot, or other such endearing names. But whatever the case, the dining hall has been a central place on campus to gather, fellowship, catch up on current events, discuss the latest class or chapel and, of course, eat.
In the early days of campus dining, meals were often served family style, and women were required to wear a dress or skirt to enter the dining hall. As our parents, Rex (’70) and Carolyn (Pewitt) (’73) Marble, reflected on their Saga days, “options were limited, and one looked forward to ‘steak nights’ as a special treat. Even drink choices were limited to either whole milk or water.” Today, students have over 34 drink choices, including three types of milk, and more entrée and side options than they can count.
Memories created around the campus dining hall experience remain with alumni.While options have expanded and the look and feel have changed over the years, the memories created around the campus dining hall experience remain with alumni. Who doesn’t remember putting a Dex cookie through the toaster? Scanning in mid-day for an ice cream cone? Remember unlimited dining? Anyone have a sandwich buddy? Or how about the freshman-fifteen? While neither of us can confirm nor deny the above, the Dex holds a number of memories for both of us.
One common theme we heard while talking with fellow alumni is the close connection NNU students have shared with Sodexo staff over the years. For me (Amanda), it was spring semester, and I was nearing the completion of my sophomore year. I was watching “The Price is Right” while I had a late breakfast in the dining hall. It felt like any other day, but then regular programming was interrupted with breaking news … the shooting at Columbine High School. I will never forget being one of the students quickly surrounded by the Sodexo staff as we watched the events unfold. Without social media and smartphones, the dining hall became the gathering place for the campus community. Shocked and concerned, students were comforted by Sodexo employees along with fellow students, faculty and staff.
There are countless stories of the Sodexo staff going the extra mile to help students feel at home and enjoy their NNU experience. One such occasion was when General Manager Andy Chaplin received a request from then student Candice (Gunstream) Blenker (’04) for granola WITHOUT raisins. Now this may seem like a small request and probably one that could even be given a simple “no” without retort, but Andy chose instead to go the extra mile and provide Candice with a secret stash of wrinkle-free granola. Other legends include Sodexo staff bringing back the hot chocolate machine after students created a Facebook group requesting it and providing special meals to celebrate different cultures and events within the campus community. Alumni also shared stories of Sodexo staff (Andy, Delaine, Cheryle, Alex and Sue to name a few) attending sporting events, concerts and Freshman Retreat and serving as judges for Mr. NNU, all in an effort to support the student experience. Whatever the memory, there has always been a feeling that Sodexo employees were more than just people who scanned our cards or put a meal on our plate—they were really a part of the NNU family.
We will end our lookback with a joke we heard that reminded us of almost every meal in The Dex. It starts off with Jesus walking into a restaurant with his disciples and telling the host, “We need a table for 26.” The host does a quick head count and says, “But I only see 13 of you.” To which Jesus replies, “Yeah, but we’re all going to sit on the same side of the table.” Although this imagery wasn’t really possible during our time at NNU due to round tables, everyone knows that although a table may be full, there is always room for one, two or even more. We think that really sums up what dining at NNU symbolizes for us. No matter how crowded or how full, you always have a place at the table.
Even now, as we both continue to engage in the NNU community in different ways, we find the same level of hospitality and camaraderie in The Dex as we experienced during our college years. We have no doubt that as the campus continues to expand, The Dex will continue to nourish the whole person and serve as an important role in the NNU experience.