A New Day in College Dining

Posted with Permission from The Franklin Times, www.thefranklintimes.com
Written by Carey Johnson, Times Staff Writer


Dr. Mark La Branche celebrates the 'birth of an elephant'

LOUISBURG, N.C. For months, Louisburg College officials have been pushing to complete an overhaul to its dining area.

It was why school President Mark La Branche compared a ribbon-cutting and unveiling of the sparkling facility to giving birth -- to an elephant.

"It was quite a project," La Branche told school trustees, administrators, staff and project partners during a ceremony on Tuesday morning.

"It was a complicated gestation and birth," he said, noting the work that had to be done to renovate the space, bring in new equipment and still provide meals to the hundreds of students at the college in the meantime -- usually in tents.

"We delivered an elephant here."

But it's a shiny, new one, he said, that accentuates the college and provides a valuable service to the school and the community.

"... Anything worth doing can be difficult," he said, "but it brought out the best in people."

The $1.5 million project was a partnership between the college and Chartwells, the dining services provider at the college.

The college's dining area was wholly redesigned and renovated, from new floors and ceilings, lighting, food equipment -- including a new pizza oven -- modern accents all around, and a plush lounge area.

La Branche singled out the school's vice president for finance, Belinda Faulkner, for her input with Chartwells and architects to get the look right for the dining hall.

"She had a lot to do with the design, color and beauty of this," La Branche said.

Michael Bennett, a district manager with Chartwell's, said the partnership with the college produced the best results.

"Where outcomes are best is when we have a partnershp, not just a vendor relationship," he said.

Student Jamie Barnes agreed.

"I was not here to see the old dining hall," the first year student said, "but from what I've been told, it's a phenomenal transformation.

"I'm excited to see what comes next."