This semester, changes in the Cafe are not in the shape of tables or the presence or lack of a spice rack. Rather, the Cafe is undergoing major changes in its administration.
Don Keith, general manager of the Northwestern Cafe for the past 21 years, has left NW to pursue a new position with Sodexo at Martin Methodist College in Paluski, Tennessee.
Chef BJ Whitmore has been filling Keith’s role.
“The changes are temporary,” Whitmore said. “Don’s replacement should be on campus by the end of this semester.”
According to Dean of Students John Brogan, the school and Sodexo are working together to find the best fitting candidates.
“Sodexo sends us a list of qualified applicants, and from those the school will choose who we believe best fits our mission and environment,” Brogan said.
Throughout all these changes, NW is working to maintain quality cafeteria food and service while remaining open to suggestions and feedback for further improvements.
“The Cafe has always been adjusting based on students’ voices and opinions,” Brogan said. “Surveys this past year showed that NW students were particularly unhappy with the Cafe. Whenever someone is forced into doing something, in this case having a meal plan, their expectations immediately become higher.”
Some recent changes based on students’ comments include a larger amount of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as more locally grown produce. There are also options for smaller meal plans for students living in the apartments, plexes and off campus.
With the indroduction of a new manager, further minor improvements can be expected. However, the Cafe staff is not anticipating any more major alterations.
In 1991, Don Keith and his wife, Luanne, made the decision to move from warm and bustling Santa Fe, N.M., to the rural ice land known as northwest Iowa.
Don began applying for jobs a few years before, and the couple made a list of characteristics they were looking for in their new home community. After his interview at NW, Don called Luanne, asked her to re-read him the list and said, “Yes, I think this is where we’ll end up.”
“God brought us here,” Luanne said.
NW has been an important place for the Keiths throughout the past 21 years. It is where three of their four children attended college. In 2005, Luanne began working as the Campus Ministry assistant and publicity specialist.
The Keiths have also been involved in NW activities outside of their jobs. In 1995 Don advised his first Spring Service Project. After their youngest child graduated, Luanne began accompanying him on SSPs.
Some of the couple’s best memories from their time at NW are from these trips.
“Once, I was on an SSP trip in Honduras with John Brogan and Barb Dewald,” Don said. “I learned to juggle just for that trip, and John and I dressed as clowns and juggled for children at the ministry site.”
The Keiths will not easily be forgotten on NW’s campus. Faculty, staff and students have many positive things to say about the Keiths.
“It’s hard to imagine finding a non-NW replacement who will love NW as much as Don did,” Brogan said. “Something that always stood out to me was that he used his personal days to travel on SSPs, even though faculty and staff don’t need to. He truly loves those trips.”
The Keiths’ decision to leave was not made lightly.
“We had many long discussions about it and finally decided that it was important for us to be closer to our family, particularly our parents and grandson,” Luanne said. “It is difficult to leave; however, we are eager to see what God has planned for us in Tennessee. God is always shaping our story, and we can’t wait to see how our experiences these past 21 years can be put to use in Tennessee.”