Dining Services’ executive director earns highest honor

This past July, University of Connecticut Dining Services executive director Dennis Pierce received the highest honor available to collegiate food service professionals from the National Association of College & University Food Services (NACUFS), according to a UConn press release.

Pierce received the 2016 Theodore W. Minah Distinguished Service Award while at the NACUFS national conference in California. The award is given out every year to a food service professional “in recognition of exemplary and enduring contributions to the foodservice industry and to the association,” according to the NACUFs website.

The NACUFs board of directors and council of past presidents review nominations submitted by other NACUFs members. Past president Leonard Hodgson said Pierce was chosen because of his passion and dedication to the association, the university, family, community, and his staff.

“I am honored to be recognized by my peers by being awarded the most prestigious award that NACUFs bestows,” Pierce said in the release.

Pierce has over 40 years of experience in the industry and has served in his position at UConn since 2006. He has at different times served as president of the NACUFS board, conference co-chair, and publications officer, according to the release.

“An award like the Ted Minah Award demonstrates that your efforts are on the right track and solidifies that the University of Connecticut’s dining program is one of the best in the nation,” Pierce said.

At UConn, some of Pierce’s achievements include developing sustainable food and environment programs in UConn’s facilities; assisting in making UConn the No. 1 gluten-free university in the nation two years in a row; working to accommodate a variety of dietary restrictions, including vegan and vegetarian; earning a Gold LEED certification for renovations at an existing dining hall; and co-managing the weekly Storrs Farmers Market.

“Yes, I was surprised (when I received this award) because one focuses on what needs to be done to operate a successful dining program,” Pierce said. “One does not do that to seek self-recognition.”

At the NACUFs conference, UConn Dining Services also earned the 2016 Best Vegan Recipe with its “Not so Crabby Vegan Crab Cakes with Remoulade Dressing.” Last year, UConn took home a NACUFs Gold Medal and won Best Local Foods Recipe of 2015 for its sweet potato gnocchi, according to the press release.

“This award is not about me. Our success is predicated by those that continue to work hard at their jobs in our department,” Pierce said. “Whether it be our employees on the front lines or our management staff, our success and this award comes from their commitment to the dining program at UConn and the students and staff that we serve.”

Dining Services has consistently won other awards from NACUFS and other organizations for its quality of food and excellence in accommodating gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan and other specialties.  

Pierce also said students can expect new things for the fall 2016 semester, such as the revealing of the remodeled, two-story Putnam Refectory dining hall, a new café at UConn’s Law School, and the UConn Dairy Bar ice cream truck to attend every home football game for Fan Fest. Collaboration with the Recreation Department to design a café for the new student recreation center (expected to open fall 2019) are also in the works.


Molly Stadnicki is the associate news editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at molly.stadnicki@uconn.edu.