Lee University Dedicates New Dining Hall

Cleveland, TN–Lee University recently dedicated the newly renovated Deacon Jones Dining Hall just in time for students’ first day of fall classes late last month.

Pictured cutting the ribbon at a ceremony for Lee’s Deacon Jones Dining Hall are (left to right) Dr. Paul Conn, Mannah Berg, and Cal Thetford. Shown in the background are Chris Conine, far left, and Sodexo General Manager of Lee’s Dining Services Bruce Reed, far right. (click photo to enlarge)

To celebrate the dining hall’s new look, students, faculty, and staff gathered outside the dining hall for a ribbon-cutting ceremony following the semester’s first chapel service. Cutting the ribbon on the $4 million project were Lee President Dr. Paul Conn, along with Regional Vice President for Sodexo Dining Services, Cal Thetford, and Student Leadership Council Chair, Mannah Berg. A “first slice ceremony” immediately followed where Conn cut and presented the first slice of pizza to Berg from a brand new pizza oven. The pizza has been branded, “Papa Conn’s.”

“The new dining hall feels sort of like visiting a theme park to me,” said Berg. “It’s so bright and open and an all-around fun place to be. And, of course, the food has always been great!”

Chris Conine, vice president for business and finance at Lee, and Celia Daniels, Sodexo district manager, have helped tremendously with the renovations for the facility, according to Conn.

After remarks from Conn, students, faculty, and staff entered the dining hall to experience the first “official” meal in the new dining hall. Each individual in attendance was also able to enter for a chance to win an Apple Watch and enjoyed live music. All students also received a free T-shirt and other goodies.

New additions include an outdoor hangout area with a fire pit, a vegetarian bar, more “made-to-order” stations, meeting spaces, Papa Conn’s Pizza, and more.

“We wanted to have a dining facility that felt more like a restaurant than a school cafeteria,” said Conn. “We want this dining hall to be the center of gravity for social life, not just for eating, but also for students all across our campus.”

This was the first major overhaul of the Deacon Jones Dining Hall since when it was built to accommodate whitewater athletes staying on Lee’s campus for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. Also opening this semester was a new 44-bed residence hall on the south side of campus. In the finishing stages is a new home for the School of Business and installation of sidewalks and a pedestrian mall connecting southern campus structures, including the School of Business, the School of Nursing building, which opened in 2016, and the Communications and Arts Building, completed in 2014.

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