Arkansas State University - Newport

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May 2019

ASUN History...'round the table

I have always enjoyed an intense interest in food services. Not only because I love to consume delectable culinary delights, but because from my earliest connection to this college, I have, in some manner or another, been involved in the orchestrating of events. The functions we enjoy today on our campuses bear no resemblance to their humble beginnings. It all goes back to the proverbial round table. A favorite person of mine always said, “You can always add one more person to a round table.”  They are correct. 

Nothing conjures up nostalgic communal memories like visions of groups huddled around a table, adding one more chair to the growing circle. Nothing defines a working organization more than the interpersonal relationships and various partnerships formed during “lunch” where surprisingly, a great deal of work may be accomplished.

Ace posing next to The Hub at ASU-Newport.
The Hub at ASU-Newport.

In the earliest days of our institutional history, as a technical school, we got by with the proverbial snack bar provided on a rather rudimentary basis by our Food Services for the Blind. This agency provided economic incentives to individuals with extremely limited vision who could be involved in basic employment tasks. In the Main Building, what is now known as White River Hall, groups would hover around tables and zealously consume taco salad, Frito pie, nachos, all while pondering the goings on of the day. Laughter ran amuck and there was always a topic to incite lively banter. Since there simply was not time to run “all the way” into town, we made the most of the available fare.

When an all-campus event was called for to welcome students or feed faculty at orientation, fish fry’s, hamburger cook-outs and covered dish dinners were our best options. While it made for wonderful camaraderie, it also consumed much time and effort and sometimes conflicted with the normal “day job” of faculty and staff.

Campus growth after our association with ASU-Beebe made it necessary to improve and expand our food services. In 1996, “Vittles” was born. Excitement ran high when we learned that Jack and Virginia Austin, successful owners of U.S. Pizza, would bring Vittles to ASU-Newport. They were known for great pizzas, hot sandwich and tasty salads. Even though all they had in the small cramped snack bar space was a microwave, a deep fryer, and a few electric skillets, they had a panache in creating main dishes, which tempted many. Of special interest was their famous desserts. In fact, many a pie or cake was ordered ahead for a special family or school event. 

Vittles attracted patrons from companies nearby in the industrial park. Some even drove to campus from town to eat there. In no time at all, the place was growing and a new phase of institutional activity emerged-the catered event. The days of bringing food in from other locales were over because now we had onsite options available.

Christmas at the Delta Grill at ASUN-Marked Tree.
Holiday Drop-In at the Delta Grill at ASUN-Marked Tree.

During the planning stage of the Student Community Center, the Austin’s decided the larger venue would be too sizable a transition to manage in conjunction with their existing business in Newport. At this point a new era, and a new food provider, Faye Rubles entered the picture. Tammy Braun continued the same quality processes and options started by the Austin’s, except at this point, with functions cropping up more frequently, the pace and number of events changed dramatically.

With the opening of The Hub as well as our companion food service provider at ASUN-Marked Tree, the Delta Grill, a new era in event preparation, food service options and student choice is a reality. Long gone are the days of limited luncheon options, but one thing remains the same; camaraderie, mixed with a healthy dose of luncheon laughter, yielding truly significant results. 

This look back is brought to you by Ike Wheeler, ASUN’s Dean for Community Engagement.