From a helper in his grandma′s diner to managing some of the biggest restaurant companies in the business, food entrepreneur Mitch Rhoads knows his way around the kitchen.
Rhoads drew on his personal experiences – from fast food to upscale – when speaking as part of a joint Distinguished Speaker and Steuben READ Express event series Nov. 18 in Trine University′s Fabiani Theatre. The series has included multiple discussions and presentations centering on food and two books dealing with the subject, "Playing for Pizza," by John Grisham and "Heat" by Bill Buford.
Tom Tierney, who serves as a professor of humanities at Trine and as an event organizer, said Rhoads talked about the restaurant industry primarily from the managerial perspective.
Mr. Rhoads is an entrepreneur in every sense of the word. From his early experiences at the lower level of the restaurant business to his rise to the top of the corporate ladder, he offered some stories and advice worth listening to," Tierney said.
Rhoads first started working in restaurants when he was 5 years old. He would walk from his kindergarten classroom to Grandma Lois′ diner in Terre Haute every day at noon. She served food mainly to the blue–collar workers from the Pfizer Drug Company. "Her dishes came from family cookbooks and the plates from her kitchen," Rhoads said. "She′s probably just like everybody else remembers their grandma to be – dedicated to serving a perfect meal." Rhoads′ experiences of counting change and bussing tables prepped him for future success.
"Her commitment to excellence stands out to me the most," Rhoads said. "If you don’t have high standards for customer service, then you don′t have much."
After high school, Rhoads pursued a business administration degree from Tri–State University. He paid his way through school by working in the school′s cafeteria and as a waiter and bartender at Captain′s Cabin restaurant in Angola. After graduating in 1966, Rhoads took a job with Kaiser Steel and Gulf Oil Co. and served three years in the U.S. Navy in Vietnam. When he got out, he went back to work in the restaurant industry, first with Collins Foods International Franchise of Kentucky Fried Chicken in southern California.
"Jim Collins was eating, and over dinner, on the back of a napkin, Colonel Sanders wrote out a contract," recalled Rhoads, who explained that Collins was the executive agent for KFC in the early 1960s in southern California. "Colonel Sanders basically sold the rights for his recipe to southern California on a napkin."
Rhoads stayed with Collins Foods KFC and Sizzler Family Steakhouses, working as a foreign supervisor in Australia. Then, he caught the eye of executives at A&W Root Beer. At just 29 years old, the company – then the largest franchise in the world – hired Rhoads to serve as vice president of operations.
He then went on to work for International House of Pancakes and Burger King. He opened some of the first fast food restaurants in Japan and Singapore. At Burger King, he started out as regional vice president and then became the executive vice president of worldwide operations.
In 1992, Rhoads purchased LePeep, a once–struggling breakfast–brunch–lunch restaurant in Denver, Colo. Today, LePeep restaurants are is in 12 states and thriving. It′s open from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and serves breakfast and lunch. Workers are free to be with their families every evening, and it′s a "lifestyle franchise concept,"
Rhoads said. "We concentrated our efforts on quality time with people. We want people to enjoy working there without experiencing burnout and leaving the industry," said Rhoads, who still owns seven LePeep restaurants in Chicago, Dallas and Denver. "LePeep is like my grandma′s restaurant – it was only open for breakfast and lunch. We want to maintain that same commitment to excellence in a family environment."
The U.S. Navy has deemed Trine University an exceptional institution and is encouraging students to apply for its Nuclear Underwater Propulsion Officer Candidate (NUPOC) program. Officers from the U.S. Navy – including Commander Tiger Pitman – visited campus Nov. 18 to share news of opportunities in the program. After Dan Matthews, campus liaison officer and Trine informatics professor, hosted an informational Navy Day on campus last fall, the Navy budgeted $100,000 to host other programs at district universities, all modeled on what Matthews started at Trine.
"Commander Pitman shared that he′s got two guys in the whole country operating at the level of Dan Matthews," said Trine′s Vice President of Academic Affairs David Finley, Ph.D. "That spoke volumes to me. Dan has been a real sparkplug for Trine and has seen the value in promoting NUPOC. I thank him for making – and now fostering – that connection." Finley said the program benefits Trine because of the opportunities it gives students to combine their academic and career interests close to home.
The availability of nuclear jobs is growing every day, Pitman said. Nearly 14 percent of the world is powered by nuclear energy, and that number is growing. China is constructing 100 reactors, and the U.S. has allocated $8 billion to build reactors.
"That′s a considerable investment. The vast majority of employees are baby boomers who are beginning to retire," said Pitman, who added that 85 percent of the civil nuclear industry employees were trained through the Navy. Salaries range from $55,000 to six figures.
"I see this as an excellent opportunity, particularly in tough economic times for students to garner resources for their education, as well as serve their country," Finley said. "Money, experience, travel and the opportunity to serve their country – I can’t think of very many programs that offer those things."
This month, Trine University welcomed a new vice president who has years of educational experience that spans the globe.
Kent D. Stucky, a Berne, Ind. native, started his new position as vice president for alumni and development Nov. 22. He replaces Bob Remington, who will now serve as vice president emeritus and as major gifts officer who will cover and travel the eastern region of the United States.
Remington served the university as vice president for development during its very successful $90 million Vision for the Future campaign before retiring in August 2007. He returned to serve, again, in that capacity in October 2009 and will continue on the staff as the institution moves forward to kick off its next capital campaign.
"Kent not only has years of experience as a seasoned development officer in the educational realm and as an attorney, he brings a sense of the global community to Trine," said Earl D. Brooks II, president of Trine University. "He will help us achieve our goals as we move forward with the planning of our next capital campaign, which will help fund multiple projects, scholarships and endowments."
Stucky will bring nearly 20 years of higher education experience to Trine. Most recently, he served as associate vice president for university development at Loyola University in Chicago. While there, he helped to secure a $20 million commitment – at that time, the largest in the school′s history. He also directed the university′s $500 million capital campaign, which met its goal three years ahead of schedule.
Prior to his time at Loyola, he worked as the vice president for institutional advancement at Goshen College where he exceeded a $22 million music building campaign goal.
"My experience in all areas of institutional advancement and development at a number of institutions has prepared me to serve and lead at Trine," Stucky said. "I′m excited for the opportunity to serve at a progressive university making big strides toward the future."
Stucky is a native of Berne, Ind. He graduated from Goshen College in 1973, and he earned a juris doctorate from Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Ore., in 1978. He later pursued a Master of Arts in theological studies from Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Ind. in 1997.
He worked with the Mennonite Central Committee in the 1980s and ′90s to initiate and administer community health, medical, economic, educational and agricultural development programs in the West Bank and Gaza. He also helped sponsor a dialogue initiative between Israelis and Palestinians.
If you want to get in contact with Kent, he can be reached at 260.665.4311 or email@example.com
In response to a campus–wide wellness initiative, Trine University will become a tobacco–free campus, beginning Jan. 1, 2011. Trine is joining more than 250 colleges and universities in the country choosing to be tobacco free.
The policy applies to every person who comes to the Trine University campus, including visitors, faculty, staff, students, alumni, volunteers, contractors, and service representatives. Smoking or use of any tobacco product will not be permitted in any facility or on the grounds of Trine University. Tobacco products include, but are not limited to, cigarettes (traditional and e–cigarettes), chew, pipes, cigars, hookah or waterpipe smoking, snuff, and snus.
While Trine welcomes alumni and friends, the university hopes that you will comply with its efforts to promote healthy lifestyles for the campus community.
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