Seven is ‘magic number’ for departing Pioneer food services director

After seven years — and countless menus — as MVNU’s director of food services, Austin Swallow will leave the caf.

Swallow started in food services after graduating from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1974, when he volunteered for a newly formed business, Pioneer College Caterers.

“I stuck my head in the middle of a conversation and volunteered if there was anything open,” Swallow said.

He then headed to Nashville, Tennessee, to work as a cook at Trevecca Nazarene College.

Once he had a year of experience with Pioneer under his belt, Swallow jumped at a huge opportunity and was hired as the director of food services at MidAmerica Nazarene College.

“[I] didn’t have a clue how to do it, but the folks at MidAmerica were very grateful, gracious, kind and helpful,” Swallow said.

Swallow stayed with MidAmerica for four years. He then moved back to Ohio to work in the advancement office at MVNU until he accepted a job at the local hospice.

One day, former University President Dr. Dan Martin knocked on his door and invited Swallow back to MVNU as the director of food services.

Swallow, with guidance from God, decided on a very specific time frame for this new endeavor.

“The Lord and I had a chat a couple years ago, and the number seven is a magic number,” Swallow said. “We decided that seven years was enough.”

So, for the past seven years Swallow has been in charge of food services,

including the cafeteria, the 586 and Baker Bros. while it was open.

Some of his favorite memories are from his first summer back at MVNU. The dining commons was under construction, but stomachs still needed filling.

“That summer was crazy, because for about six weeks there was no floor,” Swallow said.

“We would prepare the stuff in the back, and they would build us little walkways across the construction area,” he remembered. “We pulled all the food out and served it buffet style in the dining room.”

But, by far, his greatest times were working with staff and students. Swallow said he loves getting to know students and seeing them realize their full potential.

“It’s really gratifying to watch the development from freshman to senior,” Swallow said. “There are times when you are encouraging them. There are times when you are suffering with them. It’s really cool to know that they made it, and you had a small part in them making it.”

He also stresses the importance of realizing that God is in control. That is the one message he has for students.

“Trust in the Lord, and He will take care of you,” Swallow said.

Swallow will help train Rob Stiltner to take over in an unofficial capacity. He also plans to work on his “honey- do” list, spend more time with his kids and grandkids and stay involved at First Church of the Nazarene, where he attends regularly.

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