Four decades of food for thought
Director of food services retires after nourishing thousands of RIT students
A. Sue Weisler
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It’s been 39 years since a young, bright-eyed co-op student took the reins during a food crisis on the RIT campus. James Bingham ’70, ’92 (food management, service management) was only two weeks into his co-op when the entire management team of Grace Watson dining hall simultaneously quit.
What ensued was three hectic weeks of scrambling to keep students fed, led by Bingham himself. When a new manager was hired, Bingham accepted the full-time position of assistant manager, handling all production planning for Grace Watson Dining Hall Dining.
Bingham retired this fall as director of RIT Dining Services, a position he’s held for 28 years.
The RIT food services system looks very little like it did when Bingham started in 1970. There are now 12 departments with everything from dining halls, convenience stores and coffee shops that serve more than 12,000 people each day.
It’s not just an addition of food; it’s the type of food that’s changed, too. The diverse student body demanded variety and Bingham and his team responded. Vegetarian, vegan and other dietary options have been added, plus offerings from visiting restaurants and chefs that rotate weekly.
If there’s one thing that the food services department knows best, it’s change. Thousands of student employees have punched in and out over the years, and at any given time, 800 RIT students are getting their paychecks from Dining Services.
Employing hundreds of students and feeding thousands each day is no small responsibility. Bingham operates an annual budget of $22 million, and he’s used some of that money to renovate all of the dining halls over the years. The food services at RIT have received many awards and accolades.
Bingham has been involved in many RIT organizations, including the RIT Hospitality Society. In 1992, he received the Sarah Margaret Gillam Award from the School of Hospitality and Service Management, which is the highest award given to an alumnus of his program.
He is also active in the International Food Service Executives Association and the National Association of College and University Food Services, and was co-founder of NACUFS’ National Financial Benchmarking Committee.
Bingham says he’s proud of the changes he’s helped to make at RIT. “RIT means a lot to me,” Says Bingham. “Great things have come out of this institution, and I’m proud to have kept the stomachs full so the faculty can fill up the minds.”
Bingham plans on spending his free time golfing, traveling, gardening, biking and relaxing with his wife, Susan, and their sons James ’04 (hospitality and service management) and Jeffrey ’09 (packaging science) and grandchildren.