Fraternity’s annual dinner honors ‘unsung heros’

The event included about 350 employees from the University’s custodial staff.

Sigma Pi member Travis Brevig cooks burgers Friday afternoon for the dinner Sigma Pi hosted honoring University custodians and grounds workers.

Sigma Pi member Travis Brevig cooks burgers Friday afternoon for the dinner Sigma Pi hosted honoring University custodians and grounds workers.

Amanda Bankston

With co-workers sitting on either side of him, Lynn Jorensen called Sigma Pi FraternityâÄôs Unsung Heroes Dinner on Friday his âÄúlast supper.âÄù
It was mere coincidence that the 34-year veteran of the University of MinnesotaâÄôs Facilities Management was celebrating Good Friday and his retirement on the day of the meal he looked forward to every year.
âÄúThis type of thing is long due and well-deserved,âÄù he said, after thanking Sigma Pi President Kipp Graham for his dinner on his last day at work. âÄúThis is kind of like my retirement party.âÄù
For the past five years, members of the fraternityâÄôs Iota Zeta chapter have prepared and served dinner for about 350 members of the UniversityâÄôs custodial staff at their University Avenue home to honor them for their service to the campus community.
âÄúThese people put so much work into keeping our university beautiful, but they donâÄôt get very much recognition,âÄù Graham said. âÄúThatâÄôs why we call them our unsung heroes.âÄù
Jorensen, who will leave Tuesday for a two-month trip to the Philippines, said the dinner is the only student-initiated effort to honor facilities staff that he has seen in his more than three decades of cleaning the UniversityâÄôs health sciences buildings.
The project was developed when the fraternity was a colony seeking full fraternity status in 2006. Every Sigma Pi chapter must host an Altruistic Campus Experience Project, and members decided to give back to those they feel deserve it most, Graham said.
Brad Hoff, an administrative officer for Facilities Management said the project is more than a free meal for custodians âÄî it provides an opportunity to interact with their âÄúcustomers.âÄù
Management student Chris McCann said his favorite part of the altruism project is learning more about the staff members, including the most recent âÄúbeautiful buildingâÄù award winner he spent much of the dinner chatting with.
A committee headed by freshman Spencer Knott has been preparing for the event since the beginning of the semester.
Graham and Knott said the biggest obstacle in planning the project this year was funding and shopping for the massive meal.
Typically, Sigma Pi attracts food donations from organizations such as University Dining Services, but this year, the fraternity wasnâÄôt âÄúon the top of anyoneâÄôs list,âÄù Knott said.
As a result they did some âÄúfrugal shoppingâÄù and loaded an SUV with boxes of ingredients and cooking supplies for the menu of burgers and potato salad.
Sigma Pi members with prior experience in the food industry took the helm of kitchen operations, while others, including members of the Alpha Omicron Pi Sorority, served the meal and greeted the guests.
Knott said he hopes to run for chairman of the project again next year, though the week leading up to the dinner was âÄúa pretty bad weekâÄù with the hours of preparation needed for both the project and two exams.
âÄúIt would be a waste to only do this for one year,âÄù he said. âÄúI see a lot of things I would do differently.âÄù
Graham said one of those things would be providing meals for overnight Facilities Management workers who are not clocked in during the evening hours when the dinner is typically held.