David Gingher to retire as director of Campus Retail Dining

September 22, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — David Gingher, director of Campus Retail Dining at Penn State, will retire on September 30 after 44 years of service.

Gingher’s Penn State career began while he was a student, when he worked for Housing and Food Services at the East Halls Pizza/Hoagie Shop, a snack bar in Johnston Commons. He found his niche and never left food services after graduating from Penn State with a degree in business.

During his career, Gingher introduced national branding to Penn State retail dining and directed more than 20 on-campus dining locations — including national brands Au Bon Pain, Starbucks, Burger King, Chick-fil-A, Panda Express, Sbarro, McAlister’s Deli, Jamba Juice, Shake Smart and Panera — along with many self-branded concepts. He played a major role in several renovations over the years, including most recently bringing the largest Starbucks on a college campus to the Pattee and Paterno Library, and two major renovations to the HUB-Robeson Center in 1999 and 2014, when food services upgraded its food-service operations.

“I have been fortunate to have been part of so much change over my career — it’s been very rewarding,” Gingher says. “Back in the day we were more of an institutional food service and then we moved into more of our own self-branded concepts. But times changed and our students wanted national brands, which was becoming a trend on college campuses around the country. We had to change to stay current and meet the needs of our students.” In the late 1990s, the first three national brands came to the HUB — Chick-fil-A, Sbarro, and Panda Express — and are still there today. 

For Gingher, who served on advisory boards for Starbucks and Sbarro, relationships with CEOs of national brands has been rewarding. “You get to meet so many great people that you would never imagine meeting,” he said. “I enjoyed the connections I made, and I still maintain a lot of those relationships today.” 

Gingher provided leadership in the partnership between Penn State’s School of Hospitality Management and Café Laura, a “living lab” that provides students with a real-life, food-service experience in a contemporary restaurant setting. He worked closely with the school’s director and instructors and in 2014 oversaw a $1.2 million dollar remodel to Café Laura. 

“It’s a natural relationship to have food service on campus be a part of the hospitality management program,” he said, “and when you see what the students get out of the program, it’s very rewarding.” 

Gingher also serves on the School of Hospitality Industry Advisory Board. 

Campus Catering, which was under Gingher’s direction, is responsible for catering a variety of events on campus, including events for Intercollegiate Athletics.

“We cater at Coach (James) Franklin’s home; we do all the football recruit meals at the stadium before games. Those are some special memories,” said Gingher. Events over the years for the Office of the President were also exciting — if nerve-wracking, he added. “I have to say that Campus Catering was a lot of fun and very rewarding, but it also gave me a lot of gray hairs!”

Gingher received the Penn State Housing and Food Services’ William H. Reiber Award for outstanding management performance in 1994. In 2008, the Achievement Above and Beyond award was named in his honor, an award presented annually at the Housing and Food Services Award reception. He has been an active member of NACAS, the National Association of College Auxiliary Services. 

In 2014 he was chosen by Au Bon Pain as Partner of the Year. At a special event held in Boston to recognize Penn State, Au Bon Pain contributed $10,000 towards an endowment Gingher had established several years prior to recognize employees of Housing and Food Services. 

When Gingher reflects on his career, he said, relationships are what he values most.

“The relationships with numerous deans and department heads on campus and the colleagues that I have become friends with throughout the country have been very rewarding,” he said. 

“I am also grateful to Tom Gibson and Gail Hurley, who are retired now, for their tremendous leadership and support when they were head of Auxiliary & Business Services,” he continued. “They always wanted what was best for Penn State and our students, and they changed the department to who we are today. We are fortunate to have Cheryl Fabrizi, our assistant vice president of Housing and Food Services, to build on that the foundation. My team has always been dedicated and loyal, and I am very grateful to Vince Raco, my associate director. We have been through a lot together over the years with one goal: to always be better and provide great service to our students, faculty, and staff. It’s been a great career — Penn State has been very good to me.”

During retirement, Gingher plans to catch up on home projects, travel to Europe, and keep busy working for one of the national brands in college development. He looks forward to being in warmer climates over the winters. 

Last Updated September 23, 2020