NACUFS has named the late Samuel Bennett, Ed.D., as the recipient of the 2013 Theodore W. Minah Distinguished Service Award, the association’s highest individual honor. Dr. Bennett died unexpectedly on Thursday, June 13, at the age of 59.

Dr. Bennett was notified of the award earlier this spring, which is typically kept a guarded secret from the general public until it is revealed at a formal dinner and ceremony that open the annual NACUFS national conference. Given his sudden passing, the association is making the announcement early to supply a measure of good news for those grieving at his death.

“As we mourn the loss of our friend and colleague, we also want to celebrate his life and the many accomplishments he had throughout his career,” says Nona Golledge, NACUFS past president and director of KU Dining at the University of Kansas. “When I notified Sam of the accolade, he was honored and excited. We want his friends and family to share in the joy and pride he felt at being recognized by his peers.”

Originally established in 1967 as the Distinguished Service Award, the award was renamed in 1973 to honor the first recipient, Theodore W. Minah. The award is presented annually in recognition of exemplary and enduring contributions to the foodservice industry and to the association. The NACUFS board of directors and council of past presidents select the recipient from among nominations submitted by the NACUFS membership.

Dr. Bennett was nominated for the award by Kyle Clark, vice president for administration and finance at Texas Tech University, who remarked, “We were very disheartened to hear of Dr. Bennett's passing. Sam was an energetic, enthusiastic, and creative visionary who had a deep conviction to service and a desire for excellence in everything he pursued. He loved Texas Tech and poured himself into his work."

Dr. Bennett had a long and successful career in collegiate foodservice, having recently retired after nearly 40 years at Texas Tech University. As assistant vice president and director of Texas Tech Hospitality Services, he led the largest service department on campus, overseeing a $34 million budget and nearly 1,000 employees that nourished more than 7,000 on-campus residents, 26,000 commuter students and 5,500 faculty and staff. Under his leadership, Texas Tech Hospitality Services enjoyed many industry accolades over the years, including multiple Loyal E. Horton Dining Awards and C-Store Best in the Business Awards from NACUFS.

Dr. Bennett’s contributions to NACUFS were substantial over his decades of involvement with the association. In addition to volunteering on various committees and project teams, he previously served as regional president, national conference chair, and regional conference chair. He led NACUFS as the association’s president in 2009-2010. In recognition for his service to NACUFS, Dr. Bennett was awarded the Richard Lichtenfelt award in 1995 and the Southern Region President’s Award in 2000.

“Sam used to say, ‘It is important to leave the world better than we found it,’ and it is by this principle he lived his life,” said Timothy Dietzler, NACUFS president and director of dining service at Villanova University. “He definitely lived up to that motto and the world is a better place because of his many contributions. His impact on Texas Tech, the NACUFS community and foodservice industry is immeasurable, and he will be missed.”

Services for Dr. Bennett will be held at Resthaven Funeral Home in Lubbock, TX, with the viewing on Thursday, June 20, from 5-7 p.m. and the funeral on Friday, June 21, at 10 a.m.The NACUFS community will celebrate Dr. Bennett’s life, career, and contributions to the association during the Minah Dinner and Reception on Wednesday, July 10, at the NACUFS National Conference in Minneapolis.