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Seattle University


Ballroom of champions

Written by Mike Thee
June 3, 2010

If you walked into Campion Ballroom as recently as last fall, you likely felt as if you had entered some sort of time warp. “There were these old, kind of ‘Jetsons’-era, mismatched light fixtures hanging down,” says Buzz Hofford, reminding us in case we somehow forgot. “The room just looked old and tired.”

Hofford—director of Bon Appétit, SU’s food service provider—decided a wake-up call was in order. He arranged for a $1 million donation from his company to support a renewal of the space. Now, after a winter remodel, the room has new life, and the campus community will have an opportunity to bask in the glory at a grand reopening event next Thursday, June 10 (4-7 p.m. in the ballroom).

Much of the funding went into bumping up the ceilings over the light fixtures “to give a feeling of a little more height and space to the room,” Hofford says. The light fixtures themselves were custom-made with slumped glass by a local artist. The walls and window treatments were also refreshed.

Hofford is pleased with the results, which he says are particularly striking in the evening when the colors really come out to provide a “soothing ambience.” He credits his colleagues in Facilities with making the remodel a success. “Steve De Bruhl, who was the project manager, did a great job, and Joy Jacobson, who was the architect from the beginning, helped launch it.”

“When you’re doing a catered event, or any event, the first impression is so important,” Hofford says. “(Before the remodel), from a caterers perspective you were at such a disadvantage just because of the look of the room. Whereas now, I think this is a room where we can hold signature high-end events and it represents the university and Bon Appétit well.”

Next on the to-do list, Hofford says, is to update the kitchen. He hopes the renovated ballroom will help attract more business to, in turn, justify doing an overhaul.

Of the company’s donation, Hofford says it “helps solidify our partnership with SU and demonstrates a long-term commitment on the part of Bon Appétit to Seattle University.”

Philanthropy is nothing new for Bon Appétit. Hofford says he receives scores of requests for contributions throughout the year. “My policy is always to say yes. I’m not always able to give 100 percent of what people ask for but at least I’m able to provide some form of contribution.”

Beneficiaries of the company’s goodwill include student groups on campus as well as members of the wider community. That includes recent donations for the Global Law Brigades fundraiser, the Dance Marathon and a student fundraiser for the Haitian relief effort. The company also donates Thanksgiving dinners to the low-income residents of Yesler Terrace and every week gives away food to the Union Gospel Mission.

For Hofford, philanthropy is key to the identity of his company and its partner university. “Social justice is such an important part of Seattle University’s mission and our mission at Bon Appétit,” he says.

The grand reopening celebration for Campion Ballroom will take place 4-7 p.m. on Thursday, June 10, in the ballroom.