When I moved into my residence hall in the fall of my first year at Trinity, one of the first things my roommates and I did together was eat lunch at Mabee Dining Hall. We got to know each over stir fry while celebrating our entrance into the college world. As I continued at Trinity, my friends and I would frequently convene at Mabee to dine and socialize. More than the food, it was the conversations and laughs with my friends that make my memories of Mabee so special.
My experience is a common one among Trinity students. Whether stopping by for a warm cookie or enjoying a three-course meal, students have flocked to Mabee to spend quality time with their friends over a hot meal since the 1960s.
In 1952, Trinity relocated to its current home on the Skyline campus. Students were initially shuttled off campus to eat at Damon’s Restaurant on Austin Highway until construction on the Student Union Building (SUB) was complete, after which they began eating at the SUB. A little over a decade later, the dining hall that students still enjoy today—then known as the refectory—opened in 1965. It was later renamed to its current moniker, Mabee Dining Hall, in 1985 after Trinity received a grant from the Mabee Foundation.
Throughout the years, Mabee has gone through many renovations and changes. Still, it has always been a place where students find community on campus, both through casual meals with friends and University wide traditions.
Mabee Dining Hall has always been a social spot on campus.
During the 1990s, students started meeting in the residence halls for a “Midnight Breakfast” to decompress before finals week officially began. The event has grown substantially since its early days. It is now hosted by Residential Life and held in Mabee to accommodate many hungry and stressed students. The breakfast occurs at 11:59 p.m. on the eve of finals week, and faculty and staff serve students pancakes, bacon, eggs, and more to celebrate the end of reading days. As students flood the dining hall for the late-night breakfast, the sounds of laughter and conversation fill the air.
Since the 1990s, students have flocked to Mabee Dining Hall at midnight on the eve of finals week for a midnight breakfast.
Mabee also hosts cultural events throughout the year, when chefs design a special menu with tasty offerings to match. For instance, students can munch on soft pretzels for Oktoberfest and indulge in fried catfish and beignets for Mardi Gras.
Mabee has even been a site for positive social change on campus. In 2007, students built a wall of styrofoam containers to advocate for more environmentally friendly practices in the dining hall. The influence of these students remains today, as Mabee recently began offering reusable to-go containers for students to take food back to their residence halls.
Despite the many changes it has undergone since the 1960s, Mabee continues to be a staple in the experience of Trinity students, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. The dining hall has been divided into two sections that can each accomodate 50 diners at a time to preserve health and safety and reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Despite plexiglass and face masks, Yolanda still greets students with a smiling face this fall.
While the experience of eating in Mabee has certainly changed this fall, you can still see students laughing with friends over a meal like they did when the dining hall first opened its doors nearly 70 years ago. The sense of community fostered at the dining hall remains the same—as does students’ love for Mabee’s warm chocolate chip cookies.
The Faces of Mabee
The Aramark employees who work at Mabee are a large part of what makes the Trinity dining experience so special. We asked Tiger alumni about the people who kept them fed and happy during their time at Trinity.
“Lana made the best omelettes!” - Daniel Dahlinger ’19
“I had a night class and wanted the prime rib, so I called down and asked if they’d put a plant back for me. When I go to get my plate, the chef brings out decked-out prime rib with a carrot stuffed tomato and a baked potato. I was so embarrassed over the whole thing. He said it was his pleasure to get to make something for someone who wanted something so bad they called ahead to ask.” - Hugh Lewis II ’96
“Dewey was always cheerful and happy. He knew everyone’s name and worked his way up from the grill to manager of Mabee! Great guy!” - Scott Williams ’89
“Curtis was always so happy! You knew you were going to walk away smiling when he was working. And he always put extra cheese on the cheese fries!” - Ann Gallagher Diemer ’89
Spreading the Love
“Roberto was a true artist. Literally the best PBJs anywhere.” - Brian Jones ’96
“There was a gentleman at the deli station that made THE perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He used a spoon and took his time but well worth the wait. He clearly took pride in his work.” - Danny Palmer ’97
Lois—A Loving Legend
“Lois always greeted me with love and it wasn’t long before she knew what I wanted to eat! It was a rare day that I didn’t stop by to see her beautiful face!” - Erin Kieley Roberts ’98
“At lunch one day, I mentioned to Lois that my friends and I were under the weather. She told me to visit her at dinner. When I did, she gave me a Tupperware container full of chicken soup. She’d gone home between serving meals to make it and bring it back for us.” - Melissa Cox ’98, M’99