search articles: 

   from the issue of October 27, 2005

Abel-Sandoz duo marks 40 years helping students


"Just smile." Margie Otto tells hungry undergraduates in Abel-Sandoz dining services. "It's a good day."

DINING ASSISTANCE - UNL freshman Ignacio Jiminez eyes breakfast selections as Margie Otto and Harry Tilley, both of Abel-Sandoz Dining Services...
 DINING ASSISTANCE - UNL freshman Ignacio Jiminez eyes breakfast selections as Margie Otto and Harry Tilley, both of Abel-Sandoz Dining Services, offer their assistance. Both Otto and Tilley have worked at the residence hall dining facility for 40 years. Photo by Lisa McEvoy/University Communications.

In fact, it is one of over 10,000 days that Otto and her manager Harry Tilley have worked for University Dining Services. The co-workers - both of whom happened to start their university employment shortly after the opening of the Abel-Sandoz residence hall complex - recently celebrated 40 years at the university. In that time, Otto and Tilley have served nearly half-million meals and seen everything from a change to buffet-style service to a 328-foot sandwich.

Otto was one of the first employees in Abel-Sandoz when the complex opened in 1965. Since, she has mastered vegetable preparation, dishwashing, line setup and beverage service, among many other tasks.

"I've done it all," Otto said.

Otto said making people happy has always been her favorite part of working in Abel-Sandoz.

"I just like everything about this job," said Otto. "I like meeting people and I like the students. I want them to go home to their parents and tell them how good the food was at the university."

She seems to be doing well.

"I make it to breakfast when I can," said Ignacio Jimenez, a freshman biochemistry major. "It's always very good. Margie is a very nice woman."

Otto is a native of Beatrice, but moved to Lincoln after receiving the position of Food Tech II.

Tilley graduated from UNL with a bachelor of arts degree in 1969 and a master's degree in 1974. He and his wife, Mary, are both employed by the university and their children have all come to UNL. Tilley's youngest is a freshman and a resident of Abel Hall, which allows dad to make sure she's eating well each day.

Over the years, Tilley and Otto have aided many food service innovations. They not only offer standard meal service, but also cater several campus events including holiday dinners and student gatherings at the homes of UNL administrators.

Tilley said Abel-Sandoz dining serivices tries to keep things exciting for students, offering outdoor picnics, theme dinners, stir -fry station, burrito bar, and a sandwich shop. One of Tilley's most memorable projects was that sandwich prepared as a special Abel-Sandoz dinner.

"We're always trying to cater to the needs of our customers, which of course are the students." Tilley said. "We get a whole new group in about every three years and their needs and wants are always changing. We do our best to make them happy."

Tilley also designs menus for groups visiting Abel-Sandoz during the summer months. He said this involves about 85 new recipes that are not incorporated during the regular school year.

He has also organized a program to educate students about making responsible nutritional choices. Posters are displayed throughout the dining area with facts and tips on staying healthy and eating a balanced diet. Tilley says he makes sure to have healthy dining choices available at each meal.

After 40 years at UNL, Tilley said too there is no place he would rather work.

"I've stayed here because I love the university and the city of Lincoln," said Tilley. "Other offers have just not been enough to pull me away."

For Otto, UNL has become a home.

"I just can't imagine being any place else," Otto said. "I love it here."



Coliseum serves lunch hour tradition
Energy savings plan put into motion on campus
UNL begins new tack in accreditation
War, ethics philosopher presents Kripke lecture
Abel-Sandoz duo marks 40 years helping students
Gilded bacteria used in bioelectronic device
Math Day to attract students from across the Cornhusker state
Probe into superhero physics draws over 100