Don Donagrandi, the Brody Neighborhood dining manager for MSU Culinary Services (CS), recently received the Jack Breslin Distinguished Staff Award. He oversees operations for Brody Square and Heritage Commons at Landon, which, combined, serve approximately 1.5 million meals per year.
The award, created in 1978, presents $2,500 to six university support staff members in honor of the late Jack Breslin, a student leader and athlete and former university vice president.
While studying human nutrition and food science at MSU, Donagrandi served as a student supervisor at Brody Dining Hall as well as the Central Bakery. After graduating, a colleague recommended a food supervisor role that ended up suiting him well, and he transitioned to Holden. Nearly 33 years later, Donagrandi has found himself back at Brody where it all started. “I find it quite funny and ironic that I worked in Brody Dining as a student and am now the manager,” he shared. “The award reveal was a complete surprise, and I’m very humbled.”
Over the years, Donagrandi has demonstrated his passion as a leader and willingness to collaborate through many initiatives and strong partnerships. When concept of dividing MSU’s campus into neighborhoods was originally developed, he represented residential dining on the project committee, working alongside divisional partners to hear ideas and viewpoints from across the university.
Additionally, Donagrandi helped plan the inaugural fall Sparticipation picnic that served nearly 10,000 Spartans. He and Stacey Robinson, senior sales manager for University Conference Services, designed the original field layout, created a staff scheduling model, and collaborated with Food Stores to determine food production and delivery timing.
Another first in his career was serving as the original complex dining manager for South Neighborhood. Donagrandi faced the challenge of integrating staff from Case, Holden, Wilson and Wonders halls, all of which housed active dining halls at the time. Developing a flexible model for team members allowed them to work across halls and easily fill in where they were needed.
Kelly High McCord, neighborhood director for Brody, expressed in her nomination that “Don’s collaborative spirit makes him extremely easy to work with, and he understands that partnerships matter in order to help people do their jobs better.”
Echoing her sentiments about his dedication to teamwork, Culinary Coordinator Paul Rinella shared, “Don will always give his best to go above and beyond in his role. I appreciate him for so many reasons; he is positive, fun, hardworking, committed and a wonderful person to work with on projects and on a daily basis.”
Once a student team member himself, Donagrandi has worked hard to create a positive environment for employees. Over the past several years, his team has encouraged a diverse group of students to consider promotional opportunities; a recent count showed 11 different countries were represented among their student supervisors alone. Within the past few months, they also began pinpointing where team members are from on a map to illustrate the array of backgrounds and cultures among the group.
Beyond having an impact on colleagues, Donagrandi and his team have the unique opportunity to serve prospective Spartans during the Inside MSU program, parents of incoming first-year students during the Parent Orientation Program and members of the general public, who frequent Brody to dine and celebrate special occasions. “I really take a great deal of pride in working with Admissions on our Inside MSU program and other partners universitywide to ensure these programs run smoothly and people attending are treated well,” he explained.
Donagrandi has also been involved with the CS Labor Initiatives Standards Work Group to develop consistency across the department. Additionally, he served as a Division 5 United Way Coordinator as well as on the committee that planned the National Association of College and University Food Services Midwest Regional Conference when MSU hosted the event.
Outside the university, Donagrandi’s other passion is his horse farm in Saugatuck. He and husband John breed pure Welsh ponies for fine carriage driving competitions and cross-country obstacle courses.
Donagrandi was honored at the 41st annual Jack Breslin Distinguished Staff Awards reception Monday, May 21 at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center.