Purdue VP for housing and food services announces retirement

January 27, 2010

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - John A. Sautter, Purdue's vice president for housing and food services, announced Wednesday (Jan. 27) that he will retire after serving nearly four decades at the university. His retirement is effective June 30, which is the end of the university's current fiscal year.

John A. Sautter

Download image

Sautter oversees University Residences, Food Stores, the Purdue Memorial Union and its 192-room Union Club Hotel, Boiler Television, Elliott Hall of Music and Hall of Music Productions, Loeb Playhouse, Fowler Hall, and Slayter Center for the Performing Arts.

"Purdue has been nationally recognized for housing and food service operations and facilities that are on the leading edge, and that speaks volumes about John's leadership abilities," said President France A. Córdova. "His wisdom and his deep understanding of students and the people who serve them have been invaluable assets for the university. On-campus living at Purdue goes beyond wonderful housing and dining opportunities. Thanks to John, it is an experience that prepares our students for life when they leave Purdue."

Sautter said annual comparisons show that living on campus has a direct impact on student retention and grade point averages. In spring 2009, grade point averages for freshmen living in University Residences averaged 2.83, compared to 2.54 for freshmen living off campus.

"I am very fortunate to have spent my career at Purdue," he said. "I've had the opportunity to be part of the development of some tremendous young men and women as they mature from freshmen to confident, well-educated seniors ready to become professional and community leaders. Knowing that the programming developed by our outstanding staff plays a role in that development is very satisfying to me."

Under Sautter's leadership, Purdue's housing and food service operations have been guided by a series of master plans that have broadened student housing options and transformed on-campus dining. First Street Towers, a two-building living facility offering single rooms and private baths for upperclassmen, opened in 2009 and will soon add a third tower. Older facilities, including the Cary and Windsor Hall complexes, have been renovated. Long-range 12-year programs to upgrade air conditioning and improve fire safety are in their ninth year and approaching a 90 percent completion rate.

Sautter and his staff drew heavily on student input in designing and renovating both student residences and dining facilities. He led major changes in the preparation and delivery of the more than 3.6 million meals served annually by University Residences. Those changes have revolved around a move from a traditional "cafeteria" model to the concept of standalone dining courts.

"Students are used to destination food choices and were raised on the concept of drive-throughs," he said. "They expect good food in three minutes or less."

To meet those expectations, Sautter consolidated food service into five dining courts with expanded menu options, almost continuous service and a variety of made-to-order foods that are designed to provide healthy choices and meet students' demands for good taste and time savings. In addition to the full-service dining locations, students also have the opportunity to purchase food at the Cary Knight Spot Grill, Harrison Grille and two mini-marts.

University Residences also has developed a new master plan to guide the next 20-30 years of development for the largest on-campus housing system in the nation among universities where no students are required to live in university housing. Purdue has the capacity to house more than 11,800 students in its 13 residence halls and two apartment complexes. University Residences is financially self-supporting and receives no state funds or general student fees for construction, maintenance or operations. Sautter said providing service with a sound business foundation is critical for success.

"Living on campus is a choice our students and their parents make," he said. "We have to ask ourselves what we can offer that they can't get anywhere else. We are a student service and an entrepreneurial enterprise."

The Purdue Memorial Union, which has undergone six major additions since its opening in 1924, also had several upgrades under Sautter's leadership. Those changes have included the creation of new retail dining spaces on the ground floor, renovations to the basement recreation center and a major refurbishment of the Union Club Hotel's north wing. Sautter also has overseen technical advancements for Purdue's Elliott Hall of Music, one of the world's largest proscenium theaters. Hall of Music Productions has evolved into a full-service video production operation that serves clients on and off the Purdue campus, including Boilermaker Athletics.

Sautter has been a behind-the-scenes resource for Purdue men's basketball since 1981 when he began serving as official host to visiting coaches. Prior to each home game, he meets Purdue's opponent and stays with the head coach until the team leaves campus after the game, making sure any needs are met and problems solved.

"This is one duty I don't plan to give up in retirement," Sautter said. "It is both fun and challenging - and I get a great seat for every game."

Sautter came to Purdue in 1971 as assistant manager of Wiley Residence Hall. Before being appointed vice president in 1996, he also served in management positions at Shreve and Harrison halls, as assistant director of residence halls, assistant director of residence halls programming and counseling, and director of residence halls and graduate houses. In his honor, Harrison Hall annually gives the John A. Sautter Fire Up Award to one of its residents.

He has served on numerous university committees and as adviser to several student organizations and is currently on the Campus Community Partnership Committee and the University Senate's Student Affairs Committee. His community involvements include serving on the Leadership Lafayette board of directors and Good Scout Award Planning Committee. As chairman of Purdue's United Way campaign in 1994, he led a marketing initiative that expanded interest in the campaign through the creation of posters featuring campus landmarks. The posters still are collected widely by Purdue staff.

A U.S. Army veteran, Sautter earned his bachelor's degree in speech education and master's degree in higher education administration, both from Southern Illinois University.

Areas under the vice president for housing and food services have 877 regular employees and more than 2,600 student employees and a total operational budget of $133.8 million for the 2009-10 fiscal year.

Writer: Brian Zink, 765-494-2080, bzink@purdue.edu

Sources:   France A. Córdova, president@purdue.edu

                  John A. Sautter, 765-494-1022, jasautter@purdue.edu