Lehigh University
Lehigh University


Lamberton debuts to rave reviews

Students check out the vintage Lehigh memorabilia on the wall.

For new eateries and big-budget Hollywood films, success on opening weekend is critical.

And according to Bruce Christine, director of operations for Lehigh’s dining services, the first weekend of the Hawk’s Nest eatery and the newly renovated Lamberton Hall was a rousing success.

“It exceeded our expectations. We are totally, totally, totally excited by the sheer volume of customers that we served this first weekend,” Christine says. “When we opened the doors for business on Friday evening, we had 20-25 customers right off the bat and had a steady steam of customers until well past 3 a.m.”

The foot traffic remained pretty constant from midday on both Saturday and Sunday until closing time, Christine says.

“We’re ecstatic with how things have gone thus far,” he says.

”Every opinion mattered”

The Hawk's Nest serves a variety of old-fashion diner foods.

Christine wasn’t the only one beaming like a proud first-time father at the Hawk’s Nest this weekend. Kurt Lesker ’05, for one, was pretty excited at Friday’s grand opening ceremony.

And with good reason, because last week’s event was the culmination of a journey that began in the spring of 2004 when Lesker, then the Facilities and Housing Committee chair and president of the men’s crew team, approached Gregory Farrington, Lehigh president, to ask for a meeting to discuss the dire need for an on-campus diner.

“It’s just an awesome feeling to see this place open for business,” says Lesker, now a New York City litigation consultant. “The administration here at Lehigh really listened to our opinions every step of the way and the result is a beautiful and fun place that they and the students who served on the committees should be very proud of.

“Unlike in my current job, every opinion mattered. And that’s quite a tribute to President Farrington and to Lehigh’s administration. They truly listened to the students’ ideas from the very beginning of this project and all the way through it.”

The result is a new, centrally located meeting place on campus. The eatery will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner items with a heavy emphasis on comfort foods—think, good old-fashioned diner fare. The wall décor in the Hawk’s Nest features pictures, jerseys, flags and other memorabilia from Lehigh’s past.

Back to the future

The renovated Lamberton is quickly becoming a central gathering spot on campus.

The conversion of Lamberton to a diner actually harkens back to the building’s original use. It was a dining hall from 1907 to 1926, when it became home to the department of military science. On Founder’s Day in 1941, renovations to Lamberton were dedicated, again making it a student cafeteria, which it remained until the first few months of 1958, when Packer Hall was renovated for that purpose. The building then housed the music department until the construction of Zoellner Arts Center.

The hours of operation for the Hawk’s Nest will be 7:30 a.m.-1 a.m. on Sunday though Thursday and 7:30 a.m.-3 a.m. on Thursday through Saturday.

In addition to the Hawk’s Nest diner, which occupies the renovated east end of Lamberton, the building’s west end has been converted into a large Great Room and will be an area where small concerts featuring live music and comedians will be booked. The mezzanine level features a big skylight window, comfortable living room chairs and sofas, two plasma-screen TVs and a game room area with a pool table, air hockey table, and foosball table. Plus, there are additional rooms upstairs that Lehigh student organizations can reserve to hold their meetings.

“This project was really unique because of the level of student involvement,” says Anthony Corallo, associate vice president for facilities services and campus planning. “The students came up with the concept. They’ve served on the planning committees—where things like menu items, hours of operation as well as decisions on how the business would be run were decided.

“They’ve invested a lot of their time to ensure that fellow students have a place to hang out and grab an affordable bite to eat well after the dining halls have closed.”

Donnie McCullough, president of the Graduate Student Senate, agrees that by truly listening to the students’ ideas, the university was able to construct a facility that both graduate students and undergrads will enjoy.

“The new Lamberton Hall really fills a need on this campus,” McCullough says. “Grad students will come here during the day to grab a bite to eat and they will rub elbows with Lehigh undergrads, thus forming a true community here. Also, there aren’t many eating options late at night for undergraduate students, unless you’re willing to walk all the down the hill. This gives undergrads a place to eat and to hang out, a true meeting place on campus, without having to walk too far.”

”A rather expensive lunch”

The first seed for the renovations was planted back in 2004, when Lesker mentioned his idea to Farrington at a crew team function at the president’s house. Lesker and Rick Longenecker ’05, then the Student Senate president, had lunch the very next day with Farrington and sold him on the concept of a 24-hour, on-campus diner.

“Over lunch that day, while Kurt and Rick were making their Power Point presentation about the need for an on-campus diner, I realized that this was going to be a rather expensive lunch,” Farrington quipped at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The original concept was for a 24-hour diner. But after forming the Lamberton Planning Committee and discussing it in greater detail, the students agreed that having it open 20 hours per day would be sufficient. The committee of 20 student representatives was chosen last year by the Student Senate to meet once or twice per month with members of Lehigh’s administration to ensure that the diner met the student body’s needs.

“The administration left every decision up to us, whether it was what kind of chairs or TVs we wanted to what the menu items would be at the diner,” says Sabrina Schneider ’06, who served on the committee. “It was a really good experience because our opinions truly mattered. And by getting the opinions of students, I think it gives this place a better chance of succeeding.”

Lesker believes that the new Lamberton Hall is more than a place to meet and eat. He believes that it can be a blueprint for how Lehigh students and the administration can work together to do something special.

“The biggest lesson that I learned in this whole process is that the administration wants the students here to be happy and will listen to you if you bring good, well thought-out ideas to the table,” Lesker says. “So, if students really want changes made on campus, then they can’t just complain to their roommate about it. You need to talk to people w

Posted on Monday, February 06, 2006

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