It takes a special person to ingratiate himself into a close-knit community in less than two years. Shane Powers, account support manager for Bon Appetit, did just that. Powers died on July 28 in Lansing, Michigan, at the age of 54 from complications of alcoholism.
Although primarily based at Albion College, a small liberal arts school about 40 minutes north of Hillsdale College, Powers joined Bon Appetit Hillsdale in 2018 and quickly endeared himself to students and staff alike. Known for his warmth and gregarious personality, Powers could often be found walking around the dining hall to personally greet students, ask after their meals, or offer them a cookie for dessert.
Powers brought changes to the dining room, starting with the long-neglected salad bar, to which he added a host of new toppings and dressings. He also expanded the selection of healthy dining choices and options for students or visitors with allergies and dietary restrictions, adding the “Market” section, with grains and fruits and a stir fry bar. Powers was always open to feedback from diners and encouraged students to request food items they wanted.
“Shane made a strong impression on everyone he met,” said Dave Apthorpe, general manager for Bon Appetit Hillsdale. “He went above and beyond to provide excellent hospitality to the guests he served. He was taken away far too soon and filling the hole that he left will not be easy.”
Powers’ job was to manage the guest experience, a duty he took seriously. He introduced weekend dining hall trivia nights, complete with a microphone and A.J.’s Cafe vouchers as prizes. As Easter approached, Powers took pride in making campus festive, hiding plastic eggs filled with candy and gift cards all over the quad. During finals week in the dead of winter, Powers could be found riding around campus in a golf cart to deliver hot chocolate and coffee to students studying late.
Always willing to help, Powers’ assistance in carrying food from the cafeteria to a table was a relief to injured student-athletes like senior Jonathan Burton, a linebacker on the football team.
“When I had ankle surgery and used crutches last spring, Shane came to my aid before I’d even gathered the courage to ask for help,” Burton recalled. “More than missing our usual interactions at meals, I’ll miss how he often went out of his way to help others.”
Powers’ wife, Julie, said he would have been pleased to be remembered that way.
“He always called you all his kids and people would get confused about whether he was speaking of his biological kids or his college kids,” she told the Collegian in an email. “He sat around thinking of ideas and brainstorming with us how to make the kids feel welcome and loved like they were at home.”
Powers’ heart for hospitality wasn’t lost on students, who have taken to Facebook and other online platforms to pour out memories and condolences.
Shortly after Powers’ death, senior Megan Kerr started a GoFundMe to raise money to help the Powers family cover funeral costs, something she said she was inspired to do after experiencing a loss of her own recently. As of Aug. 25, Kerr’s fundraiser has raised nearly $2,600.
“The Hillsdale community has been very supportive of this campaign, beyond my expectations,” Kerr said. “I set the goal amount to $1,000, originally, and this goal was met in less than 24 hours. I am so proud of the students’ efforts and their drive to help out a family in need. Shane has given us so much, and the least we can do is raise money to give back.”
Powers is survived by his wife, Julie; daughter, Orion; son, Storm; his mother, Joyce; brothers, Brian and Robin; and a host of cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephew. A celebration of life event was held on Sunday, Aug. 23 in Holt, Michigan.