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Whitworth’s food service general manager receives prestigious Spirit of Service award

September 5, 2013

Jim O’Brien, Sodexo’s general manager at Whitworth University, is one of nine people in North America to earn a Gold Award in the Service Spirit category of the annual Spirit of Sodexo Awards Program. Spirit of Sodexo is a corporate awards program that honors a small group of individuals and teams within the company that demonstrate outstanding performance in support of Sodexo’s mission, values, and commitment to diversity and inclusion.

O’Brien and the eight other Gold Award-winners will travel to Sodexo’s North America headquarters, in Gaithersburg, MD, on Sept. 24 to receive the award from Sodexo CEO George Chavel. A total of 37 people have received Spirit Awards this year.

“I was shocked and humbled when I heard I was receiving the Sodexo Spirit of Service Award,” says O’Brien, who has been a Sodexo employee for 36 years, 28 of which have been spent supporting the Whitworth community. “This recognition means so much to me, but it is also is a great compliment to the wonderful work our Sodexo staff does at Whitworth. It’s a pleasure to work at Whitworth and in the Spokane community – people are so welcoming and appreciative.”

The Service Spirit category recognizes individuals or teams that demonstrate a spirit for service by focusing on clients and customers as the heart of Sodexo’s business. Not only has O’Brien demonstrated that service spirit by working closely with Whitworth students and organizations such as the Associated Students of Whitworth University, he has also become a driving force behind sustainability efforts on campus. O’Brien is a member of the Whitworth Sustainability Committee and is instrumental in helping the group meet its objectives to create a sustainable environment on campus. Most notably, he worked with a local wheat farmer to prepare, plant and harvest a plot of sustainably grown wheat on campus. As students helped with the care of the wheat, they learned valuable lessons on how to care for their world.

“Jim has been a leader on our campus in modeling service and leadership to students, and in inspiring efforts on campus related to sustainability,” says Dick Mandeville, vice president for student life at Whitworth.
O’Brien also innovated a sustainability awareness program for students called “90 Ways in 90 Days,” in which he created a series of table tents that illustrate 90 different things students can do to behave and live more sustainably. Additionally, O’Brien created the campus-wide Sustainability Challenge, which has been very successful and is held annually to enhance awareness.

O’Brien is originally from the Boston area. He fell in love with the Pacific Northwest while taking a cross-country trip in 1976. The following summer, he packed up his belongings and his Golden Retriever and moved to Spokane, where he met his future wife. O’Brien says he has never stopped loving Spokane.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian church. The university, which has an enrollment of 3,000 students, offers 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


Dick Mandeville, vice president for student life, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4536 or

Lucas Beechinor, media relations manager, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or