WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — If you've ever wondered what it takes to feed the thousands of students who rely on Purdue University's dining services, you can find the answer in the name Sarah Johnson.
She is one of the women being honored by the YWCA at its 45th annual Salute to Women celebration.
When Sarah Johnson looks back on her life, one motto stands out.
"Never say never about what you're going to do because you just don't know where life will take you."
After graduating from West Lafayette High School, Purdue and the University of Iowa, Johnson returned home a registered dietitian with a specialty in administrative dietetics.
What started out as a five year plan to work for Purdue turned into a 37 year career.
"When I started at Purdue as a student, I worked in the kitchen washing dishes and doing those kinds of things, not really thinking that I would ever end up back there or let alone being the director," said Johnson.
Johnson quickly rose from an entry level position to Director of Dining Services for University Residences. She's the mastermind behind a nearly $70,000,000 ten-year project that made Purdue dining what it is today.
"We built new facilities, we renovated facilities, we changed menus. I like to say we re-engineered our food service at Purdue."
Her efforts were recognized in Food Management Magazine. Purdue Dining and Catering also changed the name of its student award to the Sarah Johnson Student Employee of the Year Award.
Now retired, she and her husband remain heavily involved with Purdue and the many students she mentored during her career.
"We get Christmas cards, we get baby announcements, wedding invitations and since we don't have any of our own kids that's been very special."
As Johnson put it, you just don't know where life will take you but she's glad it kept her here.
"We have no desire to move, we want to stay here."