Abayasinghe to depart College, leaves service-based legacy

Chris Abayasinghe, assistant director of Dining Services, has been part of the College community since 2007. He helps to manage one of the most vital services on campus – the dining system. Abayasinghe was recently named Director of Food Services at Notre Dame and will take on the new position this year on Oct. 21.

Abayasinghe spoke of his almost six years at the College as exciting and rewarding, despite requiring tough decisions. “Throughout my years at Williams, I have encountered all kinds of situations,” Abayasinghe said. “Some of those required great collaborative work.

One of the most challenging decisions he made was to close Greylock and Dodd dining venues in the summer of 2010. “We were working with different offices across campus to sustain the core academic mission of the College by identifying areas to reduce expenses,” he said. “The decision was difficult to make, yet necessary under the prevailing economic circumstances.”

Abayasinghe emphasized his pride in the Dining Services team, whose members do their best to provide a high-value service to the College. He believes that his work with the Implementations Committee, which was established by College Council, helped trigger a number of crucial changes in the dining program. The Implementations Committee created a variety of cuisines on campus, helped extend the hours of service and expanded the culinary options on campus. Abayasinghe considers these changes to be the best changes in Dining Services during his tenure at the College. “We would not have achieved these goals without an amazing flexibility of our staff,” he said. He notes the team at the College is committed to four strategic imperatives: an appreciation for the diversity of those they serve, a focus on sustainability, a focus on forging lasting relationships and stewardship of the institutions’ resources. These goals will continue after Abayasinghe leaves.

As Head of the Dining Services Committee, Tyler Sparks ’15 worked closely with Abayasinghe last year, particularly on implementing Lee After Dark and making changes to Late Night services.  “In two words, Chris Abayasinghe is a difference maker,” Sparks said. “From the start, his priority has been students. I can say pretty confidently that, at some point during each student’s day, they benefit from one of his many initiatives.”

While Abayasinghe is excited to tackle the new challenges he will face at Notre Dame, he leaves the College with bittersweet feelings. “I have always appreciated the contagious passion of people here,” he said. “I see it when I speak with students during the planning of a fundraiser. I see it when I speak with alumni. My family and I will definitely miss the wonderful relationships we have enjoyed here. I will miss the evening meetings I used to have with our students at College Council. I will miss their candor.”

“Chris’ opportunity at Notre Dame is a once-in-a-lifetime chance,” Sparks said. “It speaks well for Williams that the assistant director of student dining can land such an important position at Notre Dame. Still, Chris will be dearly missed by Dining Services and the student body as a whole.”

Though Notre Dame is larger than the College, Abayasinghe believes that the basic approach to dining and the complexities of it remain the same. “I anticipate spending time at Notre Dame engaging staff and seeking the input of the students and the faculty,” he said. “The diversity of the student body requires culinary adaptations and expertise and therefore, continuous training. I will work on developing a great team of culinary professionals, working within the framework of the university’s values and mission.” Abayasinghe looks forward to embracing a new beginning, which he views as an opportunity for him to use his accumulated knowledge and experience at the College to create a high-value dining experience at Notre Dame.

Abayasinghe expressed his gratitude to all members of the College, and he is extremely appreciative of what Robert Volpi, director of Dining Services, is doing for the College. “Williams is very fortunate to have Bob Volpi as the director of dining,” Abayasinghe said. “He is well-respected by our peers and our colleagues, and he is a fundamental reason that we achieved the level of service our students have come to enjoy.”