Donut Heaven: 35 Years of Sweet Tradition
If you stand on the campus mall on the evening before finals, you can smell the sweetness of freshly baked pastries swirling in the air around you.
A winding line of anxious, hungry students forms outside of Torvian Dining Hall, each eager to catch a glimpse of the hundreds of donuts awaiting them inside, wondering which one (or ones) they’ll choose. Their collective mood is a tapestry of emotions ranging from pit-in-the-stomach nerves to the excitement of a well-deserved break from hours upon hours of studying for their finals.
Donut Heaven is the signature event sponsored by the Student Government Association (SGA) occuring at the end of every semester. This long-standing tradition has been in place for over 30 years. Members of the SGA greet the students as they come in as well as manage the cleanup process.
Faculty and staff volunteer to serve the student body homemade donuts, along with hot dogs, ice cream or nachos, coffee, and hot chocolate, from 10:00 pm to 11:30 pm in Torvian Dining Hall for the first three evenings of every finals week.
Students line up outside of Torvian before the doors open in anticipation of the free tasty treats and the opportunity to take a break as they put in late-night cramming sessions during final exam week.
The History of Donut Heaven
Donut Heaven has roots going back as far as 1982, and possibly even further. Rev. Brian Cavanaugh, Assistant to the Dean of Students, and Jeffrey J. Quin, Dean of Students, along with several members of the Food Services Department, hosted midnight coffee and donut breaks during final examination week.
The 1991 Bell Tower yearbook has the first mention of the event using the moniker “Doughnut Heaven”, or better known amongst students at the time as “Doughnut Purgatory”.
The event was reported to be very successful since its inception, but Donut Heaven disappeared around 1996 and students became outspoken about losing such a unique SFU tradition.
There have been many wonderful memories made throughout the year during Donut Heaven. There are often surprise guest appearances. You never know when a surprise dash of the red flash will appear! In fall semesters, Donut Heaven takes on a Christmas theme with decorations and music. Students often attend wearing sweats or pajamas and are wrapped in blankets. They just stop whatever they are working on and come as they are.
Kent Tonkin, Instructor in the Shields School of Business, and 1995 SFU alum remembers “Donut Heaven was the BEST! I’ll never forget waiting outside of Torv to get in for a break, some conversation, and a much needed sugar rush. Being served by the instructors and other members of the Saint Francis community was something truly special; it brought home the point that, regardless of our roles, we truly were a family. It’s been a real thrill to volunteer a few times as a faculty member as well.”
Alumni and Parents shared their memories and thoughts about Donut Heaven on our Facebook page:
“Part of my fond memories of studying for finals was Donut Heaven. I loved that Fr. Christian would be there serving the donuts along with some of the professors.”
— Gerri Campbell
“One of the best memories at St. Francis.”
— Felicia Hackman
“Great tradition, glad to see it is still going on after 24 years.”
— Becky Hodrick-Shaible
“Once again SFU...you go above and beyond for your students! I can’t begin to say how happy we are that our daughter decided to attend St. Francis”
— Melody Wilt Edmiston
“I love the traditions & special touches SFU does for their students! It’s a special place.”
— Mary Ann Henderson
“Brings back cool memories. #SFC96.”
— Bill Turner
— Amanda Szwed
“The best tradition SFU has! TRIPLE PLAY!!!!!!”
— Michael Vaughn Jr.
A few semesters later in 1998, members of SGA decided that if Donut Heaven was to return, they would need to take the initiative to do so. Kristin Moore, then Senator of SGA, and Liz Krepps, then VP of Communications, listed “bring back Donut Heaven” as one of their top goals during their SGA tenure, and today’s students should be thankful that they did.
Not only was Donut Heaven paid for and hosted by the SGA, the students were the ones flipping burgers, serving donuts, cookies, cakes, and popcorn at the event. While SGA students no longer flip burgers during Donut Heaven, the organization has continued to play a big role in the tradition’s success.
“Donut Heaven used to have a fee-for-entry through the early 90’s, but now it is an important line item in SGA’s annual budget,” says Dr. Bobby Anderson, Director of Student Engagement and Leadership Development. Not only does SGA pay for the Donut Heaven food, the organization’s members come out in force alongside faculty and staff, volunteering their time to set up, serve, and clean up after the big event. Anderson, who graduated from SFU in ‘02, also served as an Executive Vice President within SGA as a student. Now he serves as a runner during Donut Heaven, doing anything that’s needed to ensure efficient food service for the students. Perhaps most importantly, the volunteers bring positivity to the occasion, including SGA President Teresa Narduzzi whose role involves cheering people on as they enter Donut Heaven: “My peers are stressed and tired during finals, and bringing the enthusiasm is key.”
“A lot of the work that SGA does is process-oriented and behind-the-scenes,” says Narduzzi. “Donut Heaven gives us the opportunity to connect with our peers in an immediate and tangible way.” SGA works hard to survey students on issues, receive feedback, elect students to positions that best represent the student body, and work with the administration to improve student life and amenities on campus—the results are impressive. But SGA members know that a significant part of student success is fun and fellowship, so that’s where Donut Heaven comes in.
“The thing I look forward to the most at Donut Heaven is the smiles. The feelings radiate and help everyone through finals,” says Kenny Brumbaugh, Shields School of Business Senator for SGA. Everyone on campus understands how stressful finals can be, so the community comes together to uplift its students.
When asked what their favorite donuts are, Narduzzi says, “standard glazed” and Brumbaugh says, “chocolate glazed.” Year after year, SGA finds that the simple joy of homemade donuts and a break from the books is well worth the effort."
In a show of solidarity and appreciation for their hard work, faculty show up to serve the students during the late night event.
Chemistry professor Dr. Pedro Muíño has served over 100 Donut Heaven events where he has volunteered and passed out donuts. Dr. Muíño coined the phrase “Triple Play” when a student requests one of each of the 3 donut varieties. “I volunteer at Donut Heaven because to me it’s a very festive time,” says Dr. Muíño. “I get to see a large number of students, many of which I never had in my classes, so it’s a great chance to meet them and, if we have a slow day, to socialize with them. I also get to see students from my classes and get to wish them well in their exams. But most of all, I like to see the same faces year after year, from the time students were timid first-year students to the time they became assertive individuals. It always makes me proud to see how the Saint Francis community helps our students to grow and to become excellent professionals and engaged citizens.”
The Donut Baker
Over 1,000 donuts are served to students nightly during Donut Heaven. The donuts are made fresh each morning by Torvian Head Baker, Ms. Luann K. Teeter, better known as “Lou”. Lou provides all of the baked goods on campus and makes all of the donuts for Donut Heaven each semester. Lou has been baking for Saint Francis for 19 years, but her baking career started in a bakery in 1975.
Lou has never been able to attend the actual Donut Heaven event. Her day starts as early as 3am, arriving on campus just shortly after the event is ending to start baking for the next day. In addition to baking 88 dozen of donuts for Donut Heaven each day, she is also assisting in breakfast service, regular daily baking needs and catering orders.
In Lou’s memory, they’ve never run out of donuts. If there’s any leftovers, they’ll serve them the next morning during the breakfast rush. The most popular variety of donuts are the glazed rings and the cinnamon buns, or as Lou calls them “Persians”. According to Lou, the most difficult part of baking that many donuts is keeping count of them because everyone wants to sample them. After they’ve baked, Luann stacks the trays, covers them with plastic and labels the racks with a cheeky note stating the donuts are reserved for Donut “Hell-o”.
Some semesters Lou gets help from student workers. She recalls a specific time, “when one of the students showed up early to work, she asked me what time the truck comes to deliver all the donuts. She was in for a surprise when I told her the donuts are made fresh, by us!” Recently, dining services has responded to a request from students to bake a few gluten free varieties so that more students could participate. Even with all of the added work of preparing for Donut Heaven nights, Lou thinks only of the students saying, “it’s nice for the kids to get them geared up for finals.”
Outside of Donut Heaven, Lou’s favorite baked good to make is pumpkin rolls. She claims the most requested item from students and faculty are her famous no-bakes. Lou is looking forward to many more Donut Heaven events at the university with no plans for retirement any time soon.