When Ted Polk, started working full-time at the University of Indianapolis, then Indiana Central College, in 1973, he thought he would stay two to three years. Now, after more than 40 years of providing sustenance to the campus community, the director of Polk Food Services has announced that he will retire in May.
Polk said that he is in great health and does not feel 68. However, he said that the job, which requires him to be on campus five to six days a week, does not allow him to spend enough time with his wife, children and grandchildren.
“You miss a lot. And it’s not that I’m happy about it [retiring], because I love the university. I love being here,” he said. “But it’s time to slow down and spend more time with my wife—she’s been a saint over the years—and spend more time with my family.”
According to Polk, this was a recent decision. He said that he started thinking about retirement around Christmas.
“Several things that happened, not necessarily here at work, made me start thinking about maybe slowing down a little bit,” he said.
President Robert Manuel announced Polk’s retirement in an email to students on Jan. 28.
“It’s difficult to imagine the university without Ted or all of the traditions he has maintained over the years,” Manuel said in the email. “Ted has embodied the best collective characteristics of UIndy—he is highly skilled, committed to the well being of those he serves, a caring philanthropist, and a true servant leader.”
In his email, Manuel also said that the university plans to take over campus food service in order to preserve the standards and traditions that Polk has provided over the years.
Polk said that he was proud of those traditions, such as Midnight Breakfast, the Thanksgiving dinner and, of course, Tuesdays with Ted.
“Those are great monotony breakers, and they’re something that other schools don’t necessarily do,” he said.
Polk said that he first worked on campus for the company Aramark, which operated the cafeteria. It was not until 1984 that he started PFS and took over campus food service with the approval of then-President Gene Sease.
According to Polk, what made him want to stay and become more invested in the university is the campus community’s closeness.
“It’s like a family here,” he said. “And even though we’re more than twice as big as we were when I came here, it still feels like a family.”
Polk said that the family atmosphere should continue, because Chef Dan Phillips and Operations Manager Manu Kang, as well Ms. June Stanley, will still be here next fall.
“The only thing that’s going to change will be me,” he said. “And hopefully you won’t be able to even notice I’m gone.”
This summer, Polk plans to take a cruise with his wife to England and Scotland, and he hopes to later travel to France, Spain and Portugal, among other locations.
“I like to travel,” he said. “I don’t care about fancy houses or fancy cars, but I love to travel.”
However, Polk said that he has been happy to serve the campus community for so long and that for the rest of his time at UIndy, his motto will remain: “The answer is yes. What’s the question?”