JAMES KORNER served as the executive director of University Services from 1992 to 2001. He was instrumental in helping to design and renovate Gwinn Commons, which opened in 1999. He also oversaw the planning and building of Emerson Hall.
Through 40 years of active involvement in the National Association of College and University Food Services, Korner initiated innovations in the campus dining industry. He won multiple awards, served as president for two different regions of the association, and was elected national president for 1999–2000. He prioritized relationships among nearly 1,000 campus and industry members and championed volunteer opportunities.
“Jim was one of the most positive, uplifting people you could know,” said Jean Flewelling, who worked for Korner at SPU for eight years. “He’d walk into the office singing with his arm up as if he was leading a choir. When anything went awry, he’d remind us that God was still on the throne.
“I have continued to refer to him as the boss who encouraged me to risk, and if I failed, we were in it together and would just figure out how to do it differently next time,” Flewelling said.
Born in Ohio, Korner earned a degree in music education at Ohio University. During his college years, he worked in the school’s dining halls and nurtured
his love for cooking. When he finished his degree, he joined the famous restaurant company, Bob Evans, at the original farm restaurant, and became a favorite of the founder. In 1972, Korner returned to his alma mater and became part of Ohio University’s dining services management team.
Korner’s path of promotions, awards, and increasing responsibility evolved throughout his career as his portfolio expanded beyond dining into student and business services at Ohio University; the University of Missouri; Seattle Pacific University; VA Hospital Brain Rehabilitation Research Center (Gainesville,
Florida); and Penn State University.
In each instance, Korner’s visionary leadership, combined with his extraordinary ability to assess challenges, communicate effectively, and establish positive relationships with others, led to continuous advancement.
Korner passed away from pneumonia on Sept. 6, 2021, at the age of 72. He is survived by his wife of 42 years, Barbara Oliver Korner, who is a former associate professor of theatre at SPU. Among his final words were, “God is still on the throne. His grace is sufficient. God will give me strength.”