A career of service

During his 16 years at UCSC Dan Tokar has helped thousands of students develop post-graduation skills and fed tens of thousands more.

After 16 years of working at UC Santa Cruz, Dan Tokar will retire on June 30.
Tokar's dining hall team getting ready to serve hundreds of students at a College Night.
Dan Tokar (middle) with students.

Around 100  UC Santa Cruz staff and faculty retire each year. Please join us in celebrating the next chapter of their lives. If you or someone you know is retiring and would like to be included on the Welcome to Retirement page information can be submitted to the Retiree & Emeriti Center at rec@ucsc.edu.


Countless UC Santa Cruz students benefited from Dan Tokar’s career at the university—some were fortunate to have Tokar as a supervisor, and the rest enjoyed meals at a dining hall where Tokar played a key role. 

Dan Tokar’s current position is Unit Manager, running the entire Porter/Kresge Dining Hall operations. He oversees a staff of six managers, 42 full-time staff members, and 120 student employees. After 16 years on campus, Tokar will retire on June 30.

“We serve about 2,200 guests daily,” says Tokar. “We also provide breakfast and lunch for the EES (Early Education Services) program at Family Student Housing.” “Each day we feed about 50 children ranging from 11 months to 12 years old,” he says.

60-year-old Tokar first joined the staff of UCSC in 2007, as Senior Food Service Manager at Crown Dining Hall. After working at Crown for five years, he worked at College Nine (now John R. Lewis College) for nine years. 

Tokar finds his job fulfilling for many reasons. His favorite part is leading the management team and student supervisors, giving them the necessary resources to manage the large staff.

“I believe the dining hall is a great communal and welcoming space for students to gather, socialize, study, and eat,” he says. “Also, I enjoy running a smooth operation with great-tasting food and a clean environment where our customers can be served according to our standards of safety, efficiency, and friendly customer service.” 

Tokar has been in the restaurant and hospitality business for 45 years—and is glad to have had the opportunity to work at UC Santa Cruz for more than a third of that time. “UCSC is a special place to work. Everyone’s contributions are valued, no matter how big or small. I love the diversity and inclusivity the University offers. I have learned so much from many different people on campus. For example, I can roll a pretty impressive pupusa!” 

Mentoring students and involving the community

During his UCSC career, one of his main roles has been Student Program Manager. In this capacity, he has hired, trained, and worked with about 2,500 students and for most of them, it was their first job. This was the case with former student employee Anissa Truscott, who has high praise for Tokar. When she worked for him at College Nine, it was her very first job. “He was an understanding and empathetic manager, collaborator, and teacher,” says Truscott. “He helped guide so many students who were navigating the workplace for the first time.” 

“I take the first steps of a person’s employment very seriously,” says Tokar. “I want to give them the training and tools to help them succeed in any job they may have after they graduate, whether it be in the hospitality field or in the field of their major.” 

Today, Truscott (Crown ’15, biology) works for UCSC as a Principal Budget Analyst, as a full-time career staff employee in University Relations.  

Tokar has found supervising students extremely rewarding. He encouraged them to learn as much as possible about work/life balance, because once they graduate, life becomes more demanding. His advice: “Practice your organizational skills where you can balance work, studies, rest, and time out with your friends, in a way that everything can fit.”

 Customer service was always an important part of students’ training. “I wanted them to know that no matter where they worked after they graduated, this would come into play. They can be a doctor, a teacher, a chef, or an engineer, and they will have customers that need to be communicated with and respected.” 

Of the many accomplishments throughout his career, Tokar is most proud of launching the Student Supervisor Program. In 2008, he noticed that there were some very talented students whose roles consisted of food prep, cashier, serving, and dishes. He teamed up with Jennifer Garcia, who was Bilingual Coordinator at the time. They came up with an idea where student employees could be hired and trained as Dining Supervisors who would then train, schedule, and supervise student employees. One goal Tokar and Garcia had was for students to gain significant leadership and communication experience that would be useful, post-graduation skills—transferable to any number of fields or careers. 

 The successful program is still going strong today with the guidance of Student Employee Program Coordinator Luis Moreno Espinosa. Each year, there are approximately 75 student supervisors working throughout the dining areas on campus, managing about 1,000 student employees. 

In 2008, UCSC Dining received an “Employer of the Year” award for being a longtime employer of individuals with developmental disabilities. Crown Dining Hall used to employ people from nonprofit Hope Services, which provides job training and other services. At the time of this award, Tokar was the hall’s service manager, regularly working with Hope Services clients. He got to accept the award on behalf of UCSC.  

“They helped in many areas and had an incredible work ethic. Even with the adversities they had encountered in life, they always had a smile on their face and a great attitude at work. Working with Hope Services taught me to always keep my eyes open and have an open mind because you never know who you will draw inspiration from.”

Knowing that dining is an essential service is very rewarding for Tokar. “In the last 16 years, our dining team fed our students through pandemics, fires, floods, and strikes,” says Tokar. “Even through the biggest of obstacles, our team was able to come to work, prepare nutritious food, and serve our customers. I am very proud of this.” 

On to retirement 

There are many people Tokar is grateful for, who have shaped his career and inspired him. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my parents and family,” shares Tokar. “I’ve been very fortunate to have people that have inspired me in my UCSC career. These include managers Mirjam Kuusik, Jeanne Kallerup, and Jeff Wildenboer just to name a few, plus Student Supervisor Alejandro Zamora, and many other hard-working full-time staff members.”

After retiring from UCSC, Tokar plans to stay and enjoy Santa Cruz. He looks forward to traveling, paddle boarding, wine tasting, riding his bike, hanging out with friends, and working in his garden.

To honor our retiring staff and faculty for their years of service, new retirees are invited to the campus Welcome to Retirement Celebration on June 29 at the UCSC Institute of the Arts and Sciences.