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A rumor that a mystery donor gave a million dollars to the University of Richmond exclusively for the dessert bar has been around since most can remember.
It is not true.
The Heilman Dining Center, along with other university buildings and operations, is insured under UR’s general liability and property insurance, Cynthia Price, the university's director of media and public relations said. There is no separate insurance for the dessert bar.
Despite this, many still hear and believe the rumor.
“The first time I heard the rumor was during my first semester freshman year,” sophomore Danielle Sorscher said. “I didn’t really put much thought into it, but I assumed it was true.”
Tyler Betzhold, executive chef at the dining hall, has been hearing the rumor since he started working at UR 15 years ago.
“My best guess as to when the rumor started would be right after they renovated the dining hall and added a new dessert area,” Betzhold said. “The rumor came with the opening, and it has stuck ever since.”
Glenn Pruden, director of residential dining, thinks the rumor started long before that, he said. An employee at UR since 1976, Pruden has worked on the university campus since dining halls were segregated by gender.
“We have some very talented people in our bake shop and culinary team,” Pruden said. “I bet somewhere at an event or in the dining facility someone said, ‘Wow! This dessert tastes like a million bucks!’ and the rumor started from there.”
Both Betzhold and Pruden said they had heard tour guides mention the rumor as they passed through the dining hall, which they thought contributed to the widespread belief of this rumor on the campus.
“I’ve heard them say things like, ‘Here’s the dessert station, and rumor has it, it’s insured for a million dollars!'” Pruden said.
Betzhold said when he hears this being told to tour groups, he just chuckles and moves on.
The University of Richmond Office of Undergraduate Admission has now included specific guidelines on what to say about the dessert bar in its tour-guide training.
“Dining services have advised our office this rumor is not true, and our talking points about the dining center reflect this information,” Austen Kelso, assistant director of admission, said in an email.
Tour guides at UR said the rumor was brought up during their training.
“We were told we could make light of the rumor on tours and say something like, ‘The dessert bar is so good that there was a rumor it was endowed for a million dollars!’” sophomore tour guide Jackie Reith said. “But, we have to be sure to state that the rumor is false.”
University of Richmond dining services has won many awards, including two Loyal E. Horton Dining Awards and a silver medal at the Tastes of the World culinary competition in Massachusetts in 2017, according to the dining services website.
“I think the bottom line is, most people just love dessert," Betzhold said. “And when we have such great sweets here, it’s easy to believe a rumor like that.”
Contact senior features writer Alex Maloney at firstname.lastname@example.org.