CWU News

Man Who Brought Espresso to CWU officially retires

Dan Layman at his CWU retirement ceremonyCWU is saying farewell to the man, a 1973 Seattle Prep graduate, who introduced its students to espresso.

Dan Layman is retiring from Central after 36 years of service, most recently as the university’s Dining Services director. During his long tenure, Layman spearheaded many significant advances and improvements that positively impacted CWU students—including bringing espresso to the university in 1984.

The decision to begin serving steamed, concentrated coffee to students, however, came somewhat reluctantly, as Layman admitted at the retirement gathering that he thought, “It’s a passing fad; it’s not going to last.”

Even so, he purchased two, large home-espresso units for the university, on close-out from Frederick and Nelson’s in Seattle.

“They also thought it was a passing fad,” he added, with a bit of a smirk. “The machines had little grinders in them. One was for steaming and the other for brewing. But we had to keep turning them on-and-off so they wouldn’t burn out. They were so new that all the instructions were in Italian. I had to have someone from the university translate a letter that we sent to the company in Italy to find out where we could get parts for those machines.”

The machines were new. So was the coffee supplier Layman contracted.

“We would buy our beans from a small company in Pike Place Market called Starbucks,” he continued. “It was just one store at that time. From there it just grew. In the 28 years that we have served espresso, we have brought in about $27 million dollars in revenue to the university, so it was more than a passing fad.”

Attending the event were Layman’s wife, Staci Sleigh-Layman, the university’s Human Resources director, and two of their three children. His youngest daughter, Ellie, 26, did not, because she’s serving in Hawaii as a helicopter pilot with the U.S. Army.

His son Andy, 31, spoke, recalling serving as an unofficial taste-tester for his father, including for beverages to serve at the espresso stand.

“My favorite ended up being called the ‘brown cow,’” he recalled. “Dad said we could only get it at the SUB (Samuelson Union Building). I later realized it was just chocolate and almond milk mixed in.”

His daughter Claire, 34, also discussed “helping” her father on-the-job.

“We always wanted to go to work with dad because the games room was there,” she pointed out. “So, we could take our quarters and go play video games, get our 25-cent popcorn, and watch people bowl. The old SUB was like a family. There are lots of fond memories.”

Layman oversaw, and help direct, the 2006 move from the SUB into the university’s state-of-the-art Student Union and Recreation Center. He also led the opening of additional venues across campus, and developed and launched specialized dining events. But Layman was quick to share credit for his achievements and took time to acknowledge--by name--many of the students, staff, and university employees from across campus for their support throughout his CWU career.

“I also want to thank the, literally, thousands of students who worked for me here because we could not have done it without them,” he stated, “and the faculty, staff, and guests who came and used the facility, because we would not have existed without them.”

Layman also regaled the more than 150 university colleagues, present and past employees, faculty, family members, and friends who attended the celebratory event. Featured was a story about a time when he and his family were driving west over Snoqualmie Pass for the weekend and noticed Donald Garrity, the university president at that time, stranded in a back-up eastbound over the pass.

“I stopped our car, took the coffee, sandwiches, and everything we had packed to eat on the trip, waded through almost waist-deep snow across the median, went up to his car, knocked on the window, and said ‘CWU Dining is here to serve you,’” Layman recalled, which was met by a roar of laughter from the crowd. “He returned my coffee cup the following Monday and was very appreciative.”

Layman received a send-off gift of a trip to Las Vegas plus a dinner certificate to his favorite restaurant there, and 48 packs of Vanilla Sugar Wafers, his admitted cherished sweet treat.

“I don’t go through quite this many, but this will keep me going for a week,” he said, with a wide smile.

That smile was often flashed on the CWU campus during the last 36 years. It will be missed. 

Media contact: Robert Lowery, Department of Public Affairs, director of Radio Services and Integrated Communications, 509-963-1487,

Photo: Layman at his CWU retirement ceremony.