Vital Vittles began in 1972 as a small food co-op selling only yogurt and Coke in the lobby of New South Hall, against the backdrop of anti-Vietnam War protests.
Fifty years later, it’s the centerpiece of The Corp, which is staffed entirely by Georgetown University students. The Corp turns 50 years old this week, and celebrations have abounded, featuring promotions like free coffee from Compass Coffee, free Yerba Mates and an open mic fundraiser night for Georgetown Mutual Aid at the Midnight Mug, a Corp coffee location.
Matt Davis (SFS ’22), CEO of The Corp, said the celebration marks an important milestone in the organization’s history.
“This is kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a student-run business and to my knowledge, there’s never been a student business of our caliber or size that’s celebrated something as big as a 50th anniversary,” Davis said in an interview with The Hoya.
Celebrations will continue Feb. 18-19 to include a ceremony in Riggs Library on Feb. 18, an exhibition of the organization’s history, and a gala at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art. About 400 former members of the organization have RSVP’d to the gala and are returning to campus to celebrate, according to Adam Shaham (SFS ’22), advancement chair for The Corp.
Originally established in 1971 as the Students of Georgetown, Inc, The Corp was created to advocate for students amid anti-Vietnam War protests. Now it is the world’s largest student-run 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.
According to The Corp’s co-founder Roger Cochetti (SFS ’72), inspiration for the organization originally came after the university prohibited students from hosting guests in their dorms and prevented protestors from camping overnight on sport fields around the time of one of the largest anti-war protests in 1971.
Cochetti said he felt compelled to create an organization that would give the student body greater freedom.
“Whatever this entity was going to be, it had to be structured so that it made money,” Cochetti said in an interview with The Hoya. “If it had no assets, if it had no financial basis and no income, then it could never do any good. So it had to be a merger of idealism and pragmatism.”
In 1972, The Corp began with a $10,000 investment Cochetti and other members of the undergraduate student government raised by a donation from the Tennis Association and by publishing an ad-based student directory, according to Cochetti. Its first employees sold Coca-Cola and yogurt on Healy Lawn to continue funding their efforts, according to The Corp’s website.
This week’s celebrations also included free yogurt and Coke in Red Square, according to Shaham.
“Coke is one of our oldest partnerships. We started selling Coke and yogurt out of the New South closet back in 1973, so this is a vendor that’s been with us and partnered with us for almost the last 50 years,” Shaham said in an interview with The Hoya.
The anniversary presents an opportunity for student employees and leadership to ensure The Corp can continue serving students for years to come, according to Davis.
“We can use this moment and the momentum that comes with something like a 50th anniversary to ensure that we recommit to our mission of students serving students and — more specifically — our philanthropic and community engagement efforts to ensure that we are actually serving the students both on campus and serving student interests off campus,” Davis said.
Bennie Smith (COL ’86) began working at one of The Corp’s locations during the second semester of his first year at Georgetown in 1983. Smith was hired at Saxa Sundries, the former sister store to Vital Vittles, as a cashier and stocker. From there, Smith then became a shift manager and was eventually promoted to The Corp’s vice president of operations.
The Corp provided both a stable income as well as a community during his undergraduate career at Georgetown, according to Smith.
“It was this really fun combination of a fun, built-in social network,” Smith said in an interview with The Hoya. “But it was also hard work. But because you were working with your friends and your peers, it didn’t always feel like hard work.”
Davis said the 50th anniversary is something the entire campus community should enjoy.
“It’s not just a celebration that we should share within our company internally. I mean, it’s really a celebration for the entire Georgetown community to be a part of and enjoy,” Davis said.
The success of The Corp is a testament to the decades of hard work from all past members, according to Cochetti.
“I can’t help but be proud of having gotten it started, but the real credit goes to the hundreds and perhaps thousands of people who worked on it over the 50 years that it existed and breathed life into the idea,” Corchetti said. “They’re the ones who made The Corp.”
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