On Saturday, June 3, 2017, alumni from The School of Hospitality Business gathered at the University Club in East Lansing to honor the 90th birthday of Mr. Angelos Vlahakis (BA Hospitality Business ’51), the man who created the Student and Industry Resource Center (SIRC) in the school, and who encouraged and inspired the students he mentored in a very special way.
Mr. Vlahakis, himself a 1951 graduate of the school and a member of its Alumni Association Hall of Fame, is an icon in the Lansing area. He owned and managed the legendary Jim’s Tiffany Place for decades – the place to be and be seen for state legislators, lobbyists, and members of the greater Lansing community. After Mr. Vlahakis sold the restaurant in 1980, School Director Don Smith recruited him to revitalize the school’s internship program. After starting with his rolodex, filled with the names of alumni and industry leaders, Mr. Vlahakis created what came to be known as the Student and Industry Resource Center (SIRC). He also started CAREER EXPO, now in its 39th year. He brought in hundreds of companies to recruit students. He managed their internships, now required by the school’s curriculum. He was the very gracious and professional “face” of the school for companies who were searching for the best possible talent and he did more. He took students under his wing, offered personalized guidance, and stayed in touch. Today’s SIRC, under the leadership of Authella Collins Hawks, still carries his imprint and bears his legacy.
Twenty alumni, mostly from the classes of the 1980s, came from all over the country to honor Mr. Vlahakis. All of them were able to connect who they are today to the leadership and guidance Mr. Vlahakis gave them so many years ago. Some of his gems of wisdom:
- “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
- “Always dress for success, look the other person in the eye, and give a firm handshake.”
- “Always be networking with people.” Back then it was his rolodex; today it is LinkedIn.
“There are so many amazing alumni who have graduated from The School of Hospitality Business,” said Interim Director of The School Dr. Bonnie Knutson that evening. “But there has not been a group that has been so close and so special as this one…such an extraordinary group of alumni!” And what binds them together is their appreciation for Mr. Vlahakis. Rick Rowe spoke for all those present when he said, “Mr. Vlahakis, family has always been important to you and you instilled that in all of us. We are your family and we thank you for believing in us.” Beth Perry, who organized the event, was assisted by Jeff White and Martha Small.
It was this group of alumni who created the Angelos J. & Betty Yeotis Vlahakis SIRC Scholarship in 2012; created to assist students who need financial support to complete the school’s requirement of two 400-hour internships. At the birthday dinner, it was announced that the endowment had reached $90,295. Mr. and Mrs. Vlahakis were visibly touched.
In fact, they were amazed at the outpouring of so much love and appreciation from the alumni and impressed with the directions their lives had taken. Mr. Vlahakis later remarked on the extraordinary accomplishments of these “young people” he had worked with. The group included Beth Perry, Martha Small, Jeff White, Steve Thompson, Steve Marx, Mary Patton, Brian O’Connor, Curt Hilliker, Nancy Koziatek, Jonathan Nii, Steve Gatt, Mike Gbur, Corene Akaracksian, Neil Smith, Jim Harvey, Ted Trembath, Steve Faro, Rick Rowe and Chuck Day.