While the hospitality industry is in the business of service and giving back, its professionals take business to a personal level.

At the annual School of Hospitality Business Newest Alumni Brunch hosted by the student-led Hospitality Association (HA), faculty, alumni, staff, and families gathered to celebrate the class of 2017.

Bonnie Knutson and Houston Striggow

Knutson and Striggow celebrated the class of 2017, along with a seeded gift from Striggow to engage the new alumni to continue giving.

But what no one expected was an announcement from guest speaker Houston Striggow (BA Hospitality Business ’75), the co-founder and COO of acclaimed confectionery SusieCakes.

“My gift today to you is this: I have asked Broad’s development team to put together the first-ever collective named gift, in the name of the School of Hospitality Business Class of 2017,” Striggow said to the room. “I want all of you to have a unique place at the [Business] Pavilion – something with your name on it. To this end, I have seeded the gift with a pledge of $2,017 in a tribute to your graduating class,’” he said.

With that, Striggow challenged each graduate to sign a pledge of a minimum of $100 per year for five years, with a goal of a $50,000 total pledge. On the spot, other faculty members and alumni matched Houston’s pledge for the graduating class.

Striggow went on to encourage the new Spartan alumni to think about the importance of giving, of true hospitality, of human connection, and of making people feel valued.

“Houston’s unwavering support for our school is something very special, and this is a new take on how impacting a gift can be,” said Bonnie Knutson, interim director of the School of Hospitality Business. “He continuously inspires generations of students – whether in their careers or how they give back to their alma mater – we all feel moved and proud to have him championing the future of the Broad College,” she said.

Striggow already pledged $50,000 to the Business Pavilion, and gifts are a mere fraction of how he gives back. Striggow serves on the Broad College of Business Alumni Board, on the Board of Directors for the School’s Alumni Association (where he was inducted into its “Hall of Fame Class of Coaches” in 2011). He frequently returns to campus to speak in classes and mentor students, and recruits and hires students for internships and career positions.

CEO of HA Didi Bibi (BA Hospitality Business ’17) spoke to the guests as well, and presented Knutson with a check in the amount of $10,000 from the earnings of the three major annual student-led events. The funds are to support student activities, student employment in classrooms, as well as $1,000 earmarked for the Pavilion.