The year was 1980.
Ronald Reagan became president of the United States. Blondie topped the Billboard charts. The Rubik’s Cube was the most sought-after toy around the globe. It was also the year Angelos J. Vlahakis came to the Broad College of Business and forever changed the experience of students in the college – and across Michigan State University.
In his 13 years at Broad College of Business’ School of Hospitality Business, the restaurateur-turned-educator not only made an impact in the classroom as an engaging professor, but also transformed the way the college committed to developing students’ careers through internships. By leveraging his Rolodex and industry contacts, he maximized the volume of the School’s annual Career Expo, which today welcomes more than 80 top hospitality clients to campus, and served as director of the Student Internship Office (today, the Student Industry Resource Center, or SIRC).
In 2012, more than 20 hospitality business alumni gathered at Les Gourmets to celebrate their 25th graduation reunion. There, they reflected on their careers since attending classes in East Lansing and agreed that they wouldn’t have made their first steps if it wasn’t for Vlahakis. “After attending that event, my classmate Steve Thompson [BA ’87, now general manager of the Standard Club in Chicago] and I discussed creating the endowment in Professor Vlahakis’s name to support the SIRC office. Professor Vlahakis believed that the experience received in an internship gave you the best learning for your career, while building the confidence and character of an MSU student,” said Beth Perry (BA ’88), now director of learning and development at NorthShore University Health System.
That same year, Perry and Thompson spearheaded the endowment to honor Vlahakis’s tremendous impact on students, and with extensive support since then from fellow alumni he touched, have set a new benchmark for this year: reaching $90,000 by Mr. Vlahakis’s 90th birthday in June 2017. “We are a little over halfway there, and are seeking widespread support from all of the Broad College community to reach our goal,” Perry and Thompson explained.
“Year after year, industry leaders tell the SIRC that Spartans are the ones who are willing to roll up their sleeves, think like the owner, find solutions to challenges, and leave their mark on the company. And year after year, students return to campus from their internships more mature, better leaders, and prepared for outstanding careers in our industry. This is a Spartan legacy, and it is certainly Mr. Vlahakis’s legacy, as well. As his former students, it is our responsibility to make his legacy a lasting one,” Perry said.
Fellow students – now leaders in the hospitality industry – look back fondly on their memories with Vlahakis, reflecting on his influence in their careers.
“Mr. V. stressed professionalism, courtesy, and making a great first impression to all the students. As Alumni Association Executive Board members, we frequently remind those we meet that our school and program is always ‘all about the students.’ I cannot think of anyone who epitomizes this mantra more than Vlahakis – he is Mr. Hospitality,” said Chuck Day, regional director, revenue management for hire, Americas at InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG).
“As an assistant internship coordinator with Mr. Vlahakis 25 years ago, I clearly remember his devotion to the students and always pushing them to strive for more in everything they did. He encouraged our professionalism, etiquette, and integrity. Mr. Vlahakis was there for everyone all the time, whether it was to help fine-tune a resume, respond to a job offer with grace, or put on a necktie with precision. His values are still part of me and I keep in touch with him on a regular basis,” said Steve Marx, president, Hotel Source, Inc.
For more information or to support this endowment’s goal, please contact Brian Keehner, Broad College of Business Development (firstname.lastname@example.org)