Graduates of 50 years or more gathered in The School’s Culinary Business Learning Lab dining room for a breakfast prepared by Professor of Culinary Business Allan Sherwin (BA ’64) and students enrolled in HB 345 – Quantity Food Production Systems this summer on Friday, June 7.

The annual event, part of MSU’s overall “Alumni Reunion Days,” helped graduates of the Class of 1963 and earlier from what was then called the School of HRI to remember their days along the banks of the Red Cedar and reconnect with fellow HRI graduates.

“It’s interesting,” said School Director Dr. Ron Cichy (BA ’72, MBA ’77), “that some of their memories are so similar to those of my era, and even to those of current students.”

Indeed, almost every alumnus from any year can relate to George Conrade’s (MBA ’63) memory of walking across campus from Owen Hall to Kellogg Center for an 8 a.m. class with legendary Professor Dr. Len Kotschevar in the winter.  Just surviving winter term was an accomplishment!

But more than anything, the alumni spoke of their wonderful education, and the start MSU gave them on rewarding, if varying careers.

Tom Dawker (BA ’63) ran an insurance agency in East Lansing, lived across the street from legendary basketball coach Jud Heathcote, and served as president of the Rebounders Club.  Most importantly, however, all three of his children are Spartans, all MSU graduates.

Dennis Collette (BA ’63, MBA ’65), was a hospital administrator in Poughkeepsie, NY and Princeton, NJ who describes an unusual practice in the Kellogg Center back when he was a bellman.  “During large conferences, guests shared rooms with perfect strangers – and they never seemed to mind,” he explained.  Dennis’ son and daughter-in-law are both MSU graduates, as well.

Hans Schuler (BA ’59), chairman and CEO of Schuler’s Restaurant and Pub, recalled legendary MSU football coach Biggy Munn talking him into transferring from Cornell University to MSU to study in the School of HRI.  “I got a great education,” he said, and even afterward “accessed the experts at MSU, like Dr. Malcolm Trout from Food Science and Human Nutrition and Joe Thompson from Marketing, to help start the retail sales of Schuler’s Bar Scheeze.”

Two of Hans’ classmates were also at the breakfast.  Zoe Slagle (BA ’59, MA ’64) and Susan Smith (BA ’59, MS ’77) were among the very few female members of their class – and each went on to be leaders in the industry and in The School’s Alumni Association.  Zoe and Susan were both leaders in early Les Gourmets events in the School, now a 63-year tradition showcasing the culinary and business talents of students each spring.  Back in the 50s, Zoe remembers, students had the entire responsibility for planning and preparing the Les Gourmets meal, and also for providing all decorations and entertainment – all with just a faculty advisor.  In fact, Susan recalls being responsible for the salads in 1959’s event, and at 1957’s “A Night in the Ol’ South,” dressed as a southern belle, she made the cover of the MSU Alumni Association magazine that year! She went on to manage food service operations in hospitals, college dining, and public schools.  She taught at Albion College, and owned a food manufacturing business in Denver.  And she served as The School’s Alumni Association president.  Both Susan and Zoe are members of The School’s Alumni Association Hall of Fame.

The returning graduates remembered the faculty members whose names by now are legendary in hospitality academia:  Eckert, Keister, Borsenik, Kotschevar, Blaker, Stafford, Drake, and Greenaway (BA ’34).  They recalled influential alumni such as Robert Emerson (BA ’47), former general manager of the Kellogg Center and “ambassador” for MSU under President John Hannah.  And they talked of campus activities (Winter Carnival on the Red Cedar) and off- campus activities (relaxing in the bar at the Coral Gables)!

The graduates heard from Dean James Rainey, director of Academic Programs in The School, who noted that 822 undergraduates were enrolled in The School last year, with 144 graduating during Spring and Summer Semesters.  At CAREER EXPO XXXIV last Fall, he reported, 64 firms were represented and 686 students participated.  Graduate students numbered 35, with 12 graduating in the Spring.  The goal in the near term, he said, was to balance domestic and international enrollment in the graduate programs in The School, and to increase graduate student enrollment overall to 50.

Very encouraging were the job placement numbers Dean Rainey discussed.  For the Spring and Summer Semesters 2012, 93 percent of those reporting had been placed in permanent positions.  And with graduates from Spring and Summer 2013 still reporting, the percentage is at 85.

It’s good news and good memories for The School of Hospitality Business at MSU.

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