Homecoming events celebrate a new chapter in the life of the School. Spartans Make Headlines. . . and so does the School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State University, which had much to celebrate over the busy Homecoming weekend, September 26 – 28.
This year, the School welcomed Dr. Michael McCall to its “seven events in 72 hours” MSU Homecoming extravaganza. Dr. McCall will become the School’s new director on January 1, 2015.
“Homecoming was a perfect chance to introduce Dr. McCall to the things our School has become known for,” says Professor and Interim Director Dr. Bonnie Knutson. “Our incredibly enthusiastic students, our dedicated and energetic alumni, staff members who happily work and participate beyond the bounds of their job descriptions, and faculty members who teach their classes on Friday and then march in the parade that evening, just like kids again. I’m so glad he got to see everyone in action.”
Indeed, all that energy was on display during the parade, so much so that the School’s Hospitality Association Float was named Best Spartan Spirit for the third year in a row – garnering a coveted parade award for the 10th time in 12 years.
But let’s start at the beginning. On Thursday afternoon, School alumni began to arrive in town for the annual student/alumni golf outing. Planned by the award-winning student chapter of the Club Managers Association of America, the outing connects students and alumni who play in foursomes at Forest Akers West. “We love that the alumni return early to campus each year to be with us for the golf outing,” says CMAA marketing coordinator Karina Thomas (BA Hospitality Business ’16).
That evening in Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center, Dr. Ray Schmidgall helped preside over the annual Faculty/Alumni Roundtable. Twenty-five attended the session in which faculty members had an opportunity to discuss their current research with alumni.
Just down the hallway, 80 alumni and students gathered for the annual kick-off for the Spartan Sponsors Mentor Program. There were at least two alumni at each table at the event which paired individual alumni mentors with students sharing a career interest. “We had a wonderful turnout,” says Authella Collins Hawks, whose Student and Industry Resource Center in The School sponsors the event. “The mentoring relationships that began tonight will have a lasting influence on our students throughout this school year and their careers.”
On Friday, during a day-long meeting of the School’s Alumni Association Executive and Appointed Boards, members met Dr. McCall, and discussed the direction for the Association in the coming year, all under the leadership of President Bruce Lange (BA Hospitality Business ’78) and Dr. Knutson. In a packed agenda, Acting Dean of the Broad College of Business Dr. Sanjay Gupta briefed the alumni about the College, as well. A total of 65 attended, including several faculty and staff members and four students.
One special feature of the meeting was naming Dean James F. Rainey, the School’s Academic Programs director, Staff Member of the Year. An associate dean emeritus in the College of Business, this year Dean Rainey celebrates his 50th year of service to MSU.
“The meeting was so positive,” says alumnus Mike Rice (BA Hospitality Business ’91), one of the two indispensable advisors to the School’s Destination Auction each year. “We’re starting a new chapter in the School with a lot of pride in our past, and much to look forward to.”
The alumni, faculty, and staff carried their enthusiasm at the board meeting all the way to the parade step-off, where they met up with the students who had built a float destined for greatness! Adhering to MSU’s Homecoming theme of “Spartans Make Headlines,” the float reflected State News headlines about the School from 1928 onward on one side, and twitter posts from recent years on the other, including the news about the appointment of Dr. McCall. With over 100 students, alumni, faculty and staff members, friends, and family (and a couple of canines) walking with the float, cheering and singing the fight song, the judges made an obvious choice! News that the float had won Best Spartan Spirit was announced later that evening, AFTER the last student and alumni event of the day.
It is a tradition that after the parade is over, all the School’s parade walkers gather in the lobby of the Broad Business complex, where selfless alumni (Mike Rice, Allegra Johnson, and Chuck Day – all class of ’91) annually provide food and beverages for the students. As if Mike’s world-famous Mac-n-Cheese wasn’t enough, students were also treated to prizes and gift certificates ranging from School t-shirts and memory sticks to meals at local restaurants – all donated by alumni.
On Saturday, another day of warm, sunny weather, with colors beginning to change on the leaves surrounding the Red Cedar River and Spartan Stadium, the School’s famous pre-game brunch began at 8:30 am. Chef Allan Sherwin (BA Hospitality Business ’64) and his student volunteers (yes, these college students were present and working before 7 a.m.!) fortified guests with sumptuous menu items and pre-game beverages as they got to know Dr. McCall, took part in prize drawings and reconnected with each other.
Then they headed to Spartan Stadium for the noon game, a 56-14 shellacking of Wyoming. The bonus: the half-time introduction of the winning floats, with HA President Jeff Keller (BA Hospitality Business ’15) and HA COO Taylor Pahl (BA Hospitality Business ’15) on the field to accept the award and one more chance for School boosters to cheer them on. Describing the experience, Taylor said, “It is such an honor to win Best Spartan Spirit for this year’s Homecoming float. We put in so much work and could not have had more support from our faculty and student leaders. Accepting this award on the field made it even better, knowing that we were representing the School.”
Also at half-time, School student D’Andra Sanders (BA Hospitality Business ’15) was recognized as part of MSU’s Homecoming Court. She is employed with Brody Square Culinary Services and is a first-year resident assistant.
“I couldn’t help but be impressed this weekend,” Dr. McCall said afterward. “It is clear that this is a School with wonderful traditions. Most of all, it is a School that values its alumni, and strives to connect them to students and faculty members in ways that are unique and meaningful. I look forward to being a part of this vision.”
Writing to the Alumni Board Members after the weekend, Dr. Knutson said, “There is no other unit on campus that has the loyal and dedicated support of its alumni/industry like we do. We send you all a huge thank you for caring and sharing as much as you do. As MSU’s mantra says, ‘Spartans Will!’ ”
Thanks go as well to Alumni Relations and Development Coordinator Lena Loeffler, who saw to every detail of nearly all the School’s Homecoming efforts, and did so flawlessly. (And by the way, she also managed to organize the post-parade feeding of the entire Spartan Marching Band!) The energy and dedication of the School’s staff members are inspirational to the students, and a big part of its character.
Finally, Dr. Knutson reported, “After the parade, someone quipped to me that since the School of Hospitality Business wins the Spirit Award so often, maybe they should just give it to you next year and save you the work. I replied, ‘No. We will earn it!’” again!