This fall, the School of Hospitality Business returned to its historical home on the fourth floor of the Eugene C. Eppley Center. And Spartan alumni went above and beyond to help make the move and transition a success, contributing their time, talent and financial support to the project.
In celebration of these dedicated alumni, a ceremony was held during this year’s MSU homecoming week to officially recognize the newly named spaces in the building. Karthik Namasivayam, director of the School of Hospitality Business, emphasized how alumni and donor gifts like those honored at the event are a continuing source of strength for the School.
“The generosity of our alumni and donors allows us to expand programming that supports students in the form of scholarships, emergency relief grants, travel abroad support and extra- and co-curricular programming, including support for student clubs and social and cultural events that engage faculty, staff and students, and participation and travel to conferences,” he said.
“These gifts also allow our faculty to engage in quality research and travel to conferences,” Namasivayam added. “It is our ambition to continue to build on the strong foundations laid through the support of our many donors and develop new opportunities for our students to lead the hospitality industry in the future.”
Of the notable gifts, some bolstered faculty support. A group of dedicated alumni from the School’s alumni association collectively gave to name the Hospitality Business Alumni Association Faculty/Staff Lounge.
Gail Taylor (B.A. Hotel and Restaurant Management ’87, MBA ’90) and her siblings gave to name the Reginald & Rowena Ayala Faculty Office in honor of their parents, who were also Spartans. Rowena earned her bachelor’s degree in 1955 and Reginald in 1954, along with an MBA in 1977. Reginald was the first African American to graduate from MSU’s hotel, restaurant and institutional management program, as well as the first African American on the MSU men’s basketball team.
Not only did John (B.A. Accounting ’82, MBA ’83) and Judy Theuer (B.A. Communication ’84) support the naming of the John & Judy Theuer Adjunct Faculty Office, they also made a difference for the School on MSU’s annual Give Green Day in March 2021. For every donation to the Eppley Center renovations, the Theuers matched dollar for dollar, helping the School reach over $50,000 in a single day.
“Judy and I are proud to support the ‘Back on Top’ initiative,” Theuer said. “We met at MSU and are thrilled to help pay it forward for our future hospitality industry leaders. Spartans Will . . . and the School Will as well.”
Some gifts honored family members who have made an impact in the hospitality industry. The Vlahakis family made a gift to the School’s Student and Industry Resource Center, which was founded by iconic restaurateur and beloved alumnus Angelos Vlahakis (B.A. Hospitality Business ’51) in 1991. Their support named the Angelos & Betty Vlahakis SIRC Director’s Office of the School’s Student and Industry Resource Center. In addition, Jim (B.A. Hotel and Restaurant Management ’73) and Kris Gerish also confirmed their commitment to the SIRC office.
Jim Anhut (MBA ’85), director of the School’s Real Estate Investment Management minor, also gave back to honor a loved one. He and his wife, Patti (B.A. Special Education ’80, M.A. Special Education ’85), named the fourth-floor lobby in honor of John W. Anhut, innkeeper.
In addition, contributions were also made to support alumni relations, student opportunities and operations within the college. Houston Striggow (B.A. Hotel and Restaurant Management ’75), co-founder and COO of SusieCakes Bakery, made a donation for the Houston Striggow Alumni Director’s Office. James (MBA ’82) and Lise Pardikes supported the naming of the Jim Pardikes Education Abroad Director’s Office. Phil (B.A. Hospitality Business ’77) and Reedy Hickey helped to name the Phil & Reedy Hickey Conference Room, and Bill Tiefel (B.A. Accounting ’56) the Norma & Bill Tiefel ’56 Small Conference Room. Finally, Chi-Han Chyung (Master’s Business Law and Office Administration ’61) gave for the naming of the C.H. Chyung Student Lounge.
“Philanthropy from those closest to the School is a testament to its current quality and an investment in its continued leadership among its peer educational institutions,” Namasivayam explained. “This recognition and support are important to all of us at the School — faculty and staff but also, importantly, our students. To our current and prospective students, the recognition of deep support from our alumni assures them of their choice of educational institution and of a strong future.”
With dedicated space for faculty, staff, recruiters and prospective students, a visitors’ lounge, career and advising space and conference rooms, the School will have ample space for Spartans to collaborate and connect — a hallmark of the MSU experience.