|By Dana Sanchez, The Bradenton Herald, Fla.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Aug. 7, 2004 - BRADENTON, Fla. -- A $500,000 endowment to USF's School of Hotel and Restaurant Management will bring greater visibility and credibility to the school and provide the local tourism industry with more qualified graduates, a local professor said.
John Walker, a professor at USF's School of Hotel & Restaurant Management, received the first endowed professorship in the Sarasota-Manatee campus' 30-year history.
Walker, who failed English in high school, has since authored seven books on tourism and hospitality; most are college textbooks.
A $250,000 gift from John McKibbon, a Marriott Hotel franchise owner, was matched with a State of Florida matching grant for a total of $500,000.
McKibbon also owns M3, a company that hosts an online service providing financial information on hotels.
The endowment will elevate the school's status, bringing national focus and helping attract more students, Walker said.
"When someone of McKibbon's stature decides to make a donation, it's an exceptional honor," Walker said.
Local tourism leaders like restaurant owner Ed Chiles are waiting for students to graduate from the school, which offers a two-year program as part of a bachelor's degree.
Launched in 2003, the first class has yet to graduate.
"The industry recognizes that we have students they will soon be wanting," Walker said.
For Chiles, the school represents a way to challenge and nurture employees committed to a career in hospitality.
"We have a very transient work force," Chiles said. "Anything we can do to retain employees, we encourage."
With two employees already enrolled in the program, Chiles has his eye on them for promotion.
"We encourage them to do it," he said. "It helps them move up."
The endowment will be mutually beneficial for the school and local tourism and hospitality industries, Walker said. It will allow him to benchmark best practices, which he can share with industry leaders.
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