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May 2016

May 2016 

  Gourmet Night 2016 Gets Lucky in Kentucky

It was a "Run for the Roses" on April 16 as a sellout crowd of 370 guests donned their haute hats and fancy fascinators for the 43rd Annual Gourmet Night, themed Jockeys and Juleps: A Tribute to the Kentucky Derby. The night began with mint peach juleps, Southern-style passed appetizers and competitive bidding during the always anticipated silent auction, solicited electronically for the first time this year. Guests upped their bids using iPads, both in the auction area and from the convenience of their tables. The final tally brought in a winning $22,927 for the College's scholarship fund. With a trumpeter's call to dinner, the action moved to the "Winner's Circle," where strings of white lights draped above tables festooned with pastel striped linens, sparkling wine glasses, and vase towers of red roses and topiaries in the shape of jockeys on horses. The five-course gourmet menu, inspired by Guest Chef Jacques Fox of Artisans Restaurant and created in collaboration with student chefs Kristina Heckel and Samantha Rice, put a French accent on an evening abundant with fine food, divine wine, glorious Derby garb and guests jockeying from table to table to visit with friends new and old. "Reintroducing the guest chef was a very popular addition to this year's event. Not only did Chef Fox enhance the menu, but his expertise in the timing between courses helped expedite service and we 'crossed the finish line' in record time–before 10 p.m.," said Executive Director Erin Oeser Goodell. Accolades all around for the 2016 student managers led by GM Caitlin O'Brien and the hundreds of kitchen and service volunteers who spent the last year "training for the big race." After a winning night in Kentucky, we can't wait to see how next year's team will "up the ante" on the College's signature event. "It never ceases to amaze me how each student management team is able to top the next," said Goodell, who completed her 12th "race" as faculty advisor. The 44th Annual Gourmet Night is slated for April 1, 2017, so don't be an April fool and save the date! Tickets go on sale at the end of January. (Photos: Pearl Cajoles/Steve Lee Photography)


  'Wall of Honor' Revealed at Alumni Awards Reception

About 80 well-heeled guests mixed and mingled to celebrate the professional accomplishments and selfless contributions of an elite group of alums during the Alumni Awards Reception, hosted by the Hilton College Alumni Board of Directors on April 15 in the Shamrock Ballroom of the Hilton University of Houston. Jennifer Royo ('06) received the Distinguished Young Alumni Award. Royo, co-founder of No Label Brewing Co., is also in charge of marketing and sales of the fast-growing Katy microbrewery. The Distinguished Alumni Award went to Dirk J. Smith (BBA '82, MHM '92), an entrepreneur and coffeehouse and restaurant consultant, who currently owns several small businesses in Houston. He is also an adjunct lecturer and the force behind establishing Cougar Grounds. Dr. Mary Dawson ('92, MHM '95, Ed.D. '08) received the Distinguished Faculty Award. Dawson, who started her teaching career as a lecturer here, rose through the ranks to become the new associate dean for academic affairs and Donald H. Hubbs Professor. The Honorary Alumni Award went to Carter (Hon. '16) and Kathy Bliss (BSIS '03, Hon. '16). The Bliss family established the Becky Bliss Scholarship, and have mentored nearly 50 scholarship recipients over the years. They have also been big-time supporters of Gourmet Night. After the awards presentation, attendees headed to the first floor of the South Wing lobby to see the newly-installed Alumni Recognition Wall. Special thanks was given to Board treasurer and past president (pictured left) Carol White (Hon. '88), who took the leadership role in ensuring the wall’s creation and funding. (Pictured right) Director of Alumni Wendy Ballard ('01) said the wall pays tribute to our amazing alumni and shows current students that they, too, can aspire to have their names on the wall, or one day serve on the Board. "I couldn't be more excited or proud to have this 'Wall of Honor' in place," Ballard said. The reception was sponsored by Helen Barrera ('96), White and Gourmet Night. The College's senior graphic designer, Katie Guidroz, designed the artwork and oversaw the installation of the graphics. To see photos of the winners, click here. (Photo: Pearl Cajoles)


  Sweet Success AND Scholarships at 13th Annual Sugar Land Festival

When it comes to culinary festivals for a great cause, it’s hard to beat the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair, co-produced by the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce and Hilton College. Proceeds from the event go toward the Sugar Land Wine & Food Affair Scholarship Endowment, which benefits our students. After this year's event (lucky number 13), the endowment can now provide more than $25,000 in scholarships annually, said Kevin S. Simon, director of the Fred Parks Wine Outreach Programs. The festival, partly staffed by approximately 125 student volunteers, also provides students with experiential learning opportunities in wine, food & beverage, and operations, not to mention incredible networking opportunities. This five-day event, held April 6-10, kicked off with the VIP LangeTwins Vintner Dinner at NOAH's, followed by the On the Rocks Bartender's Challenge featuring Hendricks' Gin at Imperial Lofts the next evening. A treat for any foodie's palate, the Sugar Land Marriott Town Square was host to Friday's popular Grand Tasting, the Fred Parks Lecture Series featuring tasting tips from Master Sommelier Tim Gaiser, and a seminar on "The Love of Bourbon and Cheese." On Saturday, more food and wine aficionados gathered for the Sip & Stroll at Imperial, followed by Sunday's Bistro Brunch at the Sugar Land Town Square. A heartfelt "thank you" to Keri Schmidt, president and CEO of the Fort Bend Chamber, and Juliette Bloomer, event director, for their continued partnership with Hilton College, and to all of the sponsors, vendors, alums, faculty, staff and friends of the College who support this fantastic festival. And, of course, to our own "wine guy," Kevin Simon, for his tireless dedication to this event—and our students." Cheers! (Photos: Pearl Cajoles)


  Eric's Club Welcomes Newest Lecturer!

Sharmagne Taylor, CMP ('86), president and CEO of On-Site Partners, a full-service meeting and event-planning firm, came back "home" to share her career journey with students, faculty, family and friends at the 30th Eric Hilton Distinguished Chair Alumni Lecture Series, held April 14 in Alumni Hall. Taylor began her lecture by sharing how she built On-Site Partners, then talked about the successes and challenges of being a business owner, tips on how to succeed in the corporate world, and how to find balance between career and family. As an Eric's Club member since 2014 and the newest lecturing member, Taylor belongs to an extraordinary group of alumni who are inspiring the future leaders of the hospitality industry through this time-honored lecture series. After her lecture, Bob Planck ('71), current chairman, presented Taylor with her very own Eric's Club chair. Several past lecturers were also on hand to welcome her and celebrate her story. "Eric's Club members have shown that our graduates have the potential to reach the pinnacle of corporate success or forge ahead as entrepreneurs, while still committing their time, talent and treasure to our beloved alma mater," Taylor said. So why does she give back? Because Hilton College has helped her fulfill her life's passions—to mentor students, to do work that really matters, and to reach her full potential. "Business ownership, along with my involvement with the College, allows me to reach my full potential in life," she said. Her one piece of professional advice to students today? "Don't be afraid to move, to pursue your passion or to quit when it's not working for you! At the end of your life, you don't want to have missed a chance to live fully." Wise words from an extraordinary alum! Learn more about her journey here. Kudos, Sharmagne! (Photo: Pearl Cajoles)


  A New Tradition: Faculty and Staff Appreciation Luncheon

To mark a fruitful first year with Hilton College, Dean Dennis Reynolds pictured upper left treated faculty and staff to a hot meal, time to mingle, an awards ceremony and tokens of thanks. "We adopted a new way to publicly celebrate our faculty and staff," he said of this year’s first Faculty and Staff Appreciation Luncheon, held April 27 at Hilton University of Houston’s Waldorf-Astoria Ballroom. Awardees pictured clockwise from top left were: Dayra Mendez, lead housekeeping supervisor for Hilton University of Houston, Hotel Staff Excellence Award; Sean Lawless, manager of Cougar Grounds, College Staff Excellence Award; Dr. Cristian Morosan, who was promoted to associate professor; Assistant Professor Sujata Sirsat (with Dr. Ki-Joon Back) and Assistant Professor Priyanko Guchait, who both received the Stephen Rushmore/HVS Faculty Research Award; Ken Kaser (with Dr. Mary Dawson), Sugar Land Program director, Teaching Excellence Award; Alexis Hoey, lecturer and CMAA faculty advisor, Service Excellence Award; and Associate Professor Jay Neal, past interim director of Hilton College-San Antonio, Donald Greenaway Teaching Excellence Award. Sharron Planck, a friend of the late Don Greenaway who supports this award endowment, presented Dr. Neal the award. In addition to an engraved clock, staff winners received $1,000 and free parking for a year, and faculty honorees also took home $1,000 honorariums. Dean Reynolds presented a jubilant Dr. Morosan with a bottle of Dom Pérignon to celebrate his well-deserved tenure. Everyone in the ballroom also took home Cougar Red Nike polo shirts embroidered with Hilton College’s new 50th anniversary logo, which will be celebrated in 2019. Kudos to all of our awardees, and a special shout out to the Dean's executive assistant Donna Shaw and executive secretaries Yolanda Castro and Wendy Gary for orchestrating the details of this luncheon, including the personalized gift bags and the seating arrangements that allowed everyone to spend time with team members they usually don't see. As Dean Reynolds said, "We've finished another year stronger than we were when we started. Let's do this again next year!" Upward and onward, Hilton College! (Photos: Pearl Cajoles)