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Celebrating 80 years
The School of Hotel and Restaurant Administration at Oklahoma State University is celebrating its 80 anniversary in 2017 by reflecting on its history and anticipating its future as a leader in global hospitality and tourism education.
The HRAD program began when Oklahoma A&M President Henry G. Bennett asked Daisy Purdy, the head of household science department, to form a committee to work on a curriculum plan in hotel administration.
Purdy believed the degree would need a strong business influence because most Oklahoma hotel general managers would be responsible for food service as well as general management. Courses in foods, nutrition, meal management and institutional administration were planned. Architecture and engineering courses were included so the graduates could read blueprints and talk with engineers with authority.
According to Purdy, the plans were warmly received: “After we put together what we considered a good course for such training, I took what we had planned to several outstanding hotel managers in the state for their consideration. … On the whole, they agreed with our thinking.”
The departments of Home Economics, Commerce and Engineering formed the joint program in 1937.
This new program included 30 weeks of supervised employment in a hotel or similar institution. By 1942, a restaurant management course was added. Purdy taught a basic course that was required for all students. The College Cafeteria and Murray Hall were used as laboratories.
By 1948, the School of Hotel and Restaurant Administration had a faculty listing in the school course catalog. In 1950, the Union Club Hotel opened at the new Oklahoma State University Student Union. Now known as the Atherton Hotel at OSU, it has been an integral part of the hotel and restaurant education. The hotel continues to be used as a professional training ground for hotel operations and guest service skills.
John J. MacAllister, best known as “Mr. Mac,” took over HRAD in 1955 and served as director until 1971. During his tenure, the program moved more toward the hospitality industry and grew from 29 students to 287 when he retired. MacAllister modified the curriculum, added new courses and started the annual Restaurant Management Conference. He also started a hotel and restaurant society for students. He was known for taking information about the program to various trade shows across the nation, and he secured the first $10,000 Houston Endowment Foundation Scholarship.
In 1956, MacAllister started Hospitality Days, an annual gathering planned and executed by students. The purpose of Hospitality Days remains the same today: to bring alumni back to share their experiences, to have professionals in the hospitality and tourism industry participate in a career fair and to build student appreciation for both the school and the industry.
Baker Bokorney’s service to the school resulted in the 1991 completion of the second floor of Human Sciences West. The school’s space included two food service laboratories, a demonstration style classroom, a quick service restaurant and Taylor’s Dining Room.
During its 80 years, the School of Hotel and Restaurant Administration has had nine directors:
- Daisy Purdy, 1937-55
- John J. “Mac” MacAllister, 1955-71
- Baker Bokorney, 1972-1991
- Ray Kavanaugh, 1992– 1997
- Patrick J. Moreo, 1998-2006
- Richard Ghiselli, 2007–2009
- Bill Ryan, 2010-2013
- Sue Williams, 2013-2014
- Ben Goh, 2014-present
The 300 students currently enrolled in the School of Hotel and Restaurant Administration take a business-based curriculum that includes an emphasis in lodging, restaurant and event management, where they develop accounting, critical thinking and communication skills. They also receive hands-on training in classes covering lodging operations and basic food preparation. Senior Amber Leonard (Class of 2017) says, “The opportunity to have so many hands-on courses and leadership opportunities is a priceless experience.”
The school has been named one of the top research programs in hospitality research productivity by The Journal of Culinary Science & Technology, which ranked OSU first for average faculty productivity and third for the overall weighted rank and tenured faculty productivity from 2001-2010.
“We are proud to be recognized for our faculty’s research accomplishments,” says Assistant Dean and Director Ben Goh. “This type of recognition also reflects the high caliber of scholars our students are exposed to, not only in the classroom, but as they are involved in many of these research projects with their professors.”
While the school may have begun with an Oklahoma-centric focus, today’s HRAD students have unique international opportunities. Every year students have an opportunity to spend five weeks in Switzerland learning European cuisine and culture. Students can also apply to be part of a China study abroad program, living in China and interning at one of the leading hotel properties.
The School of Hotel and Restaurant Administration and the Department of Tourism and Hotel Management at Sun Yat-sen University in China’s Guangdong Province offer a dual undergraduate degree program in hospitality administration. The collaboration between the universities allows students from each to spend two years studying at their home university, then travel overseas to complete a two-year program at the other. Upon completion of the program, the students will have earned bachelor’s degrees from both schools.
For students who might think spending six months away in China is just too long to be away from home, other opportunities close to home abound, including the Distinguished Chef Benefit Series. Since 1991, chefs from all over the world have come to OSU for one week to teach the art and science of preparing and serving a multi-course gourmet meal for guests. Students have the opportunity to volunteer in marketing, hospitality, the kitchen, guest service or wine management for the event.
Recently Chef Sharim Karim, a former Ph.D. graduate spent a week with HRAD students preparing Malaysian cuisine for their guests.
Jim Anderson, a former faculty member and past president of the Oklahoma Restaurant Association, started the event more than 20 years ago to provide professional instruction and hands-on experience for students entering hospitality careers. Since then, more than 100 chefs have provided valuable lessons to students while exposing guests to unique cuisine from around the world. Director Goh says the chef series has elevated the reputation of the program worldwide. “Chefs go back and spread the word about this amazing event that provides our students additional experiences outside the classroom,” he says.
In the fall of 2016, the north wing of Human Sciences was opened, moving the School into offices on the third floor and opening new facilities for our students. These new facilities provide our students with a multitude of connectional opportunities and hands-on learning experiences and include:
Dick Autry and Jim Anderson Culinary Skills Lab
Marriott Teaching Kitchen
Jimmy’s Egg, Braum’s, Johnnies Charcoal Broiler and EB Emerging Brands Inc
Hal Smith Restaurants Demonstration Classroom
Pappas Restaurants Reception Room
Directors Conference Room
Keith and Rebecca Ashburn Student Study Room
Wayne Hirst Center for Beverage Education
Bob and Sylvia Slater Administrative Suite
The new space provides street front access to a beverage education center, Taylor’s Restaurant and state-of-the- art food labs. Industry partners have worked closely with the HRAD faculty to ensure that the new facilities will stay flexible and on the cutting edge.
The future is bright for the school, its students and alums. “In order for our program to remain a high caliber academic one, our students need to experience the industry’s newest and brightest options,” Goh says. “The program is well positioned with the new facilities, business based and industry need-driven curriculum, research capacity and reputation to continue to be a global leader in hospitality and tourism education for another 80 years.”