More than 50 years after hotel industry icon Conrad Hilton gifted $1.5 million to build the first hospitality school in Texas – the University of Houston Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management – his legacy of giving lives on today. The University has received a $10 million gift from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to help the college navigate challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. This legacy gift, which creates an unrestricted endowment, will help Hilton College fulfill its mission of training the next generation of hospitality leaders.
"Hilton College has become world-renowned as a leader in hospitality education and research, in no small part because of the Hilton Foundation's philanthropy," said UH President Renu Khator. "At every major stage of the college's growth, the foundation has been there to support our hospitality students by funding critical facilities, programs, endowments and scholarships. On behalf of the university, I thank them for this truly remarkable gift, especially during this challenging time."
Hilton College has been the beneficiary of the Hilton Foundation's generosity with gifts in excess of $95 million. The foundation has distributed more than $1.6 billion in philanthropic grants for initiatives it supports around the world.
Starting with a class of 39 students and three adjunct professors in 1969, Hilton College today stands as a global leader in hospitality education with approximately 1,000 students from 54 countries, more than 30 full-time faculty members and six degree programs. The college has graduated more than 8,500 students who work in hospitality leadership positions around the world.
"We are proud to have partnered with the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Houston, now one of the leading hospitality institutions in the country, since its inception," said Peter Laugharn, president and CEO of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. "Through this grant, we look forward to supporting a new generation of students, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college, in becoming leaders in the hospitality sector."
Dennis Reynolds, dean of the Hilton College, is grateful not only for the foundation's significant financial support through the years, but also for the continued strategic guidance to grow the world's only hospitality program where students work and take classes in an internationally branded, full-service hotel.
With a $30.4 million expansion and renovation of the 86-room Hilton University of Houston hotel set to begin in March, including the addition of a five-story guest tower that will bring the number of rooms to 150, the future is bright for UH hospitality students.
"When we embarked on our strategic-planning process in 2015, the Hilton Foundation was there as well, even offering a representative to help us chart a new roadmap," said Reynolds. "Today, as we weather this pandemic and enter our newest chapter with the expansion of our Hilton Hotel, a cutting-edge curriculum launch, a new and fully integrated Eric's Club Center for Student Success and a bold vision for the future, the Hilton Foundation has once again made an indelible impact with this legacy gift."
The gift comes at a challenging time as the hospitality industry has been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic, added Reynolds. A survey last fall by the American Hotel & Lodging Association found that nearly nine in 10 hotels have been forced to lay off or furlough employees.
"As we navigate an industry that has been devastated by the coronavirus, the timing of this insightful and generous gift could not be more critical, its commitment to our mission more relevant," said Reynolds. "We are hospitality. Thanks to the Hilton Foundation, these funds will afford us the resources we need to help prepare our students to lead innovation and change in what will be our industry's new post-pandemic landscape."
Since Conrad Hilton established his hotel company in 1919, Hilton has grown to 17 brands positioned across more than 5,700 properties in 113 countries and territories. The company has hired thousands of Hilton College graduates who work as Hilton team members around the world and gifted more than $1.7 million to support UH students through endowed scholarships.
"The Hilton Foundation's consistent support to the University of Houston is astounding and its impact cannot be understated," said Eloise Brice, vice president for university advancement. "The foundation's generosity has helped launch thousands of hospitality careers and we are grateful for their relentless commitment to student success."