PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) – Gulf Coast State College received an unprecedented donation on Thursday.
The Hilton family donated $2.5 million to the college, the largest single donation in the school’s history.
Most of the money will go towards expanding the school’s hospitality and tourism program.
“I have always been interested in education and hospitality management and tourism education in particular and it seemed to me that with tourism being the number one private industry in Bay County, we need to have the best hospitality management program imaginable,” Julie Hilton said.
$1 million will go towards operating funds to help grow the hospitality and tourism program.
Another $1 million will go towards permanently installing a hospitality and tourism expert on staff.
And an additional $500,000 will support the Gulf Coast Guarantee scholarship campaign.
“For the students, it’s going to bring an enhanced curriculum,” Gulf Coast State College Executive Director Dr. Sean Preston said. “It’s going to bring real-world examples of what it means to be a hospitality expert. It’s going to bring the very best faculty we can get our hands-on. Is going to provide for us some additional space for the students in this building that will be specific to the hospitality and tourism industry.”
Being involved in hospitality all her life, Hilton said it is very important for hotels to have properly trained staff.
“We will be developing a program where we work with employers in the community to find out more about what they want and need and what kind of education will be useful to them,” Hilton said.
This program will provide our ever-growing resort town with a number of qualified hospitality employees upon graduation.
“You can have the most beautiful buildings in the world, but if you don’t have wonderful team members who serve our guests, you don’t have anything,” Hilton said.
Gulf Coast State College’s Advanced Technology Center will become the Charles Hilton Center for Advanced Technology and Hospitality Management as part of the donation.
The official ribbon cutting will take place in July.