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Record number of Horst Schulze School of Hospitality Management students host 29th annual Hospitality Gala

A record 51 students in the College of Human Sciences' Horst Schulze School of Hospitality Management put their hospitality knowledge and expertise to the test at the 29th annual Hospitality Gala where excellence in service and hospitality were provided to distinguished guests at the highly anticipated annual fundraising event on April 18.

Held inside The Hotel at Auburn University, guests arrived and walked through a beautiful floral arrangement where they were met with elegant décor. The first hour guests enjoyed a reception with hors d’oeuvres from distinguished chefs that included duck liver terrine, jerk duck empanadas and more paired with wine to complement the cuisine from visiting winemakers.

Whip Triplett receives award

Whip Triplett, second from right, was awarded the Outstanding Alumnus, Horst Schulze Award for Excellence in Hospitality at the 29th annual Hospitality Gala on Thursday, April 18.

While hospitality, great service and the students were at the forefront of the Hospitality Gala, the night truly belonged to honoree Whip Triplett, who is no stranger to Auburn University’s College of Human Sciences where he obtained his bachelor’s degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management in 1992 and now has spent the majority of his life in the hospitality industry.

Triplett currently serves as Chief Operating Officer for North Point Hospitality, an award winning hospitality development and management first specializing in complex, historic and distinctive hotel projects. Triplett oversees the operation of the company, including operations for all North Point assets, construction of current projects, and due diligence of potential development opportunities.

Triplett made it known he did not have an easy path as a student at Auburn but through mentors, self-reflection and realizing that hospitality was his true passion, he found his home in the College of Human Sciences. Decades later, he was awarded the Outstanding Alumnus, Horst Schulze Award for Excellence in Hospitality at the Gala and continues to give back by establishing an endowed scholarship in the Horst Schulze School of Hospitality Management and serving on multiple boards in Human Sciences.

Returning to Auburn to present the Award for Excellence, Triplett’s former professor Dr. Bill Kent, who served as the director of the hotel and restaurant management program at Auburn during Triplett’s time as a student. Triplett credits Kent with providing him encouragement and direction that ultimately led him to getting a degree at Auburn.

“To our students, I just want to say I hope that I stand as an example that anything is possible.”

Whip Triplett

“To our students, I just want to say I hope that I stand as an example that anything is possible,” Triplett said. “Hard work, dedication to your craft with education, experience, preparation and opportunity will equal success but I want to be clear, while your degree is a tool, if you do not use it effectively you may not reach your highest potential. I know from speaking with many of the students that each of you are smart, hardworking and eager to get to work and that time will come. When it does, I know you will represent this great university and this exceptional program very well.”

Liza Anderson and Diane Wendland are among the students who helped plan and execute the Hospitality Gala. Both are senior event management students who served on the floral and auction teams.

Whip Triplett at podium

Anderson will be working at a nonprofit for an internship this summer before she graduates in December and was adamant the experience in the Hospitality Gala class will help her immensely for her internship and career.

“Specifically for my internship I’ll be interning with a company where we plan a huge auction fundraiser event and I’ve learned a lot working in this Gala class,” Anderson said. “It’s going to prepare me for that and I’m taking notes to be able to carry into the internship. Then being able to work in teams and pull off an event like this is something that’s going to be really useful for me in the future.”

Wendland echoed how great the experience will be for her after graduation and said her favorite part of working in the Hospitality Gala class was working together as a team and designing for the event.

“The auction team is broken out into groups of five and I think there’s 15 total and our group actually chose the color scheme and the whole event design,” Wendland said. “The theme was poppy, and we got to choose the linens as green based on our group’s first presentation, the florals are all orange and all of that was our ideas and now we’re seeing it play out in this event tonight. It’s been so cool to see and it’s one of those things I can have in my portfolio moving forward.”

During the award presentation, guests enjoyed a four course meal from chefs Ford Fry, Justin Robinson, Zane Holmquist and Laura Cottler that included cuisine such as SC snapper crudo, rack of lamb, long pepper-crusted wagyu striploin and strawberry rhubarb tiramisu.

For Chef Holmquist, who serves as vice president of food and beverage operations and corporate chef at Stein Eriksen Lodge in Park City, Utah, this was his first time participating in the Hospitality Gala and he was highly impressed at the hands-on experience Horst Schulze School of Hospitality Management students receive while working and preparing for the Gala.

“From what I’ve seen, to have people on the catering and service side, people that want to go into the sales side, people that want to go into the management side of hotels and being engaged and active and being part of that role, you can’t get that in a classroom,” Holmquist said. “The classroom takes you half the way but you’ve got to get that experience to get the other half. This has been the most engaging program that I’ve seen. I talk with a lot of people at different schools and Auburn has moved to the top for me for recommendations for anybody that wants to go into hospitality.”

Since 1992, the College of Human Sciences hospitality management program has hosted a formal dinner and auction as the program’s signature fundraising event. Re-branded as The Hospitality Gala in 2009, the event is the culmination of a semester-long project for students enrolled in the catering and events management course. Gala guests participated in a silent and live auction, knowing their purchases help fund excellent student opportunities in the Horst Schulze School of Hospitality Management.

For more information on The Hospitality Gala, click below

The Hospitality Gala