MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia University is on the front lines of building leaders in the hospitality industry, thanks to a student-focused gift from a neighboring luxury resort and the family who has shepherded it to success.
The generative $7 million investment from the Hardy family and Nemacolin resort – announced Friday (Nov. 24) as part of Light Up Nemacolin – will open doors for future generations of Mountaineers majoring in Hospitality and Tourism Management in the John Chambers College of Business and Economics.
Most notably, the gift will contribute to the access mission of WVU through the Hardy Family Hospitality and Tourism Program Endowment, which will fund student scholarships and residency internship stipends to give students a robust pipeline of hands-on experiences that prepare them for – and place them directly into – hospitality industry jobs.
The gift will also support experiential learning by giving hospitality students the opportunity to innovate and solve industry-specific problems in the Nemacolin Hospitality and Tourism Lab in Reynolds Hall and will create two professorships to support the growth of the program.
For Maggie Hardy, owner and CEO of Nemacolin and 84 Lumber, the genesis of the gift is funding the future of hospitality through a renewable source with a partner that shares the same love for the industry that has driven her family for decades.
“This isn’t just an investment in the future of these students, it’s a promise of a brighter future, infinite opportunities and the building blocks of a dream that’s now more of a reality,” Hardy said.
WVU Foundation President and CEO Cindi Roth values the commitment of the Hardy family to support hospitality education at WVU through this innovative partnership and their spirit of giving.
“This latest gift from the Hardy family and Nemacolin resort reflects a tradition of generosity that began with Maggie’s father, Joe Hardy III, and continues today thanks to her incredible leadership,” Roth said. “The University’s groundbreaking partnership with the Hardy family demonstrates how philanthropy creates opportunities – through scholarships, experiential learning, faculty support and more – to help students succeed, both at WVU and beyond."
Frank DeMarco, teaching associate professor of Hospitality and Tourism Management, believes the shared values referenced by Hardy have been instrumental in developing the relationship between WVU and Nemacolin since it was established as a major in 2014, resulting in approximately 50 students interning at the resort over the past nine years.
DeMarco and Ajay Aluri, associate professor of hospitality and tourism management, have grown the program to include in-person and online learning options to provide flexibility for those who may already be working in the industry and want to advance their education to grow in the field.
“We teach our students that relationships are fundamental to succeeding in hospitality, and relationship-building is at the core of this gift,” DeMarco said. “This is a large resort that has a family feel and truly cares about supporting and developing our WVU students into leaders. Every student who has interned at Nemacolin has talked about how much they have learned, how the staff truly cares about them, supports them and makes them feel part of the culture.”
Carson Beans is a product of that pipeline and has experienced it full circle. As a 2022 WVU graduate, she has grown from an intern in Nemacolin’s learning and development program and is now a program manager in human resources, working directly with student interns.
Working with WVU students is meaningful to Beans because she understands the importance of helping them reach their potential in the program and the doors it can open for them.
“This gift will give WVU students seeking manager-level opportunities the right trajectory to experience luxury hospitality and the empowerment to make it their own,” Beans said. “They can experience the versatility of the industry through learning guest services, food and beverage, retail, spa, wildlife, human resources and sales. The possibilities are endless for WVU students to find their perfect place in the hospitality field.”
Josh Hall, Milan Puskar Dean of the Chambers College, sees the power of those possibilities created by the investment of the Hardy family as a game changer for WVU’s business school.
“To have a hospitality brand of this caliber invest in us to develop industry leaders allows us to think outside of the box in terms of how we teach, research and innovate,” Hall said. “This gives our students an unparalleled edge in how they learn hospitality in the classroom and apply it in the real world.”
The gift from Nemacolin resort and the Hardy family was made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University.
Assistant Dean for Strategic Communications
John Chambers College of Business and Economics
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