A generous gift from alumnus and retired CEO, president and chairman of the board of the Dallas-based Brinker International Doug Brooks and his wife, Holly, will play a crucial role in better preparing students from the University of Houston Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management for leadership careers in the hospitality industry.
The couple, who live in Plano, gave $1 million through their family foundation to fund the Center for Student Success (CSS) at Hilton College. The gift is a part of UH System’s $1 billion “Here, We Go” campaign, which has already surpassed three-quarters of its fundraising goal.
“The campaign clearly recognizes the importance the University places on student success, and this transformative gift from Doug and Holly Brooks is an inspiring example of the enlightened support we have been fortunate to receive since the public launch of the campaign one year ago,” said Renu Khator, chancellor of the UH System and president of UH.
The new Center for Student Success at Hilton College includes the offices of recruitment and enrollment, undergraduate academic services and career development. The alumni engagement office eventually will be housed here. Previously, these essential student services were geographically spread throughout the college, making it challenging to navigate. The repurposed West Wing now serves as a “one-stop shop,” where every student need is addressed – from questions about the application process to graduation day logistics.
Brooks refers to the Center as a “visual marketing spot” – where students can visit for all their academic needs, and students, alumni, faculty, staff and hotel guests can intermingle, bring about new ideas and generate even more student success stories.
“The Center for Student Success will propel forward one of the greatest programs for hospitality in the world, and will act as a catalyst for (Hilton College) Dean Dennis Reynolds’ vision,” said Brooks, chairman of the Dean’s Advisory Board and a member of the college’s Eric Hilton Distinguished Alumni Club. “It has always been my hope, as an alumnus of Hilton College, to encourage and support the hospitality leaders of the future.”
Brooks knows the industry well, as Brinker is one of the world’s leading casual dining restaurant companies whose portfolio includes Chili's Grill & Bar and Maggiano's Little Italy. Brooks is also the only alumnus memorialized in the Hospitality Industry Hall of Honor at Hilton College.
Slated to begin renovation in fall 2018, the heart of the Center will eventually include a student concierge desk staffed by academic services, as well as students who will give their peers directions to classes, make appointments with advisors and career counselors, schedule tours as well as share information about events, student organizations and volunteer opportunities.
The popular student-run Cougar Grounds coffee shop will also relocate to the CSS and a new main entryway facing the Hilton University of Houston hotel’s courtyard will be added. With four fully equipped classrooms, some classes will be held here as well, and there are study carrels for incoming cohorts of doctoral students.
“Not only is this a manifestation of the importance we place on student success, but it also provides a physical foundation to nurture and strengthen the sense of community that has always been a differentiating factor of this program,” said Reynolds. “No doubt, this will set us apart from other top hospitality programs. It’s a game-changer.”
UH celebrated the public launch of the system-wide $1 billion “Here, We Go” Campaign on January 18, 2017. The campaign has raised $805 million; of that amount, $125 million has been raised since its public launch. A total of 151,741 donors have given through the campaign, and 85 percent of contributions were less than $1,000, illustrating the depth of UH’s donor base.
“Doug and Holly Brooks have been loyal donors and important volunteer leaders for years,” said Eloise Brice, UH System vice chancellor and UH vice president for advancement. The Brooks family are inductees to the Ezekiel W. Cullen Society, which recognizes donors whose gifts over a lifetime equal more than $250,000.