Auburn University Opens Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center

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The Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center, a world-class hospitality management training facility at Auburn University, was officially opened Thursday.

Dignitaries and university officials gathered in the green space of the new center to officially commemorate the world’s first campus building and one-of-a-kind university resource.

“It’s a moment born out of what first seemed like a dream,” said Susan Hubbard, dean of the College of Humanities. “A unique academic center in the world, providing superior hospitality management education to students and elevated hospitality experiences to the visitor, giving the world the opportunity to see Auburn like never before.”

“The Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center will shine a spotlight on Auburn and Alabama as an incubator for world-class hospitality talent,” said Hans van der Reijden, founder and CEO of Ithaka Hospitality Partners.

Auburn University President Christopher B. Roberts and Bob Dumas, interim chairman of the Auburn Board of Trustees, praised everyone involved in the project for exemplifying the university’s mission.

“As a land-grant institution, our mission is to put practical knowledge into the hands of those who can use it, to create economic opportunity and to improve the quality of our lives,” Roberts said. “I believe the Rane Culinary Science Center will do just that.”

Dumas called it a historic day for Auburn as he “recognizes Auburn’s mission as a land-grant institution in improving its community, state, nation and the world with facilities and exceptional experiences for our students, the Auburn family as a whole, and so many others.”

On a personal note, Dumas said he was also happy for his friend and fellow board member, Jimmy Rane. The 1968 Auburn alumnus and the Rane family made the lead donation in 2017 to establish a Culinary Science Center in Auburn. The board would later honor the family’s dedication to the project by naming the facility after Jimmy’s parents.

“I know it must be a dream come true for you, Jimmy, to witness this awe-inspiring structure and all that it represents and to know that it so honors the name and memory of your father and of your mother, Tony and Libba Rane,” Dumas said. “It was truly a project of love and it will forever remind those who grace the halls of this building of the great devotion Tony and Libba had for travel, cooking and hospitality – passions they generously shared. shared with others.”

The building may bear his last name, but Jimmy Rane chose to focus on his beloved university.

“It’s a day for Auburn,” he said. “I owe so much to this institution, to my professors, to the administrators who have helped me. I try to remember them and honor them for the difference they made in my life.

Rane isn’t shy about saying he was the first person in his family to graduate from college or that his time at Auburn wasn’t easy for him. And yet, his love for Auburn never wavered.

“Auburn is a wonderful place, and I can never thank this university for the many great things it has done for me,” he said.

A shared vision

If creating a unique Culinary Science Center in Auburn was not a dream, it was certainly a vision born nearly 20 years ago from the work of several leaders of the College of Humanities, including Hubbard and Dean June Henton. Horst Schulze, founder and former CEO of the Ritz-Carlton, even recommended that Auburn create an elevated educational experience in hotel management.

The team conducted research for years and eventually visited globally recognized programs and facilities around the world, including Singapore, Australia, South Africa, and throughout Europe and the United States.

Rane said the team found that some centers were the best in one area of ​​hotel management, such as cooking or distilling, but none were the best at all, and none offered everything under one roof. .

Martin O’Neill, now director of the college’s hotel management school who has made many of those trips with Van der Reijden and others, said the Auburn program has long been known for superior service.

Now, with an institution of higher learning, Auburn will be known for much more.

“Many national and international programs may have an educational restaurant or be associated with a management company that runs a hotel. Our students have that and more,” O’Neill said. “They have an oenological education. They distilled spirits. They have a micro-brewery. They have an a la carte training kitchen. They have a quantity food training kitchen. They have a bakery and a pastry shop. They have so much to get their hands on.

With additional vision and support from the Auburn University Board of Trustees, particularly Jimmy Rane and Raymond Harbert, the Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center came to fruition in August, cementing Auburn as the home of a one-of-a-kind educational institution. world.

“The Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center has already changed the landscape of Auburn and the hospitality industry as a whole is taking notice,” Hubbard said.

It is truly one of a kind as the center brings together all components of the hotel management industry under one roof. No other hotel management facility in the world has this.

Students will experience first-hand what it takes to learn, practice and master culinary skills and techniques from accredited teachers, to work and operate an elegant restaurant with world-renowned chefs and staff, and to operate a luxury hotel of the finest hoteliers.

They will discover brewing, vinification and distillation. They will learn from a master sommelier and other beverage experts from across the country. Students will also participate in the planning and execution of events in the centre’s rooftop garden and in the green spaces at street level.

The massive building—enveloping 142,000 square feet and six stories at the corner of East Thach Avenue and South College Street—exemplifies experiential learning by providing students with traditional lectures and real-world experiences under a same roof.

Roberts, who “has long touted that our students’ education takes place both inside and outside the classroom,” added that visitors will see him “in real time whenever they dine, stay or attend an event in the centre”.

By experiencing the Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center, guests and visitors will help train future hospitality experts.

Unlike any other

Besides the world, the Rane Culinary Science Center is unlike any other building in Auburn, as it is the first building on campus to combine a major academic component with revenue-generating elements. Revenue generated from The Laurel Hotel & Spa, a teaching hotel and spa, and 1856, a teaching restaurant, as well as other center features will help pay for additional expert staff such as a master sommelier and a chef-in-residence, among other aspects.

Fittingly, the center will also house the School of Hospitality Management, which offers Alabama’s only professionally accredited hospitality management program. The center is expected to be a draw for students currently in top culinary programs at high schools in Alabama and across the country. It will also become a destination for old and new guests who love food tourism.

“This state-of-the-art facility, in which no detail has been overlooked, will not only be an asset to students, staff and our community, but will also attract visitors from all corners of the world,” said Van de Reijden. “We envision the Tony and Libba Culinary Science Center as a travel destination for lovers of great food, drink, hospitality and educational opportunities.”

“It was built for our students. It was built for education,” Hubbard added. “Every aspect of this facility has an educational mission, whether it’s the incubator in the food hall, the labs on the first floor, or the housing experience. Our students will leave here with real-life experiences in addition to their educational experiences. »

“Gathering around good food”

Rane’s interest in supporting the college’s plan for a Culinary Science Center grew when he learned of Van der Reijden’s passion for seeing the dream come true. Van der Reijden’s enthusiasm reminded Rane of his own father.

Tony Rane was the son of Italian immigrants and became a successful entrepreneur with several restaurants, retail stores and hotel franchises. He was known for his love of travel, cooking and hospitality which he and his wife, Libba Mills Rane, generously shared with others.

Jimmy Rane followed in his father’s entrepreneurial footsteps by founding Great Southern Wood Preserving Inc. in 1970 in Abbeville, Alabama. He is currently Chairman of the Board, President and CEO of the wood products manufacturer.

Five years ago, the Board of Trustees approved the naming of the future Culinary Science Center in honor of Jimmy Rane and the Rane family, proclaiming it the Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center.

“I had the pleasure of knowing Tony and Libba Rane, and I know their love for gathering over good food and spreading the joy of friendship and the family will live here in the center named in their honour,” said said Hubbard. “Thank you, Jimmy and the entire Rane family, for sharing your love and passion for family and Auburn University in a way that will shape future leaders and provide exceptional experiences for all of us today. “

Knowing that the center is the only one of its kind in the world is the proverbial icing on the cake for Jimmy Rane, who celebrated his birthday on September 15.

“You know, at Auburn, we like to be number one. And that’s yet another great example of how we’re leading the way,” he said.

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