Auburn University cut the ribbon on the brand new Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center on Thursday, Sept. 15th, making a nearly 15-year dream a reality.
The state-of-the-art facility is the new home of the College of Human Sciences, which features a functioning hotel, fine-dining restaurant and the popular Hey Day Market. It also houses a litany of educational labs designed to give Auburn students hands-on experience across the broad spectrum of hospitality disciplines.
“Students can work side-by-side with our amazing faculty and staff at the Laurel Hotel and Spa,” said Auburn University President Dr. Christopher B. Roberts, “And at our teaching restaurant at 1856 or at a host of food and beverage laboratories.”
Tony Rane, the son of Italian immigrants, embodied the American entrepreneurial spirit. Despite his humble beginnings, he eventually owned several restaurants, stores and hotels and became a prominent leader in his community in Abbeville, Alabama. Libba Rane, Tony's wife, supported him through all his endeavors.
Dr. Susan Hubbard, the dean of the College of Human sciences said the center honored the Rane's because of "their love for gathering around good food and spreading the joy of friendship and family."
Stakeholders have high expectations for graduates participating in the blended academic and real-world learning environment.
“The time will come very shortly when all the grand hotels in the world…are going to want their managers to come from the Auburn University Culinary Science Center,” said former Board of Trustees member Jimmy Rane, whose parents the facility is named after.
Opening the doors for the community to enjoy the services offered is at the core of the facility's educational ethos.
“The great part of this facility is that it really allows students to train in a world-class facility, with some exceptional faculty, but to do that in a way where the community gets to participate and engage,” Roberts said.
Partnered with Ithaka Hospitality Partners, a locally based hospitality management firm responsible for the project's commercial end, Auburn has created a truly unique space.
“Today, we're opening this center. The only one in the world,” Rane said. “Run the antenna on that again, the only one in the world where you can get a degree in every one of [the hospitality] disciplines in one place, at Auburn University.”
Another prominent through-line throughout the event was the future impact the facility will have on the Auburn community and the hospitality industry.
“The Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center will shine a light on Auburn and Alabama as an incubator of world-class hospitality talent,” said CEO of Ithaka Hospitality, Hans van her Reijden. “[The center] will attract visitors from all quarters of the world.”
Hubbard assured students that, because of the unique opportunities offered by the center, "the Culinary Science Center has the hospitality industry as a whole taking notice."
The excitement from the audience and students lining the halls inside was palpable as six pairs of scissors cut the navy blue ribbon in front of a display of orange and pink roses.
"I think it's an amazing way to get all kinds of people, from everywhere, in great facilities for cooking and culinary practice," said senior in hospitality management, Maggie Bristow.
Victoria McNeely, freshman in culinary science, echoed Bristow's sentiment, and said that she was very excited to spend the next four years of her education within the new facility.
The Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center is a blend of hands-on training, formal education and community building only offered at Auburn University. Finally, after 15 years of dedication, the doors are open, and class is in session.
“This will mean our students have the very best hospitality education available,” Hubbard said.
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Ethan Flynn, freshman in journalism and finance, is a news writer at The Plainsman.