Hotelier donation to benefit campus lodging

  • Friday, September 9, 2016

    Hotelier donation to benefit campus lodging

    Vira Safai - Comfort Inn Gaithersburg, Md.PRINCESS ANNE, MD- (Sept. 9, 2016) - One of the partners of an award-winning Gaithersburg, Md. hotel has volunteered to help UMES modernize its lodging options.

    Vira Safai, managing partner of a Comfort Inn just a 10-minute drive from the Universities at Shady Grove in neighboring Rockville, will transfer to UMES roughly enough hotel furnishings for 100 rooms this fall.

    UMES officials have big plans for the gift worth an estimated $200,000, including renovation of all 24 hotel rooms on the top floor of the university's Richard A. Henson Center.

    “Our intention wasn't to get any publicity,” Safai said. “We just wanted to support your program, which is doing a terrific job.”

    Safai occasionally does guest speaking and delivers guest lectures to students enrolled in UMES' hospitality and tourism management program at Shady Grove in Montgomery County.

    It was at a Shady Grove function where Safai and Dr. Ernest Boger, chairman of the university's hospitality and tourism management program, struck up a conversation that led to the donation.

    “Mr. Safai is very enthusiastic about what we do, and he offered to help,” Boger said. “This couldn't come at a better time.”

    Choice Hotels, which licenses Comfort Inns like Safai's, is doing a nationwide makeover of its 6,300 properties. The innkeeper faced a dilemma: how to dispose of gently used furniture only six-to-seven years old.

    It turns out UMES is about to ramp up a major overhaul of the Henson center, which opened in 1993.

    Two senior UMES administrators - Stephen McDaniel, vice president for institutional advancement and Kimberly Dumpson, the university's executive vice president - traveled to Gaithersburg recently on a fact-finding mission by spending a night at the hotel.

    McDaniel said “in-kind” gifts like donated furniture of the quality he found at the Comfort Inn are as important as monetary donations if they fill a genuine need.

    The Comfort Inn donation “means a long-awaited upgrade of our physical facility to current standards,” Boger said.

    Anticipated changes in how Henson is managed as an on-campus lodging facility will mean a more visible role for UMES students majoring in hospitality and tourism management.

    A part-time faculty member in the hospitality and business program at Montgomery College, Safai said his hotel has provided part-time jobs and internships for UMES Shady Grove students, so the donation was a natural next step in his support of the university.

    “You've got a great program. You have good students who are going to be the future leaders of our industry,” said Safai, who is a member of the Maryland Tourism Development Board.

    The donation includes lamps, art work and furniture known as case goods - dressers, tables and desks - as well as some mattresses, upholstered seating and chairs.

    UMES also plans to utilize some of the furniture not placed in Henson at other locations, including graduate housing and possibly apartments where residence-life staff and their families live year-round.

    Boger calls Safai's gesture an important “opportunity to reach out to the broad, deep, rich hospitality community in the Baltimore-Washington corridor and show these professionals what we are doing here at UMES.”

    Tentatively, renovations to the Henson center are expected to be completed by mid-2017.

     


    Want to learn more about how to support UMES with gifts like this? Visit the Division of Institutional Advancement online, or call (410) 651-6676.