MSU Spartans Delight at Destination Auction Sweet Escapes – Eli Broad College of Business _ Michigan State University

MSU Spartans Delight at Destination Auction Sweet Escapes – Eli Broad College of Business _ Michigan State University

MSU Spartans Delight at Destination Auction Sweet Escapes | MSU Broad College of Business

How sweet it was!  Destination Auction Sweet Escapes, that is, at Michigan State University on Saturday, February 7.  For the 23rd year, the School of Hospitality Business Alumni Association and the School’s student Hospitality Association have collaborated to present an extravaganza with over 300 fabulous Destination Auction packages, free food and beverages, and, this year, an escape to a land of sweets, complete with Willy Wonka and reminders of the childhood game Candyland.

For an entire year, a student executive board led by CEO Ariel Lessens (BA Hospitality Business ’14) planned every detail of the annual event, soliciting donations from hundreds of School alumni and industry partners who lead in every segment of the hospitality industry.

After 23 years, alumni know very well the kinds of packages that are most popular.  For example, Marc Cassier (BA Hospitality Business ’89), executive director conferences services and catering at Fairmont Hotels and Resorts in Toronto, generously arranged for Fairmont stays around the world, many of which were paired with spa, golf, and restaurant certificates to create a very special destination vacation escape.

Drawing hundreds of alumni, faculty members, students, parents, and community members each year, Destination Auction provides fantastic vacation, restaurant, and golf packages; tickets to sports events, museums, and zoos; and unique gift items, collectibles, and much, much more.  This year the atmosphere in the Big Ten Rooms at Kellogg Center was exciting and “sweet,” with guests happily bidding in support of the students and the School.  “Some of our regulars have been enjoying Destination Auction for more than two decades.  We have very loyal supporters.  And we thank them,” says Faculty Advisor Ron Cichy (BA Hospitality Business ’72, MBA ’77).

As in past years, a portion of the Auction proceeds will go to the Junior League of Lansing and the Wharton Center’s Institute for Arts and Creativity. Junior League members enjoyed a special cocktail reception prior to the start of Auction, where Professor of Culinary Business Allan Sherwin (BA Hospitality Business ’64) and student volunteers prepared an array of delicious food items and unique beverages.

Remote bidding was available throughout the evening, and a large group of Atlanta Spartans gathered at Jocks and Jills to bid via cellphone for Live Auction items.  They had their own Silent Auction on site.  Organizers Allegra Johnson (BA Hospitality Business ’91) and Dan Burdakin (BA Hospitality Business ’81) were effusive afterward, and very proud of the record-breaking amount their group secured for the School.  “We think this is the A-Team’s finest showing for the silent auction,” said Dan.  “And it was lots of fun for so many Atlanta Spartans!”  Among them were Phil Hickey (BA Hospitality Business ’77), last year’s National Restaurant Association chair, along with Jocks and Jills owner and TNT NBA analyst Craig Sager.

Chuck Day (BA Hospitality Business ’91), lead portfolio revenue manager for IHG, serves with fellow alumnus Mike Rice (BA ’91), general manager of Quality Suites in Lansing, as Destination Auction alumni advisor.  He says, “This event is a student-run non-profit, calling for detailed strategy sessions, marketing plans, food and beverage offerings, financial reports, and, this year, an ‘Adverse Weather Plan.’” It is fulfilling, he says to watch “the students grow before our eyes into professionals through the course of the year.”

Celebrity MC Dan Miller, who is the Detroit Lions radio play-by-play announcer and WJBK-TV sports director, kept the Live Auction energized and on track, and each table in the Silent Auction switched packages every half hour from 5–8 p.m.  By the end of the night, the Auction executive board estimated that gross proceeds had exceeded expectations – and door donations proved that their goal of a 30% increase in guests had been met!

The professional services of Epic Auctions, under the leadership of Bob Howe, were partly responsible for the success of the evening.  “Bob and his team were tireless, and knew exactly how to get the audience to bid high and bid often,” exclaimed an excited but tired Ariel Lessens after the last package had been checked out and each guest had received his or her complimentary toothbrush (get it?).  “They are a huge part of this event, and have been from the very beginning.”

For Auction Advisor and School Director Ron Cichy, Destination Auction: Sweet Escapes was bittersweet.  He and Alumnus Jerry McVety (BA Hospitality Business ’67) dreamed up the essaysonline idea of supporting School programs through a fun community event back in 1991, and each year it has grown in scope and size.  “It’s actually a critical chunk of what keeps our School running,” says Dr. Cichy.

But this year’s event was his last, since Dr. Cichy steps aside as director in August.  He says that in a sense, Destination Auction was his personal sweet escape this 23rd and final year for him. Perhaps it was fitting that his role the evening of the Auction was as Willy Wonka, that enduring Roald Dahl character blessed with “pure imagination.”

Mark your calendar for Destination Auction 2015 scheduled for Saturday, February 21, 2015 at the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center, on the campus of MSU.