–By Ivonne Amor
John McKibbon and his wife Letitia have made a $5 million gift to the Florida International University Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management that will enhance alumni outreach, implement formal integration of technology and innovation into the curriculum, and create student scholarships at the top-10 U.S. public hospitality school from which he graduated.
The McKibbon ’75 Alumni Experience will be physically housed at the school on the Biscayne Bay Campus but have a large virtual presence to reach over 17,000 alumni globally. It aims to inspire future generations of professionals and entrepreneurs by celebrating graduates’ success, serving as a convener for the industry and curating experiences to strengthen alumni bonds while serving lifelong learners through continuing education options. It will include space for alumni to meet and network, areas for hospitality executives in residence, mentor/mentee collaboration and student hospitality clubs.
“FIU is Florida’s number one public university,” McKibbon said. “What better place to get a great education, and it’s critical now more than ever to attract more young people to the industry. So, I’m hoping this gift will also encourage others to do the same. I’m excited to see what we can accomplish together.”
Leveraging Miami’s emergence as the next technology hotspot, the gift will increase tech innovation at the Chaplin School through the establishment of the McKibbon ’75 Professorship, which will secure grants to increase endeavors as an innovative hospitality epicenter and bring the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning and artificial intelligence to the forefront of hospitality tech. The Chaplin School was the first to offer a Certificate in IoT in Hospitality, and FIU was first in the nation to offer an IoT bachelor’s degree.
The gift also will create undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships to help the next generation of students secure a world-class hospitality education and become future industry leaders. It benefits the Next Horizon campaign, which advances student success and research excellence at FIU.
“Our FIU is fortunate to have engaged alumni like John McKibbon who are committed to giving back to their alma mater and helping today’s students,” said FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg. “His dedication to furthering the global excellence and stature of the Chaplin School will be a game-changer for our university and the entire industry.”
The gift was presented during a recent event celebrating well-loved and influential professor emeritus and E.M. Statler professor Rocco M. Angelo’s 90th birthday and the celebration of the school’s 50th anniversary. Among the school’s first graduates, McKibbon, who graduated in 1975 and studied under Angelo, has worked in the hospitality industry since he was a teenager and is the third generation to run McKibbon Hotel Group, which was founded in 1926 and is now known as McKibbon Hospitality. He became president in 1992 and began expanding through development with Marriott, Hilton, and Starwood; today the company has 90 properties in 39 cities. He also founded M3 Hotel Accounting, an internet-based accounting software provider that is now the industry leader.
Through McKibbon’s Matching Funds Program, the firm has raised several million dollars over the past few years for community service organizations across the country, and he was the recipient of Marriott International’s Community Service Award. He was honored by FIU in 2009 with the FIU Medallion for Outstanding Alumnus.
“We are proud to count John among the most distinguished graduates of the Chaplin School, and his investment in the Chaplin School will prove transformational for hospitality education and the industry,” said Michael Cheng, the school’s dean. “His phenomenal achievements in the field will be reflected by what this gift makes possible for our school and its students.”
George Corton, chief development officer at the FIU Foundation, who first connected with McKibbon 10 years ago added, “As an FIU alumnus myself, I am inspired by John McKibbon’s incredible commitment to our alma mater. His success in the hospitality field demonstrates the impact an FIU education can have on our graduates’ lives. This gift is John’s living legacy, and with it, he will help us build, shape and reinvent this program. His generosity will facilitate opportunities for generations of students to come.”