Business & Finance

Hospitality Alumni Honor Mentor, Support Students, Through Rocco Angelo Legacy in Leadership Campaign

MIAMI, FL. June 28, 2017 – Alumni of the FIU Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management have donated more than half a million dollars to a fund that honors their beloved professor Rocco Angelo, an associate dean who has mentored generations of hospitality students and helped them succeed.

Three alumni are leading the way: Burt Cabañas, founder and chairman of BENCHMARK®, a global hospitality company; Regynald G. Washington, CEO and member of the board of directors of Hojeij Branded Foods; and Eric Pfeffer, founder and president of The Pfeffer Group.

Washington and Pfeffer donated $100,000 each to the Rocco Angelo Legacy in Leadership Campaign, and Cabañas matched both donations. So far, the campaign has raised $600,000, which will fund scholarships, mentoring programs, career services, student enrichment opportunities, and help with recruitment initiatives and alumni engagement efforts. The goal is for all alumni of the Chaplin school to get involved.

“As an educator, the greatest gift is to see your students succeed beyond their wildest dreams and then leverage that success to give the same opportunity to the next generation,” said Angelo, who at 85 still goes to work every day. “I am proud of Burt, Regynald, Eric and all of the alumni who have and will contribute to this campaign.”

Pfeffer, who graduated in 1977, is among the alumni with a story about how Angelo changed his life. After graduation, Pfeffer was weighing job offers from The Plaza Hotel in New York and Howard Johnson in the Orlando area. The Howard Johnson position made more sense for his growing family but he was conflicted, until Angelo weighed in with advice.

“He said the following: ‘Eric, do not be blinded by the glamour. Someone has to be president of Howard Johnson,” Pfeffer recalled.

Pfeffer accepted the Howard Johnson assistant manager position and did, in fact, rise to become president of what was then the 10th largest hotel chain in the United States. Now he is challenging other alumni to give back.

“What better way to celebrate Rocco’s life than to support the endowment that will benefit Chaplin School’s students in the future?” Pfeffer said. “I am a perfect example of a student whose life was forever changed by Rocco’s advice at a major crossroad in my career. I challenge all my fellow alumni to honor Rocco’s legacy by contributing to this campaign.”

Washington, who graduated in 1974, and Cabañas, a 1976 graduate, have answered that challenge. Washington wrote a check after hearing Pfeffer praise Angelo at a dean’s advisory council meeting.

“Listening to Eric’s story, I felt the impetus to contribute to Rocco’s campaign,” Washington said. “Like Eric and other alumni, I benefited enormously from Rocco’s guidance and vision for the future.”

Cabañas was originally going to donate $25,000 but committed $200,000 after Washington and Pfeffer committed themselves to the campaign.

“A legend in the hospitality industry, Rocco Angelo has personally led thousands of students and alumni on their academic and professional paths to success,” Cabañas said. “It is our responsibility as well as our privilege to honor Rocco by giving to the campaign. This is our chance to show our gratitude.”

To learn more, please visit the Chaplin School’s campaign page. For online donations, please visit the Give Online Now page and select the Rocco Angelo Legacy in Leadership Endowment Campaign as your designation.

About the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management:

Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management has been distinguished as one of the top hospitality programs in the United States. More than 2,500 undergraduate and graduate students from across the nation and around the world choose FIU for its outstanding reputation, advantageous campus locations, expert faculty, rich curriculum and fast-track career opportunities in the international hotel, foodservice and tourism industries. In August 2006, FIU unveiled the first U.S. school of hospitality and tourism in Tianjin, China. The Marriott Tianjin China Program is FIU’s largest international program, with a capacity for up to 1,000 students. For more information about FIU’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, visit

About FIU:

Florida International University is classified by Carnegie as a “R1: Doctoral Universities - Highest Research Activity” and recognized as a Carnegie Community Engaged university. It is a public research university with colleges and schools that offer bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs in fields such as business, engineering, computer science, international relations, architecture, law and medicine. As one of South Florida’s anchor institutions, FIU contributes almost $9 billion each year to the local economy and is ranked second in Florida in Forbes Magazine’s “America’s Best Employers” list. FIU graduates are consistently among the highest paid college graduates in Florida and are among the leaders of public and private organizations throughout South Florida. FIU is Worlds Ahead in finding solutions to the most challenging problems of our time. FIU emphasizes research as a major component of its mission with multiple state-of-the-art research facilities including the Wall of Wind Research and Testing Facility, FIU’s Medina Aquarius Program and the Advanced Materials Engineering Research Institute. FIU has awarded more than 220,000 degrees and enrolls more than 54,000 students in two campuses and centers including FIU Downtown on Brickell, FIU@I-75, the Miami Beach Urban Studios, and Tianjin, China. FIU also supports artistic and cultural engagement through its three museums: Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, the Wolfsonian-FIU, and the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU. FIU is a member of Conference USA with more than 400 student-athletes participating in 18 sports. For more information about FIU, visit

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