Students attend National Restaurant Show thanks to alumnus gift

June 18, 2019
Students at NRA show

Going to the National Restaurant Association (NRA) show has always been on Caroline Santucci’s college bucket list. Because of the generosity of a 2012 hospitality management alumnus Tony Morano, six students, including Santucci, were able to attend this year’s NRA show.

Celebrating 100 years, the NRA show was held May 18-21, 2019 in Chicago. With over 70,000 professionals and 2,000 exhibitors from 130 countries in one space, it is the largest food and hospitality fair. In addition, there are 200 of the most important hotel chains, operators, distributors, government agents, chefs, nutritionists and executives in attendance. 

“Attending this show actually felt very comfortable and filled me with so much inspiration and awe to see professionals who want the same thing as me display their products and to have the opportunity to talk to these individuals,” said Santucci, a sophomore in the Hospitality Management Program.

It was not only an inspiration for Santucci, but it was a major confidence boost for Blessed Nahn, a sophomore in the program who Morano also supported. It showed her that she needs to believe in herself, she said.

Morano was not able to attend the show as an undergraduate student, but attended during the early part of his career. “It really opened my eyes to all the different industries that play a part in Hospitality Management,” he said. “It no longer was just about being a restaurant manager. I could explore tons of other opportunities within the same industry.”

This show made it even more clear to Nahn that she had chosen the right major. She loves food and loves customer service, she said.

“The program provided me such a well-rounded education, as well as personalized experience that I feel so fortunate to have had and want to do a little something to help provide that same experience to current students,” Morano said. 

The opportunity to attend the NRA show did more than just give students a new experience. It has impacted their education and future careers, as well. “This show has impacted my education by bringing to life all of the opportunities in the restaurant industry that we talk about in class,” Santucci said. “Attending this show has allowed me to find a new hope in turning my dream into a reality.”

The NRA show is not only a great place to go and experience but it's also a great place to meet new people and form connections, said Kim Trinity, sophomore in hospitality management.

“Illinois hospitality management really was a great experience for me and I was so fortunate to be granted scholarships for most of my years there. Giving back was a no-brainer for me,” Morano stated.

“Without Morano’s generosity, I would still have a blank checkbox next to 'attend the National Restaurant Association Show' on my bucket list,” Santucci added.

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