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Popular St. Augustine restaurant funds first Hospitality and Tourism Management scholarship

Aug 14, 2017

Flagler College’s Hospitality and Tourism Management program is growing — in size, community support and now scholarship assistance, thanks to its first scholarship donor. The Columbia Restaurant Group, owner of St. Augustine’s downtown Columbia Restaurant, recently agreed, for five years, to fund a $2,500 annual scholarship to deserving students majoring in Hospitality and Tourism Management. The decision to fund the scholarship was conceived by Richard Gonzmart, a fourth-generation co-owner of the famed Florida restaurant.

“Scholarship funds are critical to the success of our students and we are extremely grateful to Mr. Gonzmart for starting the first scholarship fund for this program,” said Dr. Beverly Carmichael, Flagler’s vice president for Institutional Advancement.  “It will have a great impact on our students and will help them achieve success in their studies.”

Gonzmart opened Columbia Restaurant, one of 12 within the Columbia Restaurant Group, at the urging of Flagler College heir Lawrence Lewis in 1983. The original Ybor City restaurant is the oldest in Florida and the largest Spanish restaurant in the world. Gonzmart attributes his desire to give back to family tradition.

“I’m just building on the lessons my mother taught me,” Gonzmart said. “She was one of the founders of the University of South Florida Latino Scholarship program. It gave academically-talented, but financially-challenged students the chance to receive a college education. Most of these students were the first from their family to attend college.”

To be eligible for the Gonzmart Family Scholarship, students must be majoring in Hospitality and Tourism Management and have a 3.0 grade point average. Preference will be given to students with financial need.

Hospitality and tourism is a driving force in the state’s economy, and Flagler positioned itself to better prepare students interested in those careers by launching the new major last year. This spring, the college also announced the development of a Hospitality and Tourism Advisory Board, comprised of industry leaders who help students by offering practical experience, professional mentorship and guidance.

According Carmichael, the creation of a scholarship within the new major is a significant milestone.  She hopes it will inspire other community members and business leaders to support students in the same way.

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