Auburn University Hospitality Management Program to Host 27th Annual Hospitality Gala in Spring 2022

Charlotte Tuggle | Communications Editor

The Auburn University Hospitality Management program will host its signature annual event, the student-planned Hospitality Gala, on April 21 at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center.

The 27th annual Hospitality Gala will begin with a champagne reception and silent auction, followed by dinner prepared by world-renowned guest chefs and winemakers. The evening’s program will honor Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell and Auburn Hospitality Management alumna Catherine Wayman, and conclude with a live auction to raise funds in support of Auburn Hospitality Management program educational initiatives.

Students in The Hospitality Gala event design course are responsible for planning, organizing, marketing and facilitating The Hospitality Gala under the leadership of Hospitality Management Associate Professor Alecia Douglas, and working closely with the leadership team at The Hotel at Auburn University.

Hospitality Management Department Head Martin O’Neill said the Gala puts into practice the culmination of what students learn in their event management studies.

“There is no better learning opportunity for our students than this hands-on experience,” O’Neill said. “These skills will prepare them to succeed in the industry and help set them apart when competing for jobs. It is a taste of what they can expect in their careers.”

Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell will receive the prestigious Horst Schulze Award for Excellence in Hospitality. During his 19-year tenure, tourism spending has tripled in the state of Alabama. Sentell was the visionary behind the annual “Year Of” campaigns, which have promoted Alabama history, arts, culture and leisure, earning national acclaim. In November 2019, Sentell saw the Alabama Tourism Department honored as the first American state to be a finalist – and later win – the Best Regional Destination Campaign Award from the International Travel and Tourism Awards in London. Since 2020, Sentell’s leadership has ensured that Alabama’s hospitality industry will survive the economic consequences of COVID-19.

This year’s Outstanding Alumni Award recipient is Catherine Wayman, creative director for C. Wayman Floral & Events, based in Atlanta. Her distinctive designs and luxury floral arrangements have appeared in film, television and prestigious industry publications such as Vogue magazine. Wayman’s work is requested by major brands and celebrities alike for her ability to bring a vision to life through design.

“The Hospitality Gala is a fantastic evening that attendees look forward to year after year,” said Hans van der Reijden, founder and CEO of Ithaka Hospitality Partners. “Our team at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center helps guide the students so that they can experience the full spectrum of responsibilities involved in directing a high-profile event, while ensuring a top-tier experience for guests. We are proud to have the opportunity to help bring it to life alongside these talented students.”

For more information on The Hospitality Gala, visit