Auburn University Board of Trustees honors Rane, family for commitment to new culinary science center

Published: September 15, 2017
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James W. "Jimmy" Rane and the Rane family were recognized at the Sept. 15 meeting of the Auburn University Board of Trustees for their $12 million commitment to building a Culinary Science Center on campus.

The board in April approved the naming of the facility as the Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center in honor of Rane's parents.

Anthony "Tony" J. Rane, the son of Italian immigrants, was a World War II veteran, an entrepreneur and a businessman. He enjoyed a diverse career, owning several restaurants, retail stores and hotel franchises. He was known for his love of travel, cooking and the hospitality that he and his wife, Libba Mills Rane, generously shared with others.

Tony and Libba's son, Jimmy, is a 1968 Auburn alumnus and a member of the Board of Trustees. He founded Great Southern Wood Preserving, Inc. in 1970 and currently serves as chairman, president and chief executive officer.

The new Culinary Science Center will ultimately serve as an academic resource for students interested in a culinary-focused career, an educational aspect Auburn has been lacking.

For a number of years, the administration in the College of Human Sciences has watched students graduate from Auburn and pursue their interests at private culinary institutions in California, New York, Providence, Rhode Island or Charlotte, North Carolina. The decision is an added expense for students and delays entrance into the workforce.

Auburn saw opportunity to become a leader in the field. The plan was two-fold: rename the Bachelor of Science in Hotel and Restaurant Management to a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management, with options in hotel and restaurant management, event management and culinary science; and erect a building specifically for culinary science.

Last fall the Board of Trustees approved the initiation of the building project and renaming of the degree. Today the board approved the selection of Cooper Carry of Atlanta and Hoar Program Management of Birmingham as project architect and construction manager, respectively.

Martin O'Neill, head of the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Hospitality Management in the College of Human Sciences, said decisions to create a new building and change the curriculum were meant "to support ongoing and expansive programming efforts in hospitality at Auburn, while also satisfying demand from prospective and current students, and the ever burgeoning state tourism sector."

O'Neill shared that he was honored to have met and broken bread with the junior Rane and his father in 2005: "It quickly became clear that they were both very passionate about the university and supporting the development of a differential culinary program at Auburn. Mr. Tony reminded me of the importance of family and the central role of good food and a good kitchen to personal wellbeing and development. For very obvious reasons, it's a great honor to have this level of trust placed in our hands as we endeavor to carry his legacy of 'La Famiglia' forward.

"As Alabama's only professionally accredited hospitality program, this support and the curriculum changes will present Auburn with better targeted programming options and appeal in areas key to the state's continued tourism development," he added. "It also will afford prospective students the opportunity to finish their studies in an area much more germane to their specific interest."

June Henton, dean of the College of Human Sciences, called the endeavor a "5-star opportunity for our students." She tasked Hans van der Reijden, managing director of The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center, to lead the research, planning and setting of the vision for the new building, which will be located adjacent to the hotel at the corner of South College Street and East Thach Avenue.

"Every decision we've made for this building has been driven by students and the market," said Van der Reijden. "We are confident the result will be mutually beneficial to our students and the Auburn community."

Many believe the new building will influence the decision of those students currently in top culinary programs in Alabama high schools to attend Auburn.