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Gulf Coast State College and GCSC Foundation Receive Largest Gift in College History

Gulf Coast State College and GCSC Foundation Receive Largest Gift in College History

Gulf Coast State College and the GCSC Foundation have received the largest gift in the history of both the College and the Foundation,” said Dr. Sean Preston, Executive Director of the GCSC Foundation.

College and Foundation personnel have been working closely with Julie Hilton over the past few months and became quickly enamored with her fervent desire to see Panama City Beach benefit and grow, as we jointly develop programs for exemplary leader development in the hospitality and tourism industry.

These discussions, along with Julie Hilton’s clear vision of what can and should be accomplished for this region, resulted in a high-level partnership to oversee the development and growth of hospitality management and tourism related training programs at the College – all supported by her generous philanthropic gift.

“The goal of the GCSC Foundation is to connect donor interest and passion with projects and programs that are critical to the vision and mission of Gulf Coast State College, and the needs of the communities it supports.  It is through the clarity provided by this lens that we announce this new partnership with Julie Hilton,” stated Preston. “With this gift of $2,500,000 and her shared vison, Julie Hilton greatly enhances the position of the College to become the premier hospitality management and tourism-related workforce development provider in Northwest Florida and beyond.  The College’s Advanced Technology Center, currently referred to on campus as the “ATC”, will be dedicated to and renamed for one of Panama City Beach’s most dynamic and innovative community leaders – Mr. Charlie Hilton. Gulf Coast State College’s District Board of Trustee and the Foundation’s Board of Directors are pleased and honored to memorialize this recognition in the newly-dedicated Charles Hilton Center for Advanced Technology and Hospitality Management.”

The dedication ceremony will be held in July, with more details to follow.

A.J. Bacon Sr., President of the GCSC Foundation Board of Directors, said “The rest of the Foundation Board and I are overwhelmed by the generosity of this gift, and express our infinite gratitude toward Julie Hilton for her monumental philanthropy of $2,500,000. Words cannot begin to express our thankfulness for Ms. Hilton’s generosity. This charitable gift is more than historic in nature, it epitomizes Julie’s visionary insightfulness.”

The gift will fund several related efforts, with $1,000,000 set aside to fully endow the Katherine Griffin Boatwright Endowed Faculty Chair for Hospitality & Tourism, and $1,000,000 to support ongoing operational expenses that directly enhance hospitality management and tourism related degree and certificate programs.  These workforce development related programs will be developed or expanded under the coordinative umbrella of the soon-to-be created Hilton Hospitality Management & Tourism Program.

“Gulf Coast State College continues to enjoy incredible support from all aspects of the communities we serve, and the faculty and staff here at the College work hard every day to ensure we have both earned and deserve the level of commitment and engagement we enjoy.  We never take our role as our ‘Community’s College’ for granted,” said Dr. John Holdnak, President of Gulf Coast State College. “Fairly often the needs or interests of generous individuals, groups, businesses, and corporations in our community coincide with the College’s mission, and that support materializes in the form of scholarships, equipment or property donations, and other financial support.  But, every once in a while, serendipity occurs, and a unique individual comes along whose ideas and passion for a better and stronger community so clearly and thoroughly align with the mission and vision of the College, that real synergy occurs!  Julie Hilton is indeed one of those unique individuals in our community. She has committed her time, talent, and treasure to serve as a catalyst for real change in support of the largest and oldest of this region’s economic development and prosperity drivers – hospitality and tourism.  I can’t wait to see where and how far this new partnership takes our College and the communities we serve.”

“A special gift to Gulf Coast State College is the perfect combination of opportunities to help students be more successful and to improve the quality of workers in the Hospitality & Tourism Industry, which has been near and dear to my heart for 55 years, stated Julie Hilton. “It is my priority and privilege to give back to our community and honor my dad and family for the many ways they have made our community a better place.”

Julie Hilton, J.D., M.B.A., is a hotelier, businessperson, lawyer and mediator with a passion for the resort hospitality business, and a keen interest in freedom, liberty, education and integrative healthcare.  Beginning at the age of 11, she actively worked with her family businesses, and for 52 years, has been intensively involved in developing, owning and managing hotels, golf courses and other real estate projects in and around Panama City Beach, Florida.  She continues to own and operate several resort hotels and real estate ventures in Northwest Florida through Emerald Sun Resorts; Hilton Sun, Inc.; Clara Properties; PCB, Inc. and others.

Ms. Hilton also served as a director on the IHG Franchisee/Owners Association Board (IAHI), as a Best Western Governor, and as a member and chair of numerous committees for both organizations.  For 16 years, she has served on the Board of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, and before that for eight years on the Florida Hotel & Motel Association Board as an Intercontinental Hotels Group/Wyndham/Best Western Franchisee.  She has also been a member of the Florida Bar for over 40 years, and continues to be involved in numerous legal, business, mediation, community and charitable organizations.  Some of Ms. Hilton’s most memorable experiences have included Chairman and Director of the Federal Reserve Bank Board of Atlanta – Jacksonville Branch; Co-Founding President and Director of Citizens for Health Freedom, Inc.; Member of the Florida Federal Judicial Nominating Commission; Member of the Florida Arts Council; President/Director of the Panama City Beaches Chamber of Commerce; and Director of the Bay County Chamber of Commerce.