A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed yesterday forming a high-powered partnership agreeing to establish the Gordon “Butch” Stewart International School of Hospitality and Tourism that will train the next generation of Caribbean industry leaders and immortalise its greatest icon.
It is the intention to make the eponymous school “like nothing the world has ever seen”, vowed Adam Stewart, executive chairman of Sandals Resorts International (SRI), at the signing ceremony in the upscale AC Hotel by Marriott near New Kingston.
SRI is partnering with the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management of the Florida International University (FIU) - Adam's alma mater - and the Mona School of Business and Management (MSBM) of The University of the West Indies (UWI) to establish the Gordon “Butch” Stewart international school.
The MOU signalling the formal coming into being of the school was signed by Stewart; Dr Mark Rosenberg, FIU president; Dr Michael Cheng, dean of the Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management; Professor Hilary Beckles, vice chancellor of The UWI; and Professor Dale Webber, pro vice chancellor and principal of The UWI.
Giving an overview of the project, Professor Andrew Spencer, deputy executive director of the MSBM, told the ceremony: “This institution is intended to create a multipurpose and multidimensional teaching and research centre that will provide, first of all, a meaningful way to honour the legacy of Butch Stewart.
“[It will also provide] the opportunity to concretise the relationship between UWI and Sandals Resorts International, an experiential, learning, cutting edge research-led teaching, first-rate facility and accommodation…
“[This is an] opportunity to partner with a leading international university in the field of hospitality and tourism (FIU); an avenue to shape tourism in the region, from the classroom to the boardroom, through greater input to all levels of growth and development…”
Spencer also spoke to the “opportunities for SRI employees to enrol and enhance their competencies; diversity of undergraduate and graduate programmes for students pursuing any area in tourism and hospitality and, of course, benefits for a sustainable tourism sector in the region.”
He said the school would offer some through joint programmes with FIU, a BSc in hospitality operations, a first in the region; a BSc in attractions and events management, also brand new; a BSc in tourism management; MSc in hospitality management; MSc in events management, and a PhD in hospitality management in time.
In addition, the school — to be based at The UWI Western Campus, Montego Bay — will offer joint degrees at both undergraduate and graduate levels between The UWI and FIU and short courses in partnership with Sandals Corporate University which was established to provide Caribbean-based Sandals team members with opportunities to improve and develop occupational skills and earn their degrees.
FIU's Dr Rosenberg, who noted that his university was ranked number 10 in the United States and 35th in the world, said his institution was thrilled to honour and pay tribute to Butch Stewart, whom he described as “a global icon in travel and tourism”.
Professors Beckles and Webber also expressed excitement over the partnership, recalling that The UWI had honoured the late SRI chairman and had recognised the impact of tourism on the region as far back as 45 years ago.
He said that, in establishing the School of Hospitality Management in Nassau, The Bahamas, The UWI had foreseen that tourism was going to be the future “and we eventually saw it grow elegantly and impactful, and Sandals rising to be the epitome of class”.
Executive Chairman Stewart said that, although his dad did not get a formal education, he had great appreciation for the value of formal education, and would nave been extremely proud to witness the MOU signing.
Butch Stewart died on January 4, this year, aged 79, and is buried at his Jamaican home at Rio Chico, near Ocho Rios.
The signing came as an early highlight of events marking the 40th anniversary of Sandals Resorts, the hotel chain he started in 1981, and which became the Caribbean's leading resort and only international super brand.
Together with the Sandals Foundation, the not-for-profit organisation launched in 2009, SRI will identify 40 legacy projects that “best showcase tourism's power to transform Caribbean communities and improve lives”, said Butch's son Adam.