Niagara University recognized the contributions of two national and international leaders in the hospitality and tourism industry during a special convocation on Thursday, Oct. 13.
Russell J. Salvatore, owner of Salvatore's Grand Hotel and Russell's Steaks, Chops and More, and Huynh Trung Nam, chairman of The Imperial Group in Vietnam, received honorary doctorates during the College of Hospitality and Tourism Management's showcase event.
The convocation, sponsored by the Maid of the Mist Corp., took place in the Alumni Chapel on the campus of Niagara University.
"Our honorees today come from different lands, but they are united by their ability to overcome challenges, their commitment to excellence, and their passion to help others," said the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., NU president.
Salvatore, a remarkably successful restaurateur and businessman, transformed a hot dog stand that he purchased in 1967 into the 100,000-square-foot Buffalo landmark now known as Salvatore's Italian Gardens. He later established the Garden Place Hotel, a 166-room facility that also houses 25 suites, a fitness room, meeting rooms, a lobby lounge, scenic courtyard and exterior streetscape. At age 75, after handing over the reins of the restaurant and hotel to his son, Salvatore built an 18,000-square-foot steakhouse just down the road from his other establishments.
Russell's Steaks, Chops and More - and its attached, five-story Grand Hotel - has since drawn national attention for exemplary food quality and high level of service.
Salvatore has proven dedicated to the betterment of the Western New York community, as well. He is a major benefactor of Trocaire College, where a hospitality school has been named in his honor. In 2012, he purchased flat-screen televisions in 350 patient rooms at Erie County Medical Center, and has since donated an additional $500,000 to the hospital's orthopedic unit. For the past several years, Salvatore has celebrated Easter by collecting food and donations for the Food Bank of Western New York. He supports an extensive list of other charities throughout the region, including Kids Escaping Drugs, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, the Variety Club of Buffalo, and several school districts. By establishing the Russell J. Salvatore Foundation, he has ensured his support of the community he loves will continue in perpetuity.
In 2003, Nam founded The Imperial Group in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The group has developed into a worldwide leader in trading, commercial property development and hospitality services. It comprises 15 subsidiaries with 1,800 staff members. The newest of The Imperial Group's ventures is the Imperial International Hotel School, a hospitality and tourism training center that's aligned with the five-star Imperial Hotel in Vung Tau. It is believed to be the first school in Vietnam that enables students to apply their classroom learning at a high-end hotel with a sophisticated infrastructure.
Earlier this year, during the school's inauguration ceremony, Nam signed a formal international agreement with Maher that allows Vietnamese students to work with NU faculty to receive internationally recognized certificates upon graduation. Niagara professors will also help develop program curricula that align with the training approved by ASEAN and the ASEAN Economic Community.
Since 2011, Nam has served as honorary consul of the Republic of Malta's Consulate in Vietnam. He is also chairman of the Startup Vietnam Foundation, the first nonprofit social organization authorized by the Vietnamese government to cultivate startups. The organization aims to unite domestic and foreign venture capital funds to launch and support new Vietnamese businesses, with a special focus on scientific and technological innovation and development.
Accentuating the event's international flair, Nam presented his remarks entirely in Vietnamese.
"We are so proud and absolutely believe in the success of the partnership with Niagara University, a prestigious and historic American university in bringing the professional training programs, which will offer more job opportunities for Vietnamese people and improve their lives in a meaningful way," Nam said through an interpreter, the Rev. John Doai Kim Dang, C.M., a Vietnam native and member of NU's Vincentian community. "I pledge the best efforts to accompany with the Rev. James J Maher, president, and all members here, to bring the success of completing the objective for our collaboration in order to express 'The Power of Niagara University,' as mentioned in your new brand message."
Since arriving in the U.S. on Tuesday, Nam has explored local tourist attractions, including the Maid of the Mist, held educational sessions with NU students, and met with university and regional tourism officials.
For more information on NU's College of Hospitality and Tourism Management, call 716-286-8279 or go online to www.niagara.edu/hospitality.