Magical Moments That Impact a Lifetime

Magical Moments That Impact a Lifetime

Walt Disney World Resort exhibits exemplary corporate citizenship and generous philanthropy throughout Central Florida—playing a vital role in lifting our community by supporting the missions of hundreds of organizations. One such organization, the Valencia College Foundation, sees the impact that Disney makes on the college’s mission and in the lives of students each and every day.

As Valencia College celebrates Disney’s most recent gift—a $1.5 million investment in the expansion and enhancement of the Walt Disney World Center for Culinary Arts and Hospitality at the downtown campus—we also recognize an invaluable philanthropic partnership that dates back to more than 30 years.

Since the earliest days of the college’s culinary and hospitality program, Disney has been a key strategic partner. Cast members served on the program’s advisory committee and as instructors in the classroom, as they do today. This involvement prepares our students to enter into the industry and succeed at the highest levels.

As the partnership grew, so did the vision for the culinary and hospitality program. In 2000, Disney made a $1 million gift to expand, enhance and relocate the program to a newly constructed building on Valencia College West Campus.  As Al Weiss, an alumnus of the college and president of Walt Disney World Resort at the time, explained, “We have enjoyed a wonderful relationship with Valencia Community College and are pleased to take the next step to expand the college’s hospitality program.”

Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney World President and Valencia grad Al Weiss (second from left) joined Valencia College president Sandy Shugart and other college officials for the first groundbreaking of the Walt Disney World Center for Hospitality and Culinary Arts in 2000. A year later, Mickey returned to the West Campus to join in the grand opening festivities (below).

At the time, it was the largest private gift in Valencia College history, and the Walt Disney World Center for Hospitality and Culinary Arts was only the second building to be named for a donor. More importantly, the investment enabled “the college to develop the kind of world-class hospitality and culinary programs that Central Florida should have as the number one tourist destination in the world,” explained College President Sandy Shugart.

Disney’s recent $1.5 million gift brings us even closer to achieving our goal of being recognized as one of the best culinary and hospitality programs in the world—providing students of all backgrounds an unparalleled education opportunity that’s affordable and accessible. “We know how important it is to invest in our talent, and this new campus will help develop the leaders of tomorrow for our thriving and growing city,” said George Kalogridis, president of Disney Segment Development and Enrichment.

Over the years, Disney’s other philanthropic investments have made a deep and lasting impact on the college’s vision to transform lives, strengthen community and inspire individuals to excellence.

For example, in 1990 Disney endowed the Walt Disney World Chair in Film Technology.

You can dream, create, design and build the most wonderful place in the world… but it requires people to make that dream a reality.”

An instrumental part in building what Steven Spielberg called one of the best student film programs in the nation, our film students gain first-hand experience working with industry icons; from acclaimed producer/director Robert Wise to “Master of Horror” George Romero to famed X-Files and Game of Thrones producer/director David Nutter, among other award-winning actors and actresses.

Valencia College first-generation college students have also been touched by Disney’s sponsorship and in-kind support of the foundation’s signature fundraising event Taste for Learning. Since its inception, the event has raised $3.7 million for first-generation scholarships—ensuring that all students have the resources needed to fulfill their lifelong goals.

As Walt Disney said, “You can dream, create, design and build the most wonderful place in the world… but it requires people to make that dream a reality.”

To our friends at Disney, thank you for more than 30 years of partnership with Valencia College. Every day, your generosity makes dreams come true for more than 60,000 students.