White Family Gift to Transform Union Club Hotel

Story by Greg McClure, Rendering courtesy of Simeone Deary Design Group and HKS Inc.

Vector illustration of Union

Recent Purdue graduate Summer Cerny (HTM ’19) is just one of many students that Purdue alumnus and former trustee Bruce White and his wife, Beth, have helped over the years.

“During my last summer in 2018, I not only learned a lot, but I was able to develop leadership skills, which is very unusual for an intern,” says Cerny, who has enjoyed two internships with White Lodging Services Corp. (of which Bruce White is founder and chairman). Cerny is now sales coordinator at the Autograph Otis AC by Marriott, in Austin, Texas. “White Lodging invested time and energy in me. I saw that even more when they offered me a full-time job as a Purdue graduate,” she says.

The Whites and the Dean and Barbara White Foundation are helping Purdue and its students take another giant leap with a $30 million donation to convert the Union Club Hotel into a world-class hotel and add a restaurant and bar. It also will provide a laboratory learning environment that will serve up training and leadership opportunities for students in the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM).

The transformation will include furnishings, amenities, and the overall look and feel, plus an expansion of some rooms to suite-type lodging. The entry to the hotel, located next to the Purdue Memorial Union, will be improved with a grand entrance and atrium. In addition to the guest rooms and lobby space, the project incorporates the renovation of another 8,500 square feet to add a restaurant and bar.

Work began June 3 and is expected to last approximately one year. The hotel is scheduled to reopen in August 2020.

Bruce White says Purdue’s HTM program has served as a good source of employees and interns for his company.

“I really don’t know (the number of Purdue graduates hired), but I would suspect the aggregate number ... certainly exceeds 500 and might be closer to 1,000,” he says. “Purdue graduates tend to be grounded, well prepared and eager to grow responsibilities. They are an essential part of our staffing strategy to support White Lodging’s aggressive growth and quality objectives.”

Bruce graduated from Purdue in 1975 with a degree in management and served on the Purdue Board of Trustees from 2011 to 2015. Under his leadership, White Lodging Services Corp., based in Merrillville, Indiana, has grown to include more than 170 hotels in 21 states.

The Whites have been generous donors to Purdue. They helped establish an endowment fund for future HTM students at Purdue’s West Lafayette campus. In addition, through the Bruce and Beth White Family Foundation and the Dean and Barbara White Family Foundation, Purdue University Northwest was able to expand and enhance its HTM program, now known as the White Lodging School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.

“The redevelopment of the hotel provides a unique opportunity to create a gathering place for alumni, faculty, students and visitors while also serving as a learning experience for HTM students,” Bruce says.

In the former lab at the Union Club Hotel, students rotated through positions found in hotels — the front desk, housekeeping, laundry and sales or bookkeeping. The new hotel could be even more advantageous for future HTM students, Cerny says.

“It will enhance the experience students will have. This is a high-end hotel, and that caliber of learning opportunity will be awesome,” she says.

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