RITz dinner returns to prohibition era

RIT’s hospitality students host a 30th anniversary gala fundraiser on April 18 at Ridgemont Country Club

A. Sue Weisler

Christine Licata, senior associate provost, and Barry Culhane, executive assistant to the president

Guests have sipped mint juleps at “An Evening at the Races,” dined on lamb and eggplant at the “RITz of Arabia,” and they’ve been shaken (not stirred) at the James Bond-themed dinner “From the RITz With Love.”

This year’s guests will be treated to the decadent delights of a 1930s prohibition-era speakeasy for “The 30 Club at the RITz,” the annual black-tie dinner that will be held on Saturday, April 18, 2015, at Ridgemont Country Club, 3717 W. Ridge Road in Greece.

Now in its 30th year, the annual dinner and fundraiser is completely student-run, including planning the entertainment and décor, creating a multi-course menu, managing the kitchen and serving the more than 200 guests who attend the event each year. Leading the planning team are Danielle Sanderson and Adam Pirro, both fourth-year hospitality and tourism management students.

“Adam and I both really want this year to go above and beyond the previous years the dinner has been done, especially since it’s the 30th anniversary,” said Sanderson, who is from Geneseo. “We all wanted to do something classy and gorgeous to represent the 30-year anniversary. I know I’m excited to really make this year’s dinner amazing, and set it apart from the rest, and I’m sure everyone on the planning board feels the same.”

Since it began in 1986, the RITz Dinner has featured exotic entrees, delicious desserts and the chance for students to re-connect with alumni who have gone on to careers in the hospitality industry. The RITz Black Tie Dinner is hosted by the School of International Hospitality and Service Innovation, part of RIT’s College of Applied Science and Technology, and all proceeds go toward the school’s Hospitality Education Fund.

This year’s honorary hosts are RIT community members and husband-and-wife, Christine Licata, senior associate provost, and Barry Culhane, executive assistant to the president. The couple are both long-time supporters of the event. Licata joined RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf in 1979 as chairperson of the business department and later became director of the School of Business Careers. Since that time she’s held several prominent academic, administrative and research positions at NTID and RIT in the Office of the Provost where she is responsible for oversight of curriculum, research, faculty recruitment and development, program review, accreditation and outcomes assessment.

Prior to joining RIT in 1974, Culhane served in the United States Army as a medic from 1969 to 1971. He has served in leadership roles with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Corp. of Greater Rochester, the Al Sigl Center, Junior Achievement of Rochester, Upstate New York Multiple Sclerosis, the Rochester Rotary Club and numerous other organizations. Among other campus duties, Culhane chairs the annual Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival.

The Ridgemont Country Club also has an RIT connection. Owner James Cucinelli ’68 (business administration), is a graduate of the university. He purchased the local landmark in 2013, renovating and upgrading the 1840s mansion and grounds that includes an 18-hole golf course and banquet hall.

The dinner is open to the general public, and tickets are $125 per person for the event. Reservations can be made online, or by contacting Rick Lagiewski by email at rxlisr@rit.edu or by phone at 585-475-2820.

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