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UNG announces campaign to establish Hardman Center

Hardman campaign
UNG President Bonita C. Jacobs (center) announced a $1.25 million campaign to create the Bill T. Hardman Center for Tourism and Hospitality. The campaign was announced July 3, with Bill T. Hardman, Jr. (left) and Helen Hardman (right), at a tribute for the late Bill T. Hardman, who was a pioneer in the Georgia tourism industry.

The University of North Georgia (UNG) plans to establish the Bill T. Hardman Center for Tourism and Hospitality as a unit of the university's Mike Cottrell College of Business. UNG President Bonita C. Jacobs announced a $1.25 million campaign and a $100,000 lead gift from Donald and Nancy Panoz, founders of Château Élan Winery and Resort, to establish the center during a celebration held July 3 to honor Hardman and his work as Georgia's first tourism director.

"Through his vision and leadership, Bill Hardman had a very positive economic impact on this region and the state," Jacobs said. "For more than 20 years, UNG has hosted the Southeast Tourism Society Marketing College, a certification program for tourism professionals that Bill began. The Hardman center at the University of North Georgia will help support the educational needs of individuals in tourism, which is a $57 billion industry for Georgia."

Tourism supports more than 411,000 jobs and is Georgia's fifth-largest employment base, according to the state's Department of Economic Development. The Bill T. Hardman Center for Tourism and Hospitality will support experiences for students who wish to pursue careers in the hospitality and tourism industries as well as professionals in north Georgia who work in these fields. These opportunities will include internships and academic experiences for students, non-credit and certificates courses and workshops for industry professionals, and research and data analysis services relevant to the tourism industry.

Hardman, who died in 2013, was appointed the state's first tourism director in 1959; in 1973, he helped secure a $30 million appropriation from state lawmakers to construct the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. He was inducted into the Atlanta Hospitality Hall of Fame in 2002.

"Bill was a visionary full of passion and enthusiasm," said Spurgeon Richardson, president emeritus of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Tourism was a lifelong love of Bill's and he has been publicly recognized as the father of tourism in the state of Georgia. He had a direct influence on my life as a friend, mentor and confidant."

Hardman, who lived in Dahlonega, was inaugural president of Travel South USA, and served as chairman of the Travel Industry Association of America. He was architect of the Southeast Tourism Society and its Marketing College. Hardman was awarded the Travel Industry Association's highest honor, the Golden Horseshoe and the Tourism Lifetime Achievement Award, from the Georgia Governor's Conference on Tourism.

For more information or to make a financial contribution in support of the Bill T. Hardman Center for Tourism and Hospitality, contact Bobbi Larson, development officer for the Mike Cottrell College of Business, at 706-864-1623 or  

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