Dr. Reginald Foucar-Szocki, a graduate of St. Hyacinth's Elementary School and Dunkirk High School, has earned a 2012 Lifetime Academic Achievement Award from his alma mater, The School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State University.
Foucar-Szocki, the son of Theresa Szocki and the late Reginald Szocki, is a professor of hospitality management at James Madison University in Virginia. After high school, he went to Jamestown Community College, followed by MSU. He began his teaching career after graduating from MSU in 1977, where he and a friend began the "card block" tradition at basketball games. They organized more than 800 students to hold different-colored plastic sheets to create words and pictures during the games. Based upon this effort, Coach Jud Heathcote offered "Reg" the chance to spearhead a 500-seat section at center court, with students creating a lifetime of memories or Spartan spirit.
Foucar-Szocki began teaching at Buffalo State almost by accident when, after volunteering in the Nutrition and Food Science Department led by Dennis Ponton, he filled an unexpected faculty vacancy and began to teach Hospitality Law. This was 1978, just one year after graduating from the School of HRI.
Dr. Reginald Foucar-Szocki
Foucar-Szocki went on to become an assistant professor and coordinator of the Food Systems Management program there, and earned his master's degree at the State University of College of New York. After becoming the founding director of Food Systems Management at Syracuse University, Foucar-Szocki went to James Madison University, eventually becoming its HTM Program director and earning his Ed.D. through Syracuse. He served as the J.W. Marriott professor and academic unit head at James Madison from 1996 to 2005 and he continues there as professor in the School of Hospitality, Sport, and Recreation Management. His research focus is on experiential learning and innovation excellence.
The winner of numerous teaching awards, Foucar-Szocki advises other faculty members to "think outside the box," and to try to return to the industry for a week or two every other summer. He has completed 12 summer internships/externships over the past 23 years.
He has also been the founding associate editor of Hosteur magazine, and has been active in ICHRIE (International Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Educators), serving as its president and chairman of the board from 1999 to 2001.
Deeply influenced by MSU School professor Don Bell (BA '62, MBA '71, PH.D. '79), Foucar-Szocki explains that his HRI 435 class, with its student-led themed meal functions, provided the framework for "our capstone learning" at JMU. In addition, Foucar-Szocki's students at JMU emulate Foucar-Szocki's commitment to volunteerism by committing to a minimum of 50 hours of community service. For more than 20 years, Foucar-Szocki has worked in soup kitchens, bringing hospitality students as cooks and servers. Foucar-Szocki himself cooks in his local homeless shelter, and manages the shelter's fundraising dinners.
Foucar-Szocki has created a culture in the School of Hospitality, Sport, and Recreation Management at JMU that is engaging for both students and faculty. He is justifiably proud that it is a "place where students learn who they are as enlightened citizens and faculty members develop instructional excellence."
Asked to finish the phrase, "Spartans will..." Foucar-Szocki responds, "continue to make a difference in the world."
Foucar-Szocki and his wife, Dr. Diane Foucar-Szocki, have two children, Jonathan and Katy.