NAU family provides ingredients for success


At a recent “Kitchen Lab” in the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management, where students hosted a tasting for the campus community, Paul and Jill Thomas had the chance to experience firsthand the enthusiasm and success of the school they support, and the building they helped fund.

The Thomases have a long history with Northern Arizona University—they met on campus back during the 1980s, their son Ross currently studies criminal justice, and their son Matt graduated from the Hotel and Restaurant Management Program in 2012. Now, this true blue NAU family reaps the benefits of strong mentoring relationships and a life of service.


Philanthropy key to HRM

Emma Krznarich, ’15 HRM, appreciates the tight-knit, supportive nature of the HRM program, made possible through funding and contributions by alumni like the Thomases.

“I love this program,” Emma says. “I feel like I am part of a family; we all help each other as we achieve and succeed.”

According to Chef Mark Molinaro, lecturer for the HRM program, it is this unique atmosphere and curriculum that truly helps the program stand apart and ensures the students’ success.

“The students come into the kitchen as family, and they leave with the skills and preparation they need to excel in all aspects of restaurant management the future,” Mark says. “Here, we combine passion with vision. A key ingredient to changing students’ lives is the support we receive from alumni like Paul and Jill Thomas.”

Giving is organic

Supporting the lab was not only rewarding for the Thomases, but in line with their overall perspective on giving—for them, working hard and giving back is natural.

Paul, ’83 BSBA, returned to NAU as an “Executive in Residence” for The W. A. Franke College of Business after his own successful business career. He credits the strong, mentoring relationships he developed with NAU faculty, and his time with the Boy Scouts of America, for teaching him the importance of service and philanthropy.

“I was exposed to service, donors, and fundraising early on in the Boy Scouts,” Paul says. “Giving back is simply the right thing to do.”

His wife Jill is a strong partner in their philanthropy of almost 20 years, including their choice to give to the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management and the building fund for The W.A. Franke College of Business.

Supporting the Campaign

The School of Hotel and Restaurant Management blends classroom instruction with practical, real-world experience.  Partnerships and investments, like the ones by the Thomases, help the Campaign for NAU promote close, mentoring faculty-student relationships, enhance student education, and inspire successful careers.  

“The students come into the kitchen as family, and they leave with the culinary skills and preparation they need to excel in the future.” – Chef Mark Molinaro, HRM