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Carl and Marilynn Thoma
Carl and Marilynn Thoma

Carl and Marilynn Thoma Distinguished Chair in Hospitality and Tourism Management Awarded to Dr. Brij Thapa

Thursday, July 6, 2023

Media Contact: Jennifer Kinnard | OSU Foundation | 405.385.5185 |

A new chair has been established in the Spears School of Business thanks to the generosity of two alumni and long-time supporters of Oklahoma State University.

The Carl and Marilynn Thoma Distinguished Chair in Hospitality and Tourism Management will support the head of the Hospitality and Tourism Management department, who brings distinction to the school and the university through research, outreach activities and a commitment to student learning and leadership.

“We are proud to support the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management with this gift,” the Thomas said. “We hope the chair will help this program continue its success in serving students and making a positive impact across the region.”

Dr. Brij Thapa
Dr. Brij Thapa

The inaugural Carl and Marilynn Thoma Distinguished Chair has been awarded to Dr. Brij Thapa, professor and head of the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM). Established in 1937, HTM has expanded to a business-focused curriculum and engaged in research and outreach programming for hospitality, tourism and economic development.

Thapa also serves on the Oklahoma Restaurant Association’s Advisory Board.

In this role, he will foster student mentorship and placement of graduates in key industry sectors. Thapa will also prioritize advancing research targeted for industry and community practice as well as work with industry and government stakeholders to make an impact across Oklahoma as part of the land-grant mission of OSU.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to serve as the inaugural Carl and Marilynn Thoma Distinguished Chair in Hospitality and Tourism Management,” Thapa said. “This is an amazing opportunity to foster momentum and progress for our students, programs, research and outreach activities. HTM is grateful to Carl and Marilynn for their continued engagement and dedicated support.

“The new endowed chair is a further testament to their commitment to further advance the mission of the school, with an academic program that is ranked top 20 in the world. Additionally, as tourism is Oklahoma’s third largest industry, it is important to sustain and support workforce and economic development.”

The Thomas have long been involved with philanthropy, establishing the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Foundation in 1986. The foundation recognizes that education and arts enhance the lives of individuals and their communities, and it is inspired to make contributions with a wide-ranging yet personal impact.

At OSU, the Thomas have given to a wide variety of areas ranging from the arts to student programs and more. Their contributions include a $5 million gift to The McKnight Center for the Performing Arts — which endowed the executive director position — establishing the Thoma Fund for Entrepreneurship and heavily investing in the OSU Student Success Center.

The Thomas are also visionaries and founders of the Wine Forum of Oklahoma, a biennial event hosted by HTM. Since 2009, the event has provided attendees with world-class wine education, played a key role in the development of students and benefited the community and food and wine industry partners.

“This chair is a continuation of the Thomas’ long history of support for HTM,” Spears School of Business Dean Ken Eastman said. “Carl and Marilynn were instrumental in the founding of the Wine Forum of Oklahoma and served as the event’s first honorary chairs. We have benefited greatly from their wisdom and support and are honored that their chair will help to ensure the vibrant future of this program.”

Carl and Marilynn both studied at OSU, earning bachelor’s degrees in Agricultural Economics and Home Economics Education, respectively. In 2010, they were inducted to the OSU Alumni Association Hall of Fame. The Thomas are also members of OSU’s Proud and Immortal Society.

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