Richard Gonzmart, a fourth-generation co-owner of the famed Columbia Restaurant, has agreed to fund a $2,500 annual scholarship for the next five years to deserving students majoring in Hospitality and Tourism Management at Flagler College, according to an announcement received by Historic City News today.
Gonzmart opened Columbia Restaurant, one of 12 within the Columbia Restaurant Group, at the urging of Flagler College benefactor Lawrence Lewis in 1983. The original Ybor City restaurant is the oldest in Florida and the largest Spanish restaurant in the world.
“I’m just building on the lessons my mother taught me,” said Gonzmart, who attributes his desire to give back to family tradition. “She was one of the founders of the University of South Florida Latino Scholarship program. It gave academically-talented, but financially-challenged students the chance to receive a college education. Most of these students were the first from their family to attend college.”
To be eligible for the Gonzmart Family Scholarship, students must be majoring in Hospitality and Tourism Management and have a 3.0 grade point average. Preference will be given to students with financial need.
Hospitality and tourism is a driving force in the state’s economy, and Flagler positioned itself to better prepare students interested in those careers by launching the new major last year. This spring, the college also announced the development of a Hospitality and Tourism Advisory Board, comprised of industry leaders who help students by offering practical experience, professional mentorship and guidance.