Bodnar donates $1M to WVU College of Business and Economics - WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville

Bodnar donates $1M to WVU College of Business and Economics

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WVU College of Business and Economics Dean Jose "Zito" Sartarelli, left, with alumnus J. Michael Bodnar and WVU President James Clements at Nov. 28 event celebrating Bodnar's gift of $1 million. WVU College of Business and Economics Dean Jose "Zito" Sartarelli, left, with alumnus J. Michael Bodnar and WVU President James Clements at Nov. 28 event celebrating Bodnar's gift of $1 million.

The West Virginia University College of Business and Economics on Nov. 28 announced the gift of $1 million from alumnus J. Michael Bodnar.

"I really came back out of retirement to do what I'm doing today, which is really to find young entrepreneurs and give them the opportunity to do what I did," Bodnar said in a brief statement at a celebration at the WVU Erickson Alumni Center.

"It will truly help our students to follow in your footsteps," said WVU President James Clements.

Bodnar has had a long and successful career as a restaurant industry executive.

With WVU alum Jim Clutter, he developed the back-office system that became the standard for Wendy's. Over a decade, he built the business into a public company, Restaurant Systems, which rose to more than $50 million in annual revenue and, in 1986, merged with Wendy's.

He was a Wendy's franchisee in New York City until 1997 with annual revenues of $60 million, and he served on the Franchise Advisory and National Advertising Council, winning numerous awards for his successful operations. He also served as CEO of Shoney's.

His Bodnar Investment Group develops real estate, provides start-up equity and provides consulting for restaurants. He  developed several restaurant chains, including Maxie's in northern Florida, El Pollo Loco in Las Vegas, Taziki's Mediterranean Café, Baha Burgers, Tellini's Italian Café and Martin's BBQ.

Bodnar's gift continues a long history of giving back to the school where he earned his M.B.A. degree in 1970, the college said.

With fellow alum and business partner Doug Van Scoy, Bodnar donated a Taziki's Mediterranean Café to B&E, which opened in 2010.

The restaurant operates in WVU's Mountainlair and has a second location in Morgantown. It serves as a working laboratory for students in B&E's Hospitality and Tourism Management area of emphasis, which receives the restaurant's profits.

Bodnar was instrumental in the initiation and development of the Hospitality and Tourism Management curriculum, which was upgraded to an area of emphasis in the fall of 2011 on its way to becoming a full-fledged major. He serves on the advisory board for that effort.

"The college is making great strides in the areas of entrepreneurship, innovation and hospitality, and those are things I am very passionate about in my life," Bodnar said. "It's important to me to provide this kind of support, which will only help the college advance in these areas."

In recognizing Bodnar's gift and role at the college and university, Clements detailed a Taziki's competition in which students at WVU and at colleges nationwide are creating marketing plans for a new Taziki's location.

"This competition is truly a win-win situation as students get involved in a true real world experience that allows them to build on the great knowledge that they're gaining in our classrooms and, at the same time, Taziki's gets some fresh new innovative ideas from our best and brightest students," Clements said.

The hospitality industry generates $12 million each day in West Virginia, he noted.

"As the state's flagship university,  WVU has laid the foundation for a top-notch hospitality program that provides a pipeline of talented graduates who can fill this expanding job market, especially in our own state," he said. "Taziki's is a key ingredient for us in that program."

Bodnar's support contributes to Milan Puskar Dean Jose "Zito" Sartarelli's goal of advancing the college's profile nationally and internationally.

He is not only a visionary, but a hands-on type of leader, Sartarelli said.

"Mike, doing what you're doing for our college I think helps us advance the five elements that we believe are going to turn this college into a great college: great students, great faculty, great programs, great facilities and a great name, eventually."

Bodnar also has contributed his time to the college, having served as a coach and judge for the West Virginia Statewide Business Plan Competition that B&E hosts. He has worked directly with students on team projects in the entrepreneurship, management, marketing, management information systems and M.B.A. programs.

He was named to the inaugural class of the WVU College of Business and Economics Roll of Distinguished Alumni in 2011.

Bodnar's gift will be divided into two equal parts: $500,000 to establish the J. Michael Bodnar Entrepreneurship and Innovation Endowment and $500,000 for the J. Michael Bodnar Hospitality and Tourism Support Fund.

His contribution was made in conjunction with the WVU Foundation's major gifts campaign "A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia's University."

As of Sept. 30, donors had contributed $569 million toward the campaign's goal of $750 million.

Of that, $538 million was raised during the initial "quiet phase," which began in July 2007; the public phase, launched in June, runs through December 2015.