Mary Sample Willette was a teenager when she met Meral Korzay, a Turkish student studying in San Diego through a Rotary exchange program. The two have maintained a lifelong friendship while living on different continents.
Cultural differences have enriched their bond, and so has a common interest in hospitality and tourism. William Sample, Mary’s father, was co-founder of Atlas Hotels, which started with the Town and Country Hotel, a premier property in Mission Valley. Meral’s interest in the field arose later, when she began a career teaching hospitality and tourism management classes at Istanbul’s Bogazici University.
According to Mary, her lifelong friendship with Meral, as well as her parent’s devotion to their business, motivated her to create a legacy within the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM) at San Diego State. Her significant planned gift to the university created the William Sample and Fern Sample Stanford Memorial Endowment to Enhance International Exchange, a source of funding that will exist in perpetuity.
“I felt it was important to honor my parents while also encouraging students to study abroad,” Mary said. “Through my own experiences, I’ve learned that international travel helps to expand your perspective and how you view the world.”
The Willette endowment will eventually provide a minimum of $60,000 annually in support of international study for HTM students and for international students interested in studying the field at SDSU. Honoring Mary’s strong connection to Meral, preference will be given to those who study abroad at Bogazici University. A portion of the funding will also support HTM faculty participation in foreign exchange programs and activities.
HTM Director Carl Winston said Mary’s contribution aligns perfectly with the vision of SDSU’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.
“SDSU has one of the largest study abroad programs in the country, and we’re consistently ranked with the best,” Winston said. “Global orientation is a component of all SDSU schools and programs, especially within the tourism specialty.
“Our new emphasis in sustainable tourism requires a semester abroad. Mary’s gift will make this possible for many students, including those who couldn’t otherwise afford it. She is helping us offer invaluable hands-on experience to support our students’ personal growth, as well as their careers, and we are grateful for her vision and generosity.”
To read about other “gifts in action,” visit our online Donor Honor Roll at makingadifference.sdsu.edu. For more information about planned giving at SDSU, go to SDSUgift.org or call 619-594-1793.