San Diego’s economy and growth has long been rooted in the business of tourism; our city was ranked the No. 1 domestic destination by Money magazine in 2016. It is tourism that is the bridge between recreation and hospitality, and is what makes the history of the L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality & Tourism Management so rich.
RTM has been a beloved member of SDSU’s curriculum for decades. In the 1950s, SDSU launched courses in recreation administration, and, as a result of their popularity, the Department of Recreation was formed in the early 1960s as part of a Division of Health, Physical Education and Recreation (HPER). The first bachelor’s degree in recreation administration was offered during this same decade, and the Department of Recreation added courses in travel and tourism in the late 1970s to continue its growth. In 1989, the department changed its name to the Department of Recreation, Parks and Tourism to better describe its curricular offerings and, as the program moved into the new century, the faculty continued to modify and enhance the program.
In 1999, a group of hospitality industry professionals partnered with faculty and staff of SDSU to create an innovative and experiential hospitality and tourism management program to serve locally, nationally, and globally. The group asked “If we could identify, develop, and teach ambitious people to be uniquely successful in the hospitality industry, what would we need to teach them and how would we need to teach them?”
After two years of intensive meetings, the group developed SDSU’s first HTM program. It grew over the years with support from key industry partners such as Marriott International and the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay nation, who, with a generous gift of $5.5 million, enabled HTM to launch the country’s first institute on tribal gaming.
In recognition of the HTM program’s growth, major presence in the San Diego business community, and high academic standards, as well as the Department of Recreation, Parks, and Tourism’s long-standing history, the School of Hospitality & Tourism Management was established in 2007. Housed in the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts (PSFA), Carl Winston was appointed director of the school. In 2009, The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation invested $2.4 million to endow the school’s Student Center for Professional Development, further advancing its potential create industry leaders.
In 2010, with a gift of $1.1 million as part of an $8.5 million dollar endowment from the L. Robert Payne and Patricia L. Payne Family Foundation, the school was renamed the L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality & Tourism Management. Under this new title, incredible programs and opportunities have emerged for students. The HTM Master’s program launched in 2012, as well as the China Hospitality Education Initiative (CHEI), endowed with a gift of $6.5 million over five years from The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation, to enhance the hospitality education of tens of thousands of Chinese youths.