Robert W. Gracey

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I grew up in a household and family where cooking, baking, and entertaining was the norm. My earliest employment opportunities during high school, college, and graduate school were in food service. I worked providing food and beverages to workers in steel mills and factories, as a counterman in the college student union, and as a dishwasher in my seminary dining hall.

I entered the hospitality industry professionally through the back door, becoming the General Manager of a lodging property where we designed, built, opened and operated a full-service restaurant. Later, becoming the Manager of the Wheeling Country Club mid-way through my career, I spent time in the kitchen learning from the chefs we employed.

At that point I made another career shift into financial services for the next quarter century, but underneath it all was an abiding interest in and passion for hospitality.

In retirement, I thought it would be great to learn all the things I should have known while working in the food service industry. Taking “a class or two” at West Virginia Northern Community College seemed like a natural thing to do. I quickly learned that educational institutions have programs and pre-requisites and that one just doesn’t walk in the front door and pick and choose courses at will. Rather the program is sequential, and courses build one upon the other.

Thrilled with the opportunity to learn and grow in the culinary arts and having the time available to do so, I enthusiastically threw myself into the new world of academic and practical education. As a “non-traditional” student, I had the advantage of a lifetime of experience on which to draw and yet learned much that I should have known decades before.

Quite often folks my age and younger have expressed interest in learning more of the culinary arts and pursuing their interests in cooking and entertaining. To them I say, “Wait no longer. Carpe diem…seize the day…enroll NOW. Follow your interest; pursue your passion. I did and enjoyed every minute!”

Gracey, of Wheeling, graduated from WVNCC in May 2013.

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