NRAEF : Blog

Scholarship Spotlight: Stephen P. Donatone Endowment

by | Feb 5, 2021 | Blog Post, Scholarships |


The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) is proud to offer scholarships to students and educators pursuing restaurant, foodservice and hospitality jobs and careers. Since 1987, the Foundation has awarded more than $23 million in scholarships and grants to over 6,000 students.

We are honored to carry on the legacy of Stephen P. Donatone through our scholarship program. Stephen is the late husband of Lorna Donatone, retired CEO for Sodexo North America and former Chair for the NRAEF. Stephen was a celebrated veteran who embodied hospitality, thoughtfulness, hard work, and leadership. His influence continues today through this impactful scholarship designated for a deserving hospitality student studying at The Culinary Institute of America.

Read below to learn more about why Lorna Donatone set up the scholarship, and what it means to 2020 Donatone Scholarship recipient Leona Jean Lunn.

Lorna Donatone – Stephen P. Donatone Scholarship Endowment Donor

Q: What did you want to accomplish by setting up this scholarship in your late husband’s memory?

A: As I thought about how best to keep Steve’s memory alive it became clear to me that helping others was the best way to do that.  There are certainly many places to give money but to establish a scholarship in his name; reaching out to those who may not otherwise be able to pursue higher education seemed the best way. The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation was an organization that was near and dear to Steve’s heart, so it felt right and fitting to endow this scholarship.

Q: What do you hope to learn from the scholarship recipient? And what do you hope to teach them/help them with?

A: As we established the Stephen P. Donatone Scholarship I wanted to ensure that not only I met and got to know the recipients, but that they got to learn a little bit about Steve and what he was like. I hoped that this connection could be another way to keep Steve’s memory alive. Also, I wanted to be a resource for the scholarship recipients as they pursued their careers.

Q: How important is mentorship when beginning a career?  

A: In an interview I did one time I said that I wished I had a mentor much earlier in my career.  It was pivotal to me when I did finally have one but know that mentorship and sponsorship is critical for success.  Mentoring allows someone to ask those questions, try those ideas that perhaps they wouldn’t otherwise ask or try in a safe space. 

Q: What positive change/impact do you think the next generation of industry leaders will make?

A: This next generation of leaders will be more flexible, more creative and more demanding of society I believe. I have great faith in them and am happy to help others on their journey.

Leona Jean Lunn – Stephen P. Donatone Scholarship Recipient 

Q: What does receiving this scholarship mean to you? 

A: Receiving this scholarship was very important to me because without it, I would’ve been in a very different financial situation. I’m not sure I would’ve been able to afford to go to The Culinary Institute of America had it not been for this scholarship.

Q: What do you hope to learn at the Culinary Institute of America? What are you looking forward to studying? 

A: One of the big reasons why I was interested in studying baking and pastry is that I love learning about it. I’m excited to learn and master all of the basic techniques so I can move on to the more complicated things. 

Q: What would you like to learn from people who have been in the restaurant/foodservice industry for many years? 

A: I would like to learn all of the little details about the industry that you can’t learn simply from reading a book. I can spend years studying every book about the restaurant/foodservice industry, but those books can only teach so much. I feel like so much more can be learned by having a conversation with someone who knows the industry inside/out.

Q: What do you love about the restaurant and foodservice industry? 

A: I love the unique energy that is associated with the restaurant and foodservice industry. The industry can be chaotic at times, but there’s something comforting about the chaos. No two days are exactly the same, and there’s space for you to learn something new every day.

Q: What positive change/impact do you think the next generation of industry leaders like yourself will make? 

A: I think every generation has something new to offer, and I think this next generation seems to have a large focus on sustainability and health. I’ve noticed a decent amount of students who are interested in a more farm-to-table approach in restaurants, as well as a focus on making healthier options more readily available. Personally, I am interested in making allergen-free baked goods more accessible to people in a world where more and more people seem to have food allergies.

NRAEF scholarship applications are open through March 15, 2021 – Apply today here.

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