Staying Power

December 19, 2023

By Jessica Firpi ’11

The Alfond Inn expansion guest room, pool, and spa entrance
Photo by Scott Cook.

The Alfond Inn marks its 10th anniversary with a much-anticipated expansion that’s creating more opportunity for Rollins’ best and brightest students.

In the heart of northern Uganda, Capri Gutiérrez ’23 listens intently to a local man describing how he was just a child when he was thrust into a life of conflict and survival. He had been taken from his home and forced to fight in a war that ravaged the region until 2006. His story—and those of other former child soldiers—affected her deeply while she was studying abroad in Uganda for a semester, igniting a passion for global development and a drive to make a real impact.

Armed with a pen and a camera, Gutiérrez will soon return to this Ugandan village as a Fulbright Research Fellow with the Justice and Reconciliation Project, where she’ll work to bring these stories to light and to create a database of the 30,000 child victims of war so they can eventually get the government support they so desperately need and deserve.

Alfond Scholar Capri Gutiérrez ’23

“I wouldn’t be able to do anything I’m doing now without Rollins and the Alfond Scholarship. I wouldn’t have had such special opportunities, or have found my passion, or have received mentorship from Professor Chong, which has absolutely changed my life.”

Capri Gutiérrez ’23, Alfond Scholar
Fulbright Research Fellow, Uganda

Gutiérrez’s journey to Uganda began at Rollins, where she earned the College’s premier Alfond Scholarship, a full-ride award for high-achieving students made possible by revenue generated from The Alfond Inn. At every turn, the honors student and valedictorian made the most of the opportunities her scholarship created—from interning with the Global Livingston Institute and serving as vice president of Rollins Amnesty International to co-authoring a book on global development with political science professor Dan Chong.

After completing her Fulbright research fellowship, Gutiérrez plans to pursue a graduate degree in public policy or global development, utilizing Rollins’ Office of External Fellowships & Scholarships to compete for a distinguished Rhodes Scholarship. The fearless advocate is committed to fighting global poverty through a career in policy and development, perhaps with the United Nations.

“I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without Rollins,” says Gutiérrez. “I wouldn't have had such special opportunities without the Alfond Scholarship, or have found my passion, or have received mentorship from Professor Chong, which has absolutely changed my life.”

The new Moroccan-inspired pool area at The Alfond Inn
The new Moroccan-inspired pool area creates an alfresco oasis complete with rentable private cabanas and an outdoor living room, which features an operable sun shade to let in just the right amount of rays.Photo by Scott Cook.

A Bold Idea That Works

In 2010, when initial discussions on building a hotel near Rollins were underway, Trustee Ted Alfond ’68 P’92 ’18H entered the conversation with an entrepreneurial proposal: If Rollins could secure a gift that would permit it to retain ownership of the hotel, the net revenue could be directed to an endowment for student scholarships. The leadership team at Rollins was immediately on board, and thanks to generous contributions from Ted, his wife, Barbara Alfond ’68 P’92 ’18H, and his father’s philanthropic organization, the Harold Alfond Foundation, the inn opened its doors in August 2013.

“My father [Harold Alfond P’68 P’75 ’97H] was a businessman who liked entrepreneurial, creative ideas—and this project is both,” says Ted. “Rollins will capitalize on a commercial opportunity to fund student scholarships. As the inn achieves business success, the scholarship program’s impact will continue to grow. My father would have loved it.”

With the idea of using hospitality for good, the vision for The Alfond Inn embodied a fresh interpretation of the College’s historic commitment to excellence, innovation, and community. The boutique hotel stands where the Langford Inn once welcomed notable guests like Eleanor Roosevelt and former President Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy. Since opening, the inn has experienced tremendous success, serving as a popular destination for community social events and corporate meetings and earning perennial recognition in state, national, and global travel awards.

Alfond Scholar Katrina Zdanowicz ’16

“The Alfond Scholarship opened up the opportunity for me to go out of state for college, which expanded my worldview. It gave me a life that I couldn’t have imagined.”

Katrina Zdanowicz ’16, Alfond Scholar
Government and Public Services Senior Consultant Deloitte

Thanks to its pioneering philanthropic business model, the inn has made the dream of a Rollins education a reality for so many deserving students like Gutiérrez. It’s a legacy befitting of the Alfonds, who have fulfilled the Winter Park community’s need for a thriving hotel while giving back to the school that has meant so much to them.

“My scholarship opened up the opportunity for me to go out of state for college, which expanded my worldview,” says Katrina Zdanowicz ’16, part of the first cohort of Alfond Scholars who now works regularly with the World Economic Forum in her role as a senior consultant at Deloitte. “It gave me a life I couldn’t have imagined.”

As the inn celebrates its 10th anniversary with a long-awaited expansion—once again funded by the Alfonds and their foundation—there are now even more reasons for alumni and guests to book their next getaway and invest in a brighter future for the next generation of Rollins students.

The lobby of the new spa at The Alfond Inn
Showcasing custom-designed crystal sculptures, the entrance to the new spa sets the tone for an unforgettably relaxing experience. The addition of the spa will create more opportunities for students to have the full Rollins experience.Photo by Scott Cook.

A Decade of Impact

Hailing from Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley, Shree Raj Shrestha ’17 had never ventured beyond his hometown before flying to Winter Park for his Alfond Scholarship interview. Once at Rollins, he grabbed every opportunity to learn and grow and apply his knowledge and skills, studying everything from math and computer science to German philosophy and international law. He participated in seven service-learning experiences through the Immersion program at Rollins, designed a Monopoly-game computer simulation using evolutionary theory, and interned at Amazon, where he created an app that was used for the retail conglomerate’s annual Prime Day.

“If it weren’t for Rollins, I don’t think I would be doing what I’m doing now,” says Shrestha, a senior software engineer at Automax and founder of the Climate Action Project, which connects environmental experts with students looking to create meaningful change. “Rollins has meant pretty much everything to me. Without it, I wouldn’t have the friends, the family, experiences, and the support I found at Rollins. Everything I am now is because of that scholarship.”

To date, The Alfond Inn has funded approximately 80 full scholarships through its $10.8 million contribution to the Alfond Scholars endowment. Post-expansion, from fiscal years 2024 to 2033, the inn is projected to generate another $20 million toward the endowment and $21 million toward athletic scholarships, freeing up funds for need-based financial aid so that deserving students can attend Rollins who otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

Alfond Scholar Shree Raj Shrestha ’17

“If it were not for Rollins, I don’t think I would be doing what I’m doing now. Rollins has meant pretty much everything to me. Without the Alfond Scholarship, I wouldn’t have the friends, family, experiences, and support I found at Rollins. Everything I am now is because of that scholarship.”

Shree Raj Shrestha ’17, Alfond Scholar
Senior Software Engineer, Automax

“Educational access, which is what a scholarship is, equals educational excellence. A diverse group of people translates to diversity of thought in the classroom because you’re having new ideas being exchanged and challenged, and people are growing in their understanding of the issues that we study.”

Before Meghan Wallace ’17 was overseeing content policy development at Meta and pursuing a master’s degree in AI ethics at the University of Cambridge, she was learning firsthand what it means to be a global citizen. While at Rollins, she worked with schoolchildren in the Bahamas and with indigenous people in Peru, which ignited a passion for studying different cultures, institutions, and policies and led her to declare a major in international relations. Wallace went on to earn a Fulbright Scholarship in Spain, where she taught English and prepared students to participate in Model U.N., a pivotal experience that helped land her a position at Meta, where she utilizes her global experience and cultural fluency to guide policy development and global community standards.

“I use the framing and lessons I learned at Rollins pretty much every day,” says Wallace, who also teaches citizenship classes in the Bay Area. “I think Rollins did a really good job of educating the full person and making sure that you can pursue different interests in many different ways.”

A new guestroom in The Alfond Inn
With the expansion, a total of 71 new guestrooms have been added to The Alfond Inn, including everything from meticulously appointed classic king and queen rooms to luxury balcony suites.Photo by Scott Cook.

Expanding into the Future

Regularly operating at peak occupancy, the inn’s capacity almost immediately exceeded supply. In 2018, the College officially embarked on an expansion and renovation project to meet increased demand and create even more opportunities for scholarships. Among the inn’s new features are 71 new guestrooms, a wellness spa and fitness center, an additional 2,400 square feet of meeting and event space, and a light-filled lobby cafe that will double as a wine-and-dessert bar in the evenings.

Meghan Wallace

“I use the framing and lessons I learned at Rollins, both in and out of the classroom, pretty much every day. I think Rollins did a really good job of educating the full person and making sure that you can pursue different interests in many different ways.”

Meghan Wallace ’17, Alfond Scholar
Content Policy Manager, Meta

“The expansion of The Alfond Inn, with its strategic direction and vision, is another milestone in our journey to become one of the most mission-driven liberal arts colleges in the nation,” says President Grant Cornwell. “The expansion is set to bolster scholarships and financial aid, making it possible for more students to pursue a Rollins education. This progress is a testament to the generosity of our donors and alumni and the commitment to our vision for a brilliant future for our College and our students.”

Students just like Muniba Khan ’19, who credits Rollins for giving her access to increased resources and opportunities—from studying abroad in Morocco to interning with the Voting Rights Data Institute.

“It’s really hard to finance yourself through college,” says Khan, who now works as a tech arch delivery analyst for Accenture. “Without the Alfond Scholarship and Rollins, I don’t think I would’ve set such high expectations for myself or be working for such an esteemed company.”

The hotel now offers 183 guestrooms, with the original rooms featuring new flooring, custom barn doors, and updated lighting, while the newly added rooms showcase a fresh look that creates a seamless aesthetic between the original and new styles. Pops of yellow and peacock blue carry throughout, while hand-illustrated prints depicting our beloved Rollins fox and iconic images of campus dot the walls.

Alfond Scholar Muniba Khan ’19

“It’s really hard to finance yourself through college. Without the Alfond Scholarship and Rollins, I don’t think I would’ve set such high expecations for myself or be working for such an esteemed company.”

Muniba Khan ’19, Alfond Scholar
Tech Arch Delivery Analyst, Accenture

The expansion also provides even more spaces to showcase artwork from the Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art, which was established by Ted and Barbara Alfond and has grown to nearly 500 pieces. The Alfond Inn is the only hotel in the country to serve as a formal extension of an art museum, making it a classroom for Rollins students and the community by integrating art learning into daily life.

Perhaps the most anticipated new amenity is The Spa, which includes a two-story luxury wellness spa, a second pool, and a fully equipped fitness center. All troubles seem to melt away almost instantly as you enter the bright and airy lobby embellished with colorful crystal sculptures handmade by New York artist Carson Fox. Make your way farther into the zen space, and Fox’s flowing art installation of over 10,000 handmade resin flowers guides you into the spa, where the ultimate in relaxation awaits.

The sauna in the women's locker room in the new spa at The Alfond Inn
In addition to seven treatment rooms and dedicated relaxation areas, both the men’s and women’s locker rooms feature aromatic cedarwood saunas along with steam rooms and customizable shower spaces—all of which invite you into a world of calm.Photo by Scott Cook.

The Alfond Inn’s increased occupancy and expanded suite of upgrades and amenities promise to attract a greater number of travelers to Winter Park, creating opportunities for more Rollins students to make the world a better place.

“Until I got to Rollins, people kept trying to make me choose between my different interests,” says Zdanowicz, who just returned from the U.N. General Assembly where she worked toward improving partnerships between private industry and social entrepreneurs. “Going to Rollins was the first time I didn’t have to choose. I learned that I could combine my passions for math, environmental studies, and business and channel them for the greater good.”

Two guests walk through The Alfond Inn lobby.

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