Las Cruces – New Mexico State University's School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management will soon be home to the Bobby Lee Lawrence Academy of Wine. The beverage management laboratory will be named for Lawrence, known throughout the area as the "Southwest Wine Guy," who passed away earlier this year. The $250,000 gift was made by Lawrence's wife, Marion.
"Teaching people about wine was his passion. He just loved it," said Marion Lawrence. "I'm excited about preserving his legacy. His passion for all things wine should be passed on to future generations in the best possible way, and the Bobby Lee Lawrence Academy of Wine will do that."
Lawrence was known around Las Cruces as a wine and food expert. He trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and the Culinary Institute of America. He taught about wine at area wine festivals, wrote about wine for Sabroso magazine and had his own wine blog. Lawrence also had a successful media career.
The beverage laboratory will help the school expand its wine education courses and provide additional space for classes. The facility will add a curved bar, tables, wine chillers and space for students to both learn and study.
"This will be a cutting-edge environment to educate students," said HRTM Director Janet Green. "The space will help us expand the number of classes we offer and help us better train our future hospitality professionals."
Marion Lawrence said her husband continuously educated others about wine, including how to choose a wine, how to pair it with food and even stressing which glasses go with which wine.
Enrollment at HRTM has grown to more than 400. With the new beverage laboratory, the school will have completed more than $1 million in classroom improvements in the past few years, including $700,000 for a new food lab in 2005 and $250,000 for a new technology lab in 2006. The school also opened a new patio for its restaurant, 100 West, this past spring.