Georgia State University to Award Honorary Doctorate to Hospitality Icon Regynald Washington

Posted By: Susie Leggett GRA News, Restaurant Industry News,

Georgia State University to Award Honorary Doctorate to Hospitality Icon and Industry Advocate Regynald Washington



We are delighted to celebrate industry icon Regynald Washington, who will be awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Business Administration degree by Georgia State University (GSU) on May 2, 2024, at the commencement ceremony for the institution’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business. Washington’s unwavering support of the Georgia Restaurant Association, philanthropic efforts, and selfless mentorship are a testament to his contributions to the hospitality industry.

Washington began his career at age 13 working as a bus attendant in the Florida Keys. He graduated from Florida International University with a bachelor’s degree in International Hospitality Management cum laude at the age of 19, becoming the youngest graduate of the university at that time. Throughout his career, Washington’s commitment to excellence led to professional success, prominence within his industry and recognition from his peers. 

Most recently, Washington served as President of the Paradies Lagardère Dining Division. After its acquisition of Hojeij Branded Foods (a Morgan Stanley Private Equity portfolio company) in 2018, Paradies Lagardère became the third-largest operator in the North American airport, travel, retail and restaurant industry with total annual sales exceeding $1.2 billion. Prior to his role at Paradies Lagardère, Washington spent 12 years of his career with the Walt Disney Company, where he was vice president of food and beverage for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts globally. 

Washington is a longtime member and supporter of the Georgia Restaurant Association. In 2019, Washington was honored with the GRA’s Lifetime Achievement Award at the 13th Annual GRACE Awards, Georgia’s premiere event honoring excellence in the restaurant industry.

“I am thrilled to congratulate my friend and mentor, Regynald Washington, for being honored with this prestigious degree from one of the state’s most respected hospitality programs,” said GRA President + CEO Stephanie Fischer. “Your dedication and commitment to education have made a profound impact on the industry and your passion for excellence has been a huge inspiration to me - both personally and professionally. Here’s to celebrating many more successes ahead!”

Washington has served as chairman of the board of the National Restaurant Association (NRA) and is currently an active past chairman. He was inducted into the College of Diplomats of the NRA’s Educational Foundation for his contributions to the ProStart Program. 

During the 1980s, Washington spearheaded fundraising efforts to begin the ProStart Program in Georgia, a premier two-year hospitality program teaching high school students both culinary techniques and management skills. Today, more than 40 high schools from around the state participate in the Program and have a chance to compete for the state title at the GRA Foundation’s (GRAF) annual Georgia ProStart Invitational (GPSI). 

Washington has made significant contributions to education - including a $1 million personal gift to the Cecil B. Day School of Hospitality Administration. The school honored this generous donation by naming the Regynald G. Washington Master of Global Hospitality Management program, which provides graduate students with scholarships and opportunities for expanded global experiences. Washington also currently serves as a trustee for the GSU Foundation board.

Additionally, Washington has been awarded with honorary faculty status at Michigan State University and Purdue University. He is the Lifetime Conti Professor at Penn State University and received the Outstanding Achievement Torch Award from Florida International University. Washington also received the Honorary Alumnus Award from Georgia State’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business.

Washington is a trustee of the Culinary Institute of America and serves on the Dean’s Executive Advisory Board of the Chaplin School of Hospitality Management at Florida International University. He also is a member of the Board of Business Executives for Tamarix Equity Partners and is on the board of directors for Apex Holdings. An avid music lover, Washington serves on the Board of Directors of the Chicago Sinfonietta.

Learn more about GSU’s spring 2024 commencement ceremony at