GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Eli Broad College of Business at Michigan State University got a generous donation towards its beverage education from a man whose name is inseparable with Michigan’s craft beer industry.

On Monday, Larry Bell, the namesake and founder of Bell’s Brewery, donated $200,000 to establish an endowment fund bearing his name: the Larry J. Bell Support Fund for Beverage Education. It directly benefits a course within the School of Hospitality Business, aptly titled Hospitality Beverages.

“Let me tell you, it could be a sunny day in March, on a Friday … those students show up,” Bell laughed. “That’s one popular class.”

While Bell is enjoying the retired life, he is still active in the industry he made his mark on. Instead of concocting craft beer at his brewery, he is making guest appearances for the class.

“I think it’s important for them to know all of these different parts — from the mega corporations down to our craft beer, wine and spirits producers in the state, certainly with State’s connection to the agriculture industry with hops, grapes, the things we grow in the state,” Bell explained. “It’s just a great place for them to really see the breadth of the industry and get their arms around that.”

MSU Broad College of Business Professor Carl Borchgrevink has known Bell since the early 1990s and welcomed him as a frequent guest in his class for the last 25 years. The news of the donation from his friend was more than welcoming.

“I was delighted and did a little jig and dance,” Borchgrevink said. “This is just fabulous.” 

With the donation, Borchgrevink said the approximately 150 students who take it every year will be able to better understand their industry’s science and economics beyond experiences and menu pairings.

“We’re not allowed to charge lab fees. I can’t charge my students for the beverages I’d like to bring into class,” Borchgrevink explained. “But when we’re talking about a particular beverage, I’d like to bring in a quality product to demonstrate. This will make it possible to do so.”

The ability came from a man raising a glass to the next generation of brew masters and service industry leaders.

“These students are way better prepared than any of us were back in the day,” Bell added. “It’s wonderful to see the industry driving forward, to see this extra added layer of education that we can offer to them now.”

Both Bell and Borchgrevink say they encourage others to also pitch in, hopefully so that the program can begin offering scholarships to deserving students in the future.