Local Auburn business the Collegiate Hotel recently announced the creation of The Brian E. and Kimberly A. Wirth Family Annual Fund for Excellence, also known as the Bee Excellent Fund, supporting the AU-Bees Lab in the College of Agriculture at Auburn University.
For several years, the AU-Bees Lab — affectionately named for Auburn’s mascot “Aubie” — has benefited from an unexpected partnership with the boutique hotel in the renovated former Wittel Women’s Dormitory.
The hotel raises funds for the lab through sales of its honey-based margaritas. For every margarita sold, $1 goes toward the lab.
“It’s unconventional, but we love finding unique ways to connect with the community and the university,” said Kim Worth, owner and general manager of the Collegiate Hotel. “Two years ago, we met the AU-Bees Lab team and loved their energy and work ethic and thought, why don’t we use our passion for hospitality to support their passion for bees?”
The idea to create a honey-based “cocktail for a cause” resonated with Collegiate Hotel customers and the AU-BEES Margarita was an overnight success, becoming the number one selling cocktail within a few months. This success has led the Wirths to donate a minimum of $10,000 a year to The Brian E. and Kimberly A. Wirth Family Annual Fund for Excellence in the College of Agriculture.
“We are exceptionally grateful for this incredible investment from our friends at the Collegiate Hotel, just down the street from us on Ag Hill,” Paul Patterson, dean of the College of Agriculture said. “By supporting the AU-Bees Lab, the Bee Excellent Fund will be instrumental in both the education of our students and the health of our community for years to come.”
The mission of the AU-Bees Lab is to understand and promote bees through research, instruction and outreach with activities that benefit the local community while educating the public on the vital work of pollinators.
Geoffrey Williams, assistant professor and graduate program officer, said the fund will benefit Auburn undergraduate students, graduate students, researchers and the community.
“We have graduate students doing research in the AU-Bees Lab, we have undergraduate students doing research through their Undergraduate Research Fellowships, and we also hire undergrad research technicians who work in our lab, so we have a number of opportunities for students, and everyone in the lab is really working together on projects helping us promote Auburn’s mission of teaching, research and extension.”
“In one word, it is amazing,” Williams said of the fund. “I really, really appreciate it. The existence of this fund solidifies how the AU-Bees Lab is really a microcosm of Auburn overall in that our lab connects with the community and exists to be an asset to the public. The fact that we’re connected to the Collegiate Hotel in this way really solidifies that. It seems like an unconventional partnership, but it is meaningful for us.”
At the discretion of the dean, annual gifts may be used to support the strategic initiatives of the AU-Bees Lab program. This includes but is not limited to program research, faculty and student travel to conferences, student employment and equipment to advance apiculture, etc.
A community event to celebrate the fund’s creation and the third anniversary of the Collegiate Hotel’s opening will be held from 7-10 p.m. this Friday, July 23. The event is free to the public, 21 years and older. There will be honey tastings from local vendors, with Opelika distillery John Emerald onsite with craft cocktails featuring honey and, of course, lots of AU-BEES Margaritas.