A lesson in embracing opportunities

Bob Wilson ’75, has embraced with open arms the opportunities that life has given him. 

Wilson attended Lynn University during its transition from Marymount College, a Catholic school, to the College of Boca Raton. Back then the area was much different: only five buildings grazed the campus’ 125-acre landscape, and west of Military Trail was all Everglades. After so many years, Wilson has still kept a fond memory of his time at the College of Boca Raton. 

“We had only two dorms: one for the guys and one for the girls,” he said. “The upper floor of the dining hall had a bar named Rathskeller, the library and administration offices shared a building, and the last one had the classrooms. We still had alligators in the lakes, too.” 

Wilson recalls the feeling on campus as being part of one big family. The Rathskeller, an on-campus bar, was one of two local spots that fueled the night life for students, the other being the Royal Crown Lounge down Spanish River Boulevard. 

Bob Wilson shows off his passion for baking

After graduating with his associate’s degree in 1975, Wilson moved to Hamilton, New Jersey, where he purchased the town’s delicatessen. Wilson ran the town deli for three years before his storefront suffered a fire and he had to sell the property. It was at this point that Wilson decided to join the U.S. Army in 1978 working in the culinary program.

“I always had an interest in cooking,” said Wilson. “I actually began enjoying it back in high school. There was a stretch of time when I was sick and couldn’t do anything but watch cooking shows.” 

Wilson recalls his time in the army as exciting, to say the least. As executive chef under General Bernard Rodgers, Wilson served many high-profile guests when he was stationed at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), in Mons, Belgium. 

“At the Chateau Gendebien we hosted black tie events three times per week. I had the pleasure of serving the King and Queen of Belgium; England’s Prince Charles and Princess Diana; John Chancellor; Walter Cronkite, and young One-Star General Colin Powell,” said Wilson.

While Wilson was stationed at SHAPE, he met his bride to be, Susan, who was serving as a clinical dietitian. After five years in Europe, Wilson and his wife were both transferred to San Antonio, Texas, where they worked in the Fifth Army Commander’s residence at Fort Sam Houston. 

In 1984, Wilson retired from the Army and was hired by Brinker International to be the restaurant manager at a Chili’s Grill and Bar. After adjusting to civilian life and building his credential as restaurant manager, Wilson was offered the opportunity to help develop the menu and plan the opening of Cozymel’s Coastal Mexican Restaurant. Working with his new team, Wilson oversaw the opening of Cozymel’s in three separate locations in Columbus and Dayton, Ohio, and Knoxville, Tennessee.

Wilson retired from the restaurant industry in 2011, but there’s still no sign of him slowing down, “I still invent and cook dishes daily. You just can’t get me out of the kitchen!”

A word about the Rathskeller rat-pack ...

Joe Stefanacci (Hemo) and Gerry Rittenberg (Ritt), who ran the Rathskeller, and Rocky Paolucci and Greg Malfitano, Lynn's current Senior Vice President for Administration and Alumni Affairs, were a tight-knit group who would frequent wrestling matches up and down Florida’s coast almost every week.

Looking back fondly, Wilson said, “All hail Greg Malfitano, Hemo, Ritt, and Rocky. Wrestling and Royal Crown Lounge never recovered!”

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