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Thursday, November 30, 2023


Hilton gala, events honor industry leaders’ efforts

The Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management’s "Hospitality Hall of Honor" formally welcomed two new inductees on Wednesday.

The Hospitality Hall of Honor, which recognizes examples of leadership and service in the hospitality industry, inducted Gary W. Loveman, CEO of Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc., and Howard Schultz, chairman of the Starbucks Coffee Co.

Wednesday night’s ceremony was the culmination of a week of events, including receptions for inductees, an industry lunch and several "think tank" sessions where leaders in the service industry were given the opportunity to meet with students.

"The Hospitality Hall of Honor has evolved from a small gathering of friends and associates of a given year’s inductees to a week of events managed by a student board of directors from Hilton college," Dean John Bowen said. "Tonight, not only do we honor two of our industry’s most worthy recipients, but we also provide our students with the opportunity to showcase their knowledge, skills and passion for the hospitality industry."

A former professor at the Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration, Loveman became chief operating officer of Harrah’s Entertainment in 1998. After being named chief executive officer in January 2003, Loveman presided over Harrah’s during its acquisition of Caesar’s Entertainment, Inc. for $9.4 billion, according to a release.

Loveman presided over one of the most difficult times in the history of Harrah’s when Hurricane Katrina struck. During the disaster, he said, people were given the opportunity to see a very different side of the casino industry.

"For the first time, the curtain was open and people could see what kind of patrons and neighbors we could be," he said.

Harrah’s offered extended pay for all its employees for the next three months following Katrina’s landfall.

"Hospitality, at its essence, is the most noble of endeavors. At its essence, that’s what our business is about, being hospitable and taking care of people," Loveman said. "In a world that is increasingly disconnected, the act of being hospitable is needed more so today than ever before."

Howard Schultz worked as manager of U.S. operations for the Swedish-based Hammarplast Company before being hired by Starbucks in 1981, according to a release. After a stint as director of retail and marketing operations, Schultz left Starbucks to start his own coffee bar, which succeeded enough to allow him to purchase Starbucks in 1987 for $3.8 million, according to a biographical Web site.

"It was Howard’s initial vision that we’re not in the coffee business serving people, we’re in the people business serving coffee," Starbucks Senior Vice President of Partner Resources Robert Ravener said."That’s what makes Starbucks truly special: warm smiles, happy faces and the recognition by name."

Ravener accepted the honor on Schultz’ behalf, who was not able to attend the night’s ceremony.

"Howard’s vision is crystallized in the notion that business is not just about making money; it’s doing the right thing," he said.

Starbucks actively recruits Hilton College graduates through Janet Vasko, the company’s regional recruiter.

"Hilton College, of all I’ve recruited from, is my favorite," Vasko said. "I am a huge supporter of the school."

In the days leading up to Wednesday’s induction ceremony, the college sponsored several discussion seminars in which students met with industry professionals to discuss the role of hospitality in the service industry and explore career options.

Students participated in the Hall of Honor Week Think Tank Series presented Tuesday and Wednesday.

Wednesday afternoon featured "The Incredible Starbucks Story ‘ Tasting" led by Rebecca Sinclair, the south central director of Partner Resources for Starbucks Coffee Company.

The event began with a coffee tasting, which is fundamental to Starbucks’ employees, or partners, as the company says, manager of the Montrose Starbucks location Angela Hamilton said.

Hamilton went on to describe the four-step process of coffee tasting – smell, slurp, locate experience on tongue and describe – to the students as they participated with their own samples of Starbucks coffee. Tasting coffee is a personal experience and depends on each person’s perspective, she said.

After handing out samples of Starbucks pastries to taste along with the coffee, Hamilton moved on to describe the company’s involvement with fair trade coffee.

"It’s the right thing to do," she said. "We are the largest purchaser of fair trade coffee in the world…. This is our way of doing right by the farmers in the countries of origin."

Hilton students were responsible for putting together Wednesday night’s ceremony, a task that took two weeks of preparation, Managing Director Stacey Kosar said.

"It’s a great experience in that you get to meet so many people in the industry and that the bright students of this college all work together to put on a wonderful event," she said. "This is our second year with students running the event."

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