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The School Celebrates Leadership – Eli Broad College of Business _ Michigan State University

The School Celebrates Leadership – Eli Broad College of Business _ Michigan State University

The School Celebrates Leadership | MSU Broad College of Business

Pictured left to right, 2013 honorees with members of The School’s Alumni Association Board of Directors: Chuck Day, Steve LaHaie, Dan Burdakin, Brad Cance, Dave Grissen, Ron Cichy, Phil Hickey, Richard Farrar.

The School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State University’s annual Celebration of Leadership in New York City on November 9 recognized several hospitality industry exemplars.

In a memorable ceremony at The Waldorf Astoria, two alumni were inducted in The School’s Alumni Association Hall of Fame Class of Mentors.  Bradley N. Cance (BA ’89), general manager and COO of Bethesda Country Club, and Stephen E. LaHaie (MBA ’77), senior vice president of Shaw’s Crab House Division of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Inc., are the new members of the Hall of Fame.  The 2013 “Spartan Champion” is Philip J. Hickey, Jr. (BA ’77), National Restaurant Association chairman, and chairman of Miller’s Ale House Restaurants.  And the Alumni Association’s Industry Leader of the Year is David J. Grissen (BA ’79), group president for Marriott International, Inc.

Welcoming the over 250 who gathered in the Empire Room off the beautiful lobby of the landmark hotel, Dr. Ron Cichy, School director for the past 25 years, spoke of what The School stands for.  With his time as director coming to an end (he will step aside at the end of August), he recalled The School’s many accomplishments, and noted that they were the result of the combined efforts of faculty and alumni, industry supporters, and outstanding students.  “You own The School,” he said.  “Act as its fiduciaries in the coming months and years, take responsibility for its future, protect its mission and its reputation that YOU all helped to build.  Take pride in what its broad hospitality business education has meant to its graduates and in turn, the entire industry, where Spartans lead in every segment.  Always remember, We are The School.”

The Dean of the College of Business at MSU Stefanie Lenway also welcomed the guests and honorees, thanking Dr. Cichy for his dedication and energy. She gave assurances for a smooth transition to new leadership for The School, recognizing that many in the room have a vested interest in The School’s continued excellence. “This group of Spartans will persevere,” she said.

Before the award ceremony began, Waldorf General Manager Eric Long spoke of the long and close relationship between the hotel and The School, acknowledging the obvious reason that so many Spartans occupy leadership positions at the Waldorf:  “The School prepares its students so well,” he said.  “Our MSU grads are among the best and brightest at The Waldorf.”  He recognized the outstanding faculty who very effectively partner with the industry, and added “Dr. Cichy will be a hard act to follow – he leaves a huge legacy.” And with that, all eight of The School’s graduates currently working at The Waldorf joined Eric onstage to present a beautifully rendered and framed sketch of The Waldorf Astoria to Dr. Cichy.

But the evening was dedicated to The School’s honorees, each of whom addressed their acceptance remarks to the 65 School students who traveled to New York for Celebration of Leadership, as well as several additional professional development programs and attendance at the International Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show.   Generous individual and corporate sponsors allowed for the students’ travel.

Brad Cance spent his entire career leading Five-Star and Five-Diamond properties such as the Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton before joining the Bethesda Country Club. He has been a dedicated alumnus, whose contributions to The School’s annual Destination Auction have made a huge impact.  He has mentored individual students hoping to have careers in lodging management and working as interns at his properties.  Upon being inducted into the Hall of Fame, Brad told the students present, “Be proud, humble, and confident. And realize that when you start interviewing, you have an immediate advantage being from The School.”

Steve LaHaie, whose Shaw’s Crab House is one of the most beloved restaurant in Chicago, spoke of his good fortune in his life and career, but noted that success is a result of “a lot of hard work.”  Coming to MSU to earn an MBA in The School was a natural choice, he said, given its reputation: “I knew the place to specialize was MSU.”  He told the students to be passionate and enthusiastic in the workplace, and to never stop learning.  Steve has hired dozens of Spartans, and mentored each one.

Phil Hickey, a legendary restaurateur who has led several outstanding companies including Cooker Bar & Grille, Rio Bravo Cantina, RARE Hospitality International, Inc., and O’Charley’s, Inc., now serves as the entire restaurant industry’s spokesman and inspiration as the NRA chairman.  In The School, Phil’s generosity and dedication are unequaled.  He champions students with a special kind of mentoring, devoting countless hours and attention to their development.  The endowments he has established have assisted many students with tuition, books, and travel to industry conferences.  He has invested in The School’s efforts to enroll student leaders in the Dale Carnegie Course, and he never fails to take the time to offer advice and counsel to Dr. Cichy when asked.  He is a true Spartan Champion.  He told the students that one’s life and career is really all about relationships.  “Be a servant leader,” he said. “Persevere, be tenacious, but always remember that we are serving people.”

Dave Grissen came to his leadership role with Marriott International in a slightly unusual way.  With a degree in finance, his initial roles with the company were in the finance realm: CFO of Residence Inn and VP of Lodging Finance and Business Development.  But he smoothly transitioned into operations so successfully that he currently has the responsibility for the financial management and leadership of all of the America’s Lodging operations, with more than 3,300 hotels and a workforce of 120,000.

Mr. J.W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr. himself earned The School’s Alumni Association Industry Leader of the Year award in 2001, so Dave jokingly noted that he never thought he would earn the same award as the iconic head of Marriott International.  However, he told the students anything is possible.  “Hospitality Business is the best industry,” he said.  “I can’t tell you how much fun I’ve had, and how many great friendships I’ve enjoyed.”  He urged them to work hard, saying, “It’s the little things.  Hard work will separate you.  So will common sense.”  Take risks, he said, “and try different roles you are not comfortable with.”  Dave also encouraged the students to give back to their communities.  “Mr. Marriott may not have expected me to earn this award,” he said, “but he is very proud that I did.  Remember, success is never final.”

In fact, as many as 50 Marriott colleagues were in the audience to help celebrate Dave’s achievement – and highlighted the very long and mutually beneficial relationship the company has with The School, its faculty, Dr. Cichy, and its Student and Industry Resource Center.

The evening concluded with an elegant reception across the historic lobby of The Waldorf in the Vanderbilt Room, where alumni, honorees, and guests celebrated, reminisced, and looked forward together.

“Without Dr. Cichy, we would not be here in this room,” remarked Brad Cance.  And Ron himself admitted to the emotional nature of his “last” Celebration of Leadership.  “But it is easy to feel positive about the future of our School when you see the people we’ve honored tonight and the ways our students interact with our incredible alumni,” he said.  “I am very confident in the direction of our School.”

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