Lessons on Life and Lodging

November 10, 2011

The other day I received a totally undeserved standing ovation as I spoke to students at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration.  I think the students just wanted to stretch their legs after 45 minutes of listening to my stories.  


I was really surprised and stunned by the applause.  But as I later thought about it, the clapping wasn’t for me but the incredible growth of our hospitality industry.  

A big reason for that growth is the increasing number of colleges and universities that offer degrees in hotel management.  Marriott works with Cornell and many other schools to develop and fund this course-work.  And, of course, we hire as many of these graduates as we can.

And so, I was honored to share my experiences with these future hoteliers.  The best part was my daughter, Debbie, who interviewed me on stage.  She had probing, insider-type questions.  She also interviewed her husband Ron Harrison who heads up Marriott’s Architecture and Construction department.  She lobbed him some softball questions.  I thought that was pretty smart.  It was great family fun.  

We’ve put together some excerpts (above) or you can watch the entire 45 minutes.  I don’t know who’d want to do that. 

After meeting many of the Cornell students, I’m excited about the future of our business.  There’s something about being on a college campus that energizes me and leaves me very optimistic.  As my college-aged grandchildren say, “I’m pumped!” 

I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the Move.

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Mr. Marriott

Just want to thank you and your company for helping us, students, and helping us along this career.

Although I'm still a High School student, I would love to study Hospitality, but have my doubts.
I want to be someone "big" in the hospitality business, and of course I will have to start from the button.

But my real doubt, is should I study a bachelors degree and a masters degree in Hospitality, (probably Cornell) or study first Business Management and then a masters degree in Cornel?

I would love to hear an answer, but I still want to say thanks.

As a hospitality management student at Texas Tech University, I know I speak for everyone here when I say we would love to have you join us for a presentation.

I’m surprised how you can create such a tremendous site. It’s amusing.
John Parkers
"Nurnberg hotel"

Thanks for the video. We were friends with Debbie and Ron when they were in Seattle going to grad school. We have twins the same age. It was fun to watch them together after all these years.

As a current platinum member, I cannot share in the ovation having just had a less than "ovation experience" at your Ritz Carlton in Amelia Island.

Big Thanks to Mr. Bill Marriott for all his Help and Support in making a little girl who just lost her dad, very Happy.

I have worked for the Courtyard Marriott for nearly 12 years and have loved every minute of it. The franchise I work for practices what Marriott preaches. Thank you for creating such a wonderful work environment.

to listen to Mr. Marriott for an hour is like taking a whole course in customer service. He said key points, key words.


Wilder Savany
Director at Mega Innovations Group

Congratulations Bill! You deserve the kudos.

Best regards,


Dear Mr. Marriott, I don't know if this is the best place for this comment but I couldn't find a better alternative. This last weekend my husband and I took our two grandduaghters to the Marriott Minneapolis West(on frontage rd. near I394) for a special night with a movie and popcorn package. Well, things did not go so well but I want you to know that Jessica, the manager, made everything "right" the next morning. As far as I'm concerned, customer service is the key ingredient to any business that deals with the public and I was very impressed. I don't know if this will ever get to you or back to Jessica but she's a professional in every way and represents your hotel in the most couteous and prfessional way. I paln to stay there again. Thank you and thank you Jessica.

I already listened to the full 45 minute version from a recent Marriott communication! I get soooo pumped every time I listen to your blog and any time you speak. Thank you for being my inspiration. :-)

last week my son and I attended a conference in Fairfax, VA. The conference was held at the George Mason University Inn, but because there was no room at the Inn, we were booked at the Springhill Suites in Fairfax. My son has Down syndrome, and is a great reader of people's interest and intents. We were treated so well at the Springhill. Everyone we encountered went out of their way to make us comfortable and welcome. Please thank everyone there for us. My son, Reed, commented that this was one of the best places we have ever stayed.
Karen Hahne
Orem, Utah

I was looking at the points that I had totalled over the years. We have not been traveling as much, since we are in a recession with the rest of the country. When we go somewhere for children's weddings, we try to stay at Marriott because we KNOW that our accomodations will be pleasant and comfortable. We have a timeshare in Kill Devil Hills on the Outer Banks of NC first week in January. When we go, we drive to Rocky Mount and stay at the Courtyard. Last year I did not get credit in points for staying at the Courtyard on the way there and on the way back. I stayed and was glad to have the rest both ways. We will try it again this year on Jan.7 and on night of 14th. I will insist that they write the number on my receipt. Thank you for your quality and beautifully appointed rooms. Cathryn B Kinser, RobertK185@aol.com.

I feel very fortunate to work for a company that, like Marriott, takes care of it's employees! I love the stories and really enjoyed hearing Mr. Marriott speak. My own personal experience is similar in that if people know what is expected of them and how to do it, they will do it and do it well.

Bill- I would have to disagree with you re watching the whole 45 minutes. Its worth the time. Rick Barton, Cornelius, NC

Tribute was much deserved. The interview by Debbie, with her husband there, was a special touch.

Actually, I am sure the standing ovation was also for you directly. You have overseen the extensive growth of a company that has served as a leader in hospitality, innovation and diversity. I have since left the hospitality industry, but when I started, with Marriott, there were only 32 Marriott Hotels in the company. Since then your company, with its growth, has offered many, many people an opportunity to grow, succeed and, in my case, lead with some of the best in the hospitality profession. If I had been in the audience I would have joined the students in the well-deserved standing ovation. Here's to your continued success.

I hope these students (and others) listened to Bill Marriott. What an icon! His universal values are not based on the latest social media site, but on human nature. That never changes and it's nice to see it a company hold true to those beliefs.

Great presentation great to see Mr Marriott and Ron Harison.Even beter to hear that marriott has not changed its culture.
I almost feel that i should apllie for a job again (-:
I am retierd after 28 years with Marriott and i still miss my Job
Hanspeter Bachofner Ex. chef and GM

I am sorry, but I disagree with you, Mr. Marriott. The standing ovation was for you. Your approach to caring for your employees and empowering them to take care of your customers is remarkable. It is evident every time I step into one of your hotels, which is quite often. I look forward to listening to the entire 45 minutes. Excellent blog!

Great lessons for leaders in any industry, and great principles for life. I like the focus on culture: the proper attitude and taking care of the people. Thanks for sharing!

It's great hearing Bill Marriott discuss the business and his life in this type of forum. The students must have been enthralled. Wonderful stories!