Alumni from The School of Hospitality Business at MSU gathered in Chicago during the National Restaurant Show for the Alumni Association’s Annual Gathering of Leaders. The event on May 23 honored Marc Cassier (BA ’89), corporate executive director of Conference Services & Catering with Fairmont Hotels & Resorts – Americas, and Mary Winslow (BA ’91), vice president of Group Accounts for Luckie & Company, as Emerging Alumni Leaders of the Year; Grant DePorter, CEO of Harry Caray’s Restaurant Group, as Honorary Alumnus of the Year; and Peter Weien (BA ’81), vice president and market general manager for Opryland Resort & Convention Center Attractions, as Alumnus of the Year.
Chairman of The School’s Alumni Association Chuck Day (BA ’91) welcomed the guests – including Dean of the Eli Broad College of Business Dr. Sanjay Gupta – at the Westin Chicago River North, noting The School’s historical emphasis on leadership and its development of “Alumni who for the past 90 years have guided, shaped, and helped define the hospitality industry.” The awards were presented by Alumni Association Executive Board members, Mike Rice (BA ’91), Marc Gordon (MBA ’73) and Richard Farrar (BA ’73), and each honoree provided advice to current students and young alumni.
In 2011, Marc became the first-ever corporate executive director of Conference Services and Catering for Fairmont Hotels & Resorts. With restructuring in 2013, he now has the overall strategic responsibility for conference services and catering throughout the Americas for 45 Fairmont hotels, Swissotel hotels, and Raffles hotels.
While working with Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Marc earned numerous awards, including the National Catering & Convention Services Director of the Year – North America Division two times in the span of five years. Prior to that, with Walt Disney World, Marc was the youngest person in the company’s 35-year history to serve as director of Theme Parks Catering & Leisure Group Services.
Marc is a generous alumnus, mentoring students through the Spartan Sponsors Mentor Program and serving on the Alumni Association Board of Directors. He also solicits phenomenal packages for the annual Destination Auction, an invaluable contribution.
After attending CAREER EXPO in 1990, Mary began her hospitality business career as an intern with Marriott International. She joined IHG after graduation, displaying creative leadership in a number of positions. Mary served as regional director of IHG’s Rewards Club, and was director of Partnership Marketing. In that role, she developed relationships with more than 45 airlines worldwide as well as global credit card, car rental, and telecommunications companies. Mary also launched the co-brand loyalty credit card for IHG Rewards. During the fall of 2002, Mary expanded her role even further, heading to Singapore to act as director of the Asia Pacific division of IHG Rewards Club.
As IHG’s director of Brand Management for Hotel Indigo, she championed and led its repositioning from a midscale to an upscale boutique brand, with a focus on creating unique hotels reflective of local culture.
Currently the Vice President of Group Accounts for Luckie & Co., a one-of-a kind “human experience” advertising agency, Mary’s extensive experience in the hospitality industry drives a more strategic approach to the marketing needs of the tourism industry.
A member of The School’s Alumni Association Board of Directors, Mary brings her marketing and advertising expertise to her position as chair of its Marketing and Public Relations Committee.
Hospitality runs in the blood of the Honorary Alumnus of the Year. He grew up living and working in Chicago’s largest hotel, where his father Don was a Hyatt regional VP based out of the Hyatt Regency. Grant DePorter is the CEO and managing partner of Harry Caray’s Restaurant Group (HCRG). Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse opened in 1987, and under Grant’s leadership the company is now comprised of seven restaurants, an off-premise catering company, and the Chicago Sports Museum.
In a city that loves its food – and its steakhouses — HCRG has won a bevy of awards and is ranked as one of the Top 75 Multiconcept Operators in the Country. Its flagship has been voted “Best Steakhouse in Chicago” by the Chicago Tribune and many other outlets. With events like the destruction of the infamous Cubs Foul Ball and the Annual Worldwide Toast to Harry which involves thousands of people in over 120 countries, Grant and the restaurant have been seen on the Today Show, Good Morning America, and other news and entertainment networks.
A Chicago sports and history enthusiast, Grant is the author of Hoodoo: Unraveling the 100 Year Mystery of the Chicago Cubs. With his extensive sports memorabilia collection, he created the Chicago Sports Museum, combining his collection with high-tech interactive exhibits.
Grant has worked closely with Spartans such as Marc Gordon (MBA ’73), Kevin Brown (BA ’77), and Mike Fiegenbaum (BA ’74), and he supports School interns and hires School graduates.
Pete has the financial and operational responsibility for the largest non-gaming hotel and convention center in the country. Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center/Attractions encompass 2,882 guestrooms, 650,000 square feet of meeting and exhibition space, 16 food and beverage outlets, and 14 retail stores. He also has direct oversight for “Attractions” businesses including Gaylord Springs Golf Links, General Jackson Showboat, the 300-room Inn at Opryland, and Wildhorse Saloon. Pete’s leadership has resulted in record financial success and guest satisfaction.
During the Nashville Flood in the spring of 2010 Pete displayed uncommon leadership, supervising the safe evacuation of over 2,000 guests and associates. He then coordinated all rebuilding efforts, including re-opening planning and the $200 million re-design and renovation of the hotel and supporting Attractions.
Pete gives back to The School, recruiting students and graduates to Gaylord Opryland and helping to launch their careers. Generous with his time and his funds, Pete has assisted students with class projects, and donated to Destination Auction.
After the awards, Dean Gupta gave congratulatory remarks, speaking of The School as a “crown jewel” at MSU, and acknowledging the influence and enthusiasm of all The School’s alumni.
A reception followed closing remarks from Alumni Association President Mike Rice (BA ’91), allowing the ten students who had traveled to Chicago to meet with alumni and faculty members. The students also participated in 11 professional development programs throughout the city during their time there.
“Our Annual Gathering of Leaders embodies what we believe in The School,” says Chuck Day. “We celebrate 90 years of a special kind of leadership, in our industry and at Michigan State, consistently preparing students to “think like the owner” and make their own mark in hospitality businesses around the globe.”
Generous alumni and friends of The School sponsored Annual Gathering of Leaders. The funds assist a variety of programs in The School, including student travel to events such as this.