Celebration of LeadershipThe students are back in the classrooms, and the alumni back at work. But the good feelings and warm memories linger from Celebration of Leadership for The School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State University.

Celebration was attended by nearly 250 at the luxurious Waldorf Astoria during the International Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show on Saturday, November 13, and honored The School’s Industry Leader of the Year, John A. Belden (BA ’85). Also honored were five new inductees into The School’s Alumni Association Hall of Fame – for 2010, the Class of Alumni Leaders. The new Hall of Fame members are Richard D. Farrar (BA ’73), Marc J. Gordon (MBA ’73), Michael W. Murray (BA ’81), and Mary Ann Ramsey (BA ’75). Special guest at the award ceremony and elegant reception was Dean of the Eli Broad College of Business Stefanie Lenway.

John Belden is president & CEO of Davidson Hotel Company, leading the country’s 6th largest independent management company, with affiliations with Hyatt, Westin, Sheraton, Marriott, Embassy Suites, Doubletree, and InterContinental Hotel Group. He is an active alumnus and friend to The School, providing financial and advisory support in the form of a generous scholarship endowment, Auction donations, and membership on The School’s Alumni Association Executive Board and on its Real Estate and Development Advisory Council.

Accepting his award, John talked about his “heroes,” his “incredible” parents, Rodney and Anne Belden. And in their names, John and his wife Libby announced the establishment of a new student endowment in The School for “operational excellence and student travel.”

Each member of the Hall of Fame Class of Alumni Leaders enjoys a successful career and significant influence in the hospitality industry, but has also served in numerous leadership positions in The School’s Alumni Association, including president, chairman, and now, chairman emeritus. Richard D. Farrar (BA ’73) is vice president, owner & franchise services with Marriott International, Inc. Marc J. Gordon (MBA ’73) is president and CEO of the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association. Michael W. Murray (BA ’81) is chief operating officer for Hersha Hospitality Management. And Mary Ann Ramsey (BA ’75) is owner and president of Betty Maclean Travel, Inc.

Introducing the honorees, Dr. Ron Cichy (BA ’72, MBA ’77), director and professor in The School, said, “This group is special for the many hours, expert guidance, and creative direction they have provided to The School.” Indeed, each one, in addition to his or her formal role within the Alumni Association, has been a model to the students for inspired leadership in the industry, based on integrity, hard work, and creativity. They also mentor students, return to the classroom as guest speakers, arrange for internships within their companies, hire graduates, raise funds for The School, and in many other ways enthusiastically support our mission.

Each honoree had the opportunity to address the gathering, especially offering advice to the 60 students who traveled there from East Lansing. The students spent several days in New York, attending Celebration of Leadership, participating in the International Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show, and engaging in six professional development programs arranged by The School’s Student and Industry Resource Center (SIRC). They were graciously hosted by The Waldorf Astoria, where no fewer than eight school graduates serve as managers.

Celebration of Leadership is funded by individual and corporate sponsorships, which also fund the travel expenses for the students.

“It’s hard to put into words the feeling in the room tonight,” said honoree Marc Gordon after the event. “The exquisite food, the historic setting, and the fellowship made for a very memorable event.”

Mike Murray agreed. “There is genuine friendship and respect throughout our Alumni Association, and the students feel it and are nurtured by it. This annual celebration feeds our morale and enthusiasm for the entire year!”

Indeed, as Dr. Cichy has said on numerous occasions, “It’s all about relationships.” He explains, “Celebration of Leadership, of course, honors remarkable leaders in our industry. But the event itself is also a celebration of the incredible bonds between and among our alumni and students and our School.”