Dr. Ron Cichy (BA Hospitality Business ’72, MBA ’77, Ph.D. ’81), director of The School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State University, was honored by The School’s Alumni Association at its Annual Gathering of Leaders on Monday, May 19 at The Drake Hotel in Chicago during the National Restaurant Association Show. Stepping aside as School director after 26 years this August, it is widely acknowledged that under his leadership, The School has earned an outstanding international reputation for its exceptional faculty and its industry-shaping, successful alumni – and for attracting the brightest, hardest-working students from around the world, who are then hired for internships and careers by the finest companies.
Annual Gathering of Leaders honors The School’s Alumni Association Emerging Alumni Leaders, Honorary Alumnus, and Alumnus of the Year. This year in a surprise move, the Alumni Association named Dr. Cichy its “Spartan Champion,” an award given to only two previous recipients.
Calling him up to the stage, Chairman of the Board Billy Downs (BA Hospitality Business ’88) recalled Ron’s energy and passion for students and spoke of the Association’s Spartan Champion Award, acknowledging the two other recipients: Alumni Association Hall of Fame Member and past NRA Chairman Phil Hickey (BA Hospitality Business ’77) and HotelNewsNow Editor-at-large Ed Watkins. He then presented Ron with the award.
Current Alumni Association President Bruce Lange (BA Hospitality Business ’78) also addressed Ron, saying “there is no one more deserving of this award than you, Ron.” And Phil Hickey told the audience that he looked up the word “Spartan,” and discovered that the values associated with the ancient Spartans were loyalty, duty, respect, integrity, and honor. “You embody these values, Ron,” said Phil. He reminded the audience of all that Ron has given the students, and the critical ways in which he reconnected all the alumni to each other and to The School, rebuilding The School at a difficult time in its past to the pinnacle at which it stands today. “We are all better for having met you,” he said.
Phil concluded that whenever a chapter in one’s life comes to an end, we often question whether it “was worth it. . . if what we did mattered.” He said, “YOU matter. Know that.” It was then announced that the Ronald F. and Shelley G. Cichy Endowment for Hospitality Business Student Leaders (for Dale Carnegie Course enrollment) had, as of the end of the Alumni Association Board Meeting that afternoon, topped $100,000.
The group presented Ron with a Spartan helmet (think of the movie “300”), and Phil Zeller (BA Hospitality Business ’96), Dale Carnegie master trainer, presented him with a framed Dale Carnegie completion certificate, dated 1973, since Ron had mentioned to him that though he valued the training greatly, he no longer had his original certificate.
The entire ceremony concluded with a blessing from Father Larry McBrady, who explained that the basis of all religions is hospitality, citing an example from the book of Genesis in which travelers/strangers are welcomed into a home and given food and care. He praised The School and all those present, saying, “You have a spirituality that is very present, whether you are aware of it or not.” Laying his hands on Ron, Father Larry gave him a special blessing.
“I was surprised and honored to be recognized by a group of people I admire so much,” said Dr. Cichy later. “I will miss working closely with them on a daily basis for the good of our School, but I treasure the wonderful friendships that we’ve built over the years.”
Over the 26 years of Ron’s leadership, The School has attained international prominence for its focus on the management and operations of every segment in the hospitality industry. Most recently, it has broadened its focus to include real estate investment management and “Thinking Like the Owner” in all students’ curricula. Some additional highlights of Dr. Cichy’s tenure:
- Establishment of three endowed professorships: The Hilton Hotels Professor of Hospitality Financial Management, the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) Endowed Professor in Hospitality Business, and the Dr. Lewis J. and Mrs. Ruth E. Minor Professor of Culinary Business
- Creation of 52 endowments which assist with student travel, faculty research, student leadership development, and pay for eleven adjunct professors and full-time staff members.
- Raised over $24 million to fund School programs and initiatives, as well as the endowments and positions noted above.
- Rebranded The School, which included the name change from the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management to The School of Hospitality Business 19 years ago.
- Established for The School “industry-specific, independent” status within the Broad College of Business at MSU.
- Oversaw the rebuilding of a very active Alumni Association which hosts four main events each year on campus and in New York and Chicago (Celebration of Leadership, Annual Gathering of Leaders, Lifetime Academic Achievement Breakfast, and Legacy Breakfast), and participates in dozens of additional events and programs.
- Endowed a permanent “Student and Industry Resource Center” which oversees students’ required internships, hosts hundreds of company recruiting visits per year, presents the annual CAREER EXPO, and encourages alumni to post and students to seek jobs.
- Annual faculty participation in Broad College Executive Development initiatives.
- Publication of Legacy of the Leader, an over 400-page history of The School from its establishment in 1927 to its 75th Anniversary in 2002.
- Establishment of a Real Estate Investment Management Specialization.
- Revitalizing and updating The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation Culinary Business Learning Lab.
- Annual enrollments of over 850 undergraduate and graduate students.
- Academic partnerships at various trade conferences, including the North America Hotel Investment Conference (NATHIC).
- High profile participation at annual conferences of the International Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education (I-CHRIE); Americas Lodging Investors Summit (ALIS); Club Managers Association of America (CMAA); National Society of Minorities in Hospitality (NSMH); Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA); and others.