Spartans were everywhere at the March 22-24 annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism at the Amway Grand Hotel in Grand Rapids, MI. Presented by the Michigan Lodging & Tourism Association, the Conference featured TEDx-style “Big Idea Sessions,” exhibits from around the state, special performances, and keynote speaker Bill Rancic, the first winner of NBC’s The Apprentice.

A gala “Stars of the Industry” dinner on Monday evening recognized Michigan’s best in hospitality and tourism for 2015, with more than 700 attending.

One of those “stars” was Judy Zehnder Keller (BA ’67, MA ’73), president and owner of the Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn Lodge, who was honored as the RD Musser Hotelier of the Year. Named for the iconic hotelier who led Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island for decades, the award recognizes Mr. Musser’s gracious hospitality and his many contributions to the industry, and is given to the year’s premier owner/operator/or general manager.

Judy is a Hall of Fame member of MSU’s The School of Hospitality Business Alumni Association and was nominated last year by past director of The School Dr. Ron Cichy. He says, “The RD Musser Hotelier of the Year Award is the lodging community’s highest recognition in Michigan. Judy truly deserves this award which recognizes her commitment to hospitality and management excellence that extend beyond her property to her community and our industry.”

Known for her motto, “Let our family serve your family,” Judy’s personal approach to her staff members, her community involvement, service to the industry, and her success in running a four-generation family operation all were applauded as she accepted her award. She was joined for the Stars of the Industry by 16 family and team members, all of whom have been a part of the historic imprint of the Bavarian Inn Zehnder family in Frankenmuth.

Receiving the award, Judy noted that her credo is to try to make every stay memorable for every guest and that she fully believes that effort begins with every single staff member. “If we can have fun and create enjoyable experiences among ourselves, it naturally flows that we are better able to create enjoyable experiences for our guests,” she said.

Spartan students also had a role in the MLTA Conference, including the 2015 Student Star of the Year, Ryan Hemingson (BA ‘15). Ryan is a student in The School and associate at Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center at MSU. He has shown initiative and admirable work ethic as front office lead trainer and housekeeping management intern, and, according to the Kellogg Center, “continually works to ensure delivery or Outstanding Spartan Experiences to every single guest he serves.”

The MLTA intern who led in the planning and presentation of the evening’s awards program is another student from The School of Hospitality Business. Jillissa Taylor’s (BA ’17) creativity, hard work, and event management skills were on full display at the Stars event.

Another Spartan, Dr. Cichy (BA ’72, MBA ’77), served as the evening’s co-Master of Ceremonies along with Shonda Johnson, area general manager of the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center. Both individuals serve on the Board of Directors of the MLTA.