Hotel Ezra Cornell
Hotel Ezra Cornell is an annual weekend-long educational conference put on by the students of the Cornell School of Hotel Administration for leaders of the hospitality industry. It comprises educational seminars, leisure activities, and food and beverage events. The purpose of the weekend is for students to practice the skills they have learned in the classroom and to showcase their talents to industry professionals.
HEC is planned, managed, and staffed entirely by students. Over the course of one academic year, the student Board of Directors, Board Assistants, and Function Managers plan all of the details of HEC, and during the weekend, over 300 students get involved in the work. From the food on the guests' plates to the decorations at all functions to the turndown service at night, everything is done by students. Faculty members act only as advisers: ultimately, the entire weekend is in the hands of the students.
History of HEC
Begun in 1926, Hotel Ezra Cornell is a tradition older than the Hotel School itself. HEC dates back to 1925, when Dean Howard Meek took a group of students to New York City to manage the Hotel Astor for a day. Upon returning to Ithaca, the students decided to hold the grand opening of "The Only Hotel for a Day". The students planned and managed an extravagant formal dinner party for the pioneers on the hospitality industry, and thus, on May 7, 1926, in Risley Hall on Cornell's campus, Hotel Ezra Cornell was born.
The second year of HEC was a turning point in the history of the School. One of the world's leading hoteliers, Ellsworth Milton Statler, was a guest of honor, attending to assess the quality of Cornell's hotel program. At the main banquet, Statler commented, "I'm converted. Meek can have any damn thing he wants."
In years to come, HEC became more and more elaborate. The weekends began adopting themes. For example, HEC 60 was themed "Diamond Robbery" and took after a mystery theater. The whole weekend was centered on solving a fictitious diamond robbery, with each social event providing clues. By the end, particularly perceptive guests were able to solve the mystery. However, the themes ended with HEC 77, when the focus of the weekend shifted from socializing to learning.
Students coined the tag line "The Best Ever" to describe how their HEC would top all previous HECs.
Important dates in the HEC timeline
- 1926: HEC 1
- 1927: Statler pledges support
- 1938: HEC is dedicated to Meek
- 1943: 20th Anniversary of hotel program, announcement that Statler Foundation would support new facility for school
- 1950: The cornerstone of Statler Hall is laid
- 1951: Meek is named director of hotel program; the new Statler Hall opens
- 1955: The Hotel School becomes an independent unit
- 1962: Meek’s last year, HEC is dedicated to him
- 1972: Educational focus introduced
- 1980: Formal dinner becomes multiple dinners—guests get to choose which dinner to attend
- 1988 & 1989: [Statler Hotel] under renovation, so HEC is held all over campus
- 1990: Grand Opening of Statler Hotel and J. Willard Marriott Executive Education Center (record number of industry leaders in *attendance)
- 2005: First year with HEC to be held in the Robert A. and Jan M. Beck Center
Past and current VIP guests
- Ken Blanchard - Owner, Ken Blanchard Companies, Author, One Minute Manager; Management consultant
- Chris Cahill - President/COO, Fairmont Hotels
- Simon Cooper - COO, Ritz Carlton
- Stoddard Crane - VP of Business Growth, Darden Restaurants
- Matthew J. Hart - President/COO, Hilton Hotels Corporation
- Wolf Hengst - President, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts
- Conrad Hilton - Founder, Hilton Hotels Corporation
- Howard Deering Johnson - Founder, Howard Johnson's Hotels
- J. Willard Marriott, Jr. - CEO of Marriott Hotels
- David Neeleman - CEO, JetBlue
- Drew Nieporent - President, Myriad Restaurant Group
- Timothy Ryan - President, The Culinary Institute of America (CIA)
- Burton “Skip” Sack - Chairman, National Restaurant Association (NRA)
- John Sharpe - Former President/COO, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts
- William Shaw - President/COO, Marriott International
- Barry Sternlicht - Former CEO, Starwood Hotels and Resorts
- Ted Teng - President/CEO, The Leading Hotels of the World
- Jonathan Tisch - President/CEO, Loews Hotels
- Stephen Weisz - President, Marriott Vacation Club International
- Steve Wynn - Chairman, Wynn Resorts
- Brad Edmondson (1997). Hospitality Leadership: The Cornell Hotel School. Cornell Society of Hotelmen. pp. 33–34. ISBN 0-9649921-0-8.
- Brad Edmondson (1997). Hospitality Leadership: The Cornell Hotel School. Cornell Society of Hotelmen. p. 39. ISBN 0-9649921-0-8.
- Sanders, Joy; Morris, Allison Jeanne Morris (1990). The Best Ever! Memories of Hotel Ezra Cornell. The Grapevine Press.