J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation to endow $20 Million at Howard University for establishing the Marriott-Sorenson Center for Hospitality Leadership

Marriott International is going to form the Arne M. Sorenson Hospitality Fund to support the hospitality program and curriculum.

The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation along with Howard University recently announced the establishment of the Marriott-Sorenson Center for Hospitality Leadership. Through this step, the foundation intends to honour Marriott International’s president and CEO, Arne Sorenson, who tragically passed away last week from pancreatic cancer. The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation will provide a $20 million endowment to launch the Center at Howard University.

Moreover, Marriott International announced the formation of the Arne M. Sorenson Hospitality Fund to support the critical programmatic and career development elements of the Center. This Fund is dedicated to helping the industry build leadership talent in hospitality. Marriott has pledged the first donation of $1 million and is inviting other companies, organizations and individuals – from all industries – to support this effort.

“I can think of no better tribute to the amazing legacy of Arne Sorenson than to focus on educating and advancing future leaders of the hospitality industry,” said J.W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr., Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board, Marriott International. “Arne’s passion for creating a culture of opportunity brought real change in the executive ranks of our company. But work remains to be done. Our industry needs a pipeline of diverse leadership talent and that’s exactly what this Center will achieve. We are proud to bring Marriott International and our family foundation together to partner with this esteemed university in the city of our founding. This innovative program will foster leadership excellence and help drive greater inclusion at the most senior levels of the hospitality industry. We hope that other hospitality companies will join us in designing the program and providing experiential opportunities to generate talent that will meet the needs of the industry well into the future.”

“Now is the opportune time to launch this work,” added Mieka Wick, Executive Director, The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation. “The hospitality industry is evolving in new and exciting ways and there is a clear need for a forward-looking program designed to prepare leaders for this dynamic environment. A deeper commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion is imperative, not only because it is the right thing to do but because it is also good for the industry. The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation has a long-standing commitment to creating opportunity for all in the hospitality industry. Howard University, one of the nation’s finest historically Black colleges and universities, is ideally suited to partner with us, given the extraordinary students it serves,” she stated.

“Lack of diversity in the executive ranks of companies across America has long been a headline and has been further elevated in the national conversation as we are in this important moment of racial reckoning,” said Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick, President, Howard University. “Through this partnership with The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation and Marriott International, we are best positioned to further our existing commitment and address this most pressing issue. As I have gotten to know the Marriott family over the years, I have been impressed with their commitment to the community and excellence. This program will be a game changer for Howard University students and the hospitality industry by designing unique educational opportunities that meet the future demands of the industry, shaping the already promising talents and passions of our business students, and connecting those students with meaningful careers in the industry. What we are creating is a direct connection between an industry that is on the edge of change and a top caliber talent pool for them to recruit from,” he said.

The Marriott-Sorenson Center for Hospitality Leadership, which will be located in Howard University’s School of Business, will feature a program that expands educational and professional opportunities for Howard students and aims to develop future executives in the hospitality industry.

The experiential components of this new program, including access to top hospitality executives and industry leaders for Howard students, will make this curriculum appealing and unique. The Marriott family foundation and Howard University will work together to form a hospitality industry advisory council to design a program that will draw on the university’s ideal location in the geographic heart of the hospitality industry—Greater Washington, D.C.—where Marriott and many other hospitality companies are headquartered. In addition to advising on the development of the hospitality curriculum, the Center’s advisory council members will serve as guest lecturers and mentors and provide hands-on learning opportunities for students. 

The council will be having representatives from Howard, the Marriott family foundation, Marriott International, corporate hospitality executives, industry practitioners, association leaders and academics. The representatives will develop a hospitality program focused on traditional and experiential learning opportunities.


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