The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation will provide a $20 million endowment at Howard University to establish the Marriott-Sorenson Center for Hospitality Leadership. The center, which will be part of the School of Business at the historically Black school, honors the memory of Marriott president and CEO Arne Sorenson, who passed away last week from pancreatic cancer. Sorenson championed diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at Marriott and stressed the need for more diverse leadership in the industry.
Marriott has also created the Arne M. Sorenson Hospitality Fund, which will support the programming and career development aspects of the center. Marriott pledged the first donation of $1 million to the fund and is inviting other companies, organizations and individuals to contribute to the effort, as well.
“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 chair of the board for 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.”
A world-class hospitality curriculum is planned for the center, which will promise access to top hospitality executives and leaders from the industry. The Marriott family foundation and Howard University will collaborate to create a hospitality-industry advisory council that will design the program.
“Now is the opportune time to launch this work,” said Mieka Wick, executive director of 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.”
The discussion around the lack of diversity represented in executive leadership across the country has become louder and more direct in the travel industry this year. “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," said Wayne A.I. Frederick, president of Howard University. "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.”