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Cornell’s Annual Conference to Feature Leaders in Innovation, Sustainability


ITHACA, N.Y.—Why should hospitality leaders embrace uncertainty, disruption, and risk when the world (and perhaps a boss or two) prizes confidence, calmness, and security? Does innovation really pay? And does sustainability? These questions and many more will be answered at Hotel Ezra Cornell (HEC), April 12-15, 2007. The theme of this year’s conference is rather fitting for an 82-year-old organization: “Sustainability Through Innovation.”

When the student leaders of HEC chose the theme, they aimed to answer the question, “What must innovative hospitality organizations do in order to survive and to thrive?” The theme includes, but is certainly not limited to, environmentalism. In order to fully address the theme of “Sustainability Through Innovation,” the HEC 82 program includes a keynote speech delivered by Leland Pillsbury ’69, Chairman and CEO of Thayer Lodging Group, and a panel titled “Sustaining the Environment,” which features six sustainability thought leaders.

The though leaders include: Mark Milstein, Director of the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise at the Johnson School of Management at Cornell University; Stefan Muhle, General Manager of San Francisco’s Orchard Garden Hotel; Ted Ning, Executive Director of the LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) Conference; Jim Root, Chairman of ISPA (International Spa Assn.); Sandra Taylor, Senior Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility of Starbucks Coffee; and Mark Wuttke, Principal of Wuttke Group.

Keynote Speaker Background

Pillsbury will deliver this year’s keynote address on Friday, April 13 at 8:45 a.m. He will draw on his vast experiences as a business leader and entrepreneur to describe the relationship between HEC 82’s theme of “Sustainability Through Innovation” and his own concept of “Entrepreneurship as a State of Mind.” Before launching his own company, Pillsbury was Marriott’s youngest Executive Vice President and Corporate Officer, leading Marriott into a number of new business ventures, including the time-sharing business, the Fairfield Inn economy segment, and the Residence Inn extended stay segment.

In addition to Thayer Lodging Group, Pillsbury has founded several other companies. TIG Global specializes in internet marketing, enabling client hotels to keep direct control of their customers’ data. EMC Venues arranges corporate meetings and events at hotels, conference centers and resorts. Thayer’s newest venture is a Web-based central reservations platform for China’s domestic hotel industry, being created in conjunction with Jin Jiang Corp. of Shanghai, China’s largest hotel company.

A faithful alumnus, Pillsbury is a long-time supporter of the Cornell Hotel School. Most recently, he and his wife, Mary, donated $15 million, the largest single gift ever made to the school and one of the largest ever in hospitality education. The gift will be used to support the Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship, providing students with the skills and ability to think like entrepreneurs.

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