January 27, 2012
Metropolitan State University of Denver
Hotel and Hospitality Learning Center receives largest gift to date from Marriott Foundation
Metro State’s Hotel and Hospitality Learning Center is under construction, but The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation has already checked in with a $1 million gift to the project.
The donation, the largest to the HLC to date, was announced Jan. 20. In recognition of the gift, the 5,000-square-foot meeting space in the HLC will be named The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation Conference Center. It will feature floor-to-ceiling glass walls overlooking downtown Denver to the south and will accommodate up to 300 people.
“The Marriott Foundation’s support will help us provide unique career training and educational opportunities for students. Locally, the hospitality industry is one of the job-growth bright spots, so the gift’s timing couldn’t be better from a workforce development perspective,” says Metro State President Stephen Jordan.
The Hospitality, Tourism and Events Department boasts an enrollment of more than 600, and students will help staff and operate the SpringHill Suites by Marriott hotel, part of the HLC, once it opens in fall 2012. Students also will have access to state-of-the-art facilities, including a climate-controlled lab designed for sommelier training, a 72-seat student-run restaurant and cooking labs.
Alan Tuttle, who works for the Marriott Corporation, says The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation was started in 1965 to give back to the community and to projects like the HLC. Tuttle says although he doesn’t know the exact number, a large percentage of students are hired by Marriott out of programs like those at the HLC.
“Students will be learning and trained and developed so we can then have them come into the company for internships as well as at other companies. And upon graduation maybe come on as entry- level managers for us,” Tuttle says.
Chad Gruhl, associate chair and associate professor in the Hospitality, Tourism and Events Department, has been working on making the HLC a reality for the past six years, and says he can’t thank the foundation enough for its contribution.
“I appreciate them so much and have admired all they’ve done for us now and for students well into the future,” Gruhl says.
He anticipates his department doubling enrollment over the next six years. Students will be ready to enter the workforce with the experience they’ve received at the HLC, giving them a leg up on their peers from other institutions.
Jennifer Atkins put her education at Metro State on hold when her career took off in the hospitality field. Now, she is a general manager at the Denver Marriott Tech Center, and likely will work with HLC graduates from Metro State. She also intends to finish her degree.
“I would love to manage those students,” she said. “It’s great to have access to talented associates that will come out of this school with real-life experience in the industry.”
HLC by the numbers:
28,000-square-feet: Size of the Hospitality Learning Center
$45 million: Total cost of the project
5,000- square-feet: Size of The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation Conference Center
150: Number of rooms in the SpringHill Suites by Marriott hotel
600: Number of students enrolled in the Hospitality, Tourism and Events Department