About

History

“Life is service – the one who progresses is the one who gives his fellow men a little more – a little better service.”
--E. M. Statler

Our Beginnings

Founded in 1922 at the request of leading hotel magnates and the American Hotel Association, the Cornell School of Hotel Administration has a rich history. The founders wanted to create a first-rate academic institution providing a field of study for the “science” of running hotels and restaurants.

The Cornell Hotel School, the world’s first undergraduate hospitality management degree program, began with 21 students under the direction of a single professor, Howard B. Meek. Cornell was the ideal Ivy League school to initiate this endeavor, since the university’s original mission in 1865 was to “found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.”

Ellsworth Statler -- the Man Behind the School

In 1927 Ellsworth M. Statler, a self-made millionaire who founded the largest hotel chain of his day, was persuaded to attend the second Hotel Ezra Cornell (HEC) conference organized by the Hotel Department students. When he arrived on campus, Statler was skeptical about the program. He believed individuals interested in a hospitality career could be better served by on-the-job training than by classroom learning. By the end of the weekend, however, he said, “I’m converted. Meek can have any damn thing he wants.”

Although Statler died in 1928, he and his wife, Alice, became the school’s greatest benefactors through provisions in Statler’s will. Over the years, the Statler Foundation has provided millions of dollars for teaching, research, scholarships, and facilities. It was Statler who set Cornell on its way to building the world’s foremost hospitality management program.   

From the “Inn” to the “Hotel”

During the 20 years following Statler’s visit to Cornell, the Hotel Department set the standard for excellence in hospitality education. In 1948, the Statler Foundation contributed the funds to build the original Statler Hall, including Statler Inn, a 50-room practice-management laboratory. The university established a full-fledged School of Hotel Administration two years later and in 1986 built the 150-room Statler Hotel & J. Willard Marriott Executive Education Center on the site of the original inn.

In 1973, the School launched the first master’s degree program for the industry. This program was created to give senior managers the knowledge and skills required to succeed in what had become an increasingly complex and global industry. The School also expanded its executive courses to help industry leaders accelerate their careers.

In 1989, the Statler Hotel was reconstructed, and major renovations were made to all School facilities. The Hotel underwent another renovation in 2006 and now features 153 guest rooms, many with breathtaking views of campus and the rolling countryside beyond.

In the fall of 2004, the School opened the Robert A. and Jan M. Beck Center, a spectacular learning space featuring state-of-the-art technology. The School now has outstanding classroom, lab and hotel facilities, helping to ensure a robust and rigorous learning experience for all students.

Extending Our Global Reach

In 2004 the Hotel School established a joint master’s program in hospitality management with Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Launched in 2006, The Cornell-Nanyang Institute educates up to 50 students per class who split their time between NTU’s campus and Cornell’s campus in Ithaca, N.Y. The program is the first joint degree program for both institutions.

In 2006 the Hotel School partnered with The Culinary Institute of America on a collaborative degree program offering a preeminent education in hospitality management and the culinary arts. Students earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Hotel Administration and an Associate in Occupational Studies degree in Culinary Arts.

That same year, Leland ’69 and Mary Pillsbury announced a $15 million gift to the Hotel School. The gift -- the largest single gift ever made to the School and one of the largest ever in hospitality education -- supports the Leland C. and Mary M. Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship. Faculty teams with accomplished entrepreneurs to give students the knowledge and skills to pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions.

Throughout its storied history, the Hotel School has evolved to keep pace with the growing demands of the hospitality field. Along the way the school has turned out extraordinarily accomplished alumni who are leaders in every facet of the world’s largest and most dynamic industry.  Moving forward, the school remains committed to drive Hospitality Leadership through Learning.