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John and Melissa Ceriale Foundation Endows New Professorship in Hospitality Human Resources

Hospitality industry veterans John and Melissa Ceriale, through their family foundation, have endowed the John and Melissa Ceriale Professorship of Hospitality Human Resources at the School of Hotel Administration (SHA). The professorship will be held by a senior faculty member who is currently at the school or who will be recruited in the area of hospitality human resources, and it will support joint research and programming between Cornell’s schools of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) and Hotel Administration.

The School of Hotel Administration and the ILR School have an ongoing series of initiatives related to the study of hospitality workplace issues, taking advantage of their respective strengths in a unique collaboration. Faculty from the two schools have done joint research on hospitality labor issues, have designed courses to help future practitioners destined for both hospitality management and labor relations careers better understand the inextricable connections between labor and management interests in the hospitality field, and have organized industry conferences focusing on the latest practice and research at the nexus between labor and the hospitality industry. The support from the Ceriale Foundation will enable the two schools to sustain and build upon the important and timely work already being done.

Both Ceriales have enjoyed long careers in the hospitality industry. Following roles with Marriott Hotels and Resorts, Fairmont Hotels, and Westin Hotels, John for the last 13 years has served as the hotel advisor on hospitality investments to the Blackstone Group, the largest owner of hospitality assets in the world. As president of Prospect Advisors, John reviews investment opportunities and makes recommendations to Blackstone management for that portion of their real estate investment portfolio focused on hospitality assets. Melissa, after receiving a degree from Michigan State University’s School of Hospitality Business, worked in sales for Marriott Hotels and Resorts. A mother of three, she is an active volunteer with Teach for America.

John Ceriale has been instrumental in helping shape the collaboration between the School of Hotel Administration and the ILR School. John has worked with Cornell professors Dave Sherwyn, SHA, and Richard Hurd, ILR, to integrate labor issues and management interests into courses and symposia. John is interested in this confluence of potentially conflicting interests and wants students at the two schools to understand labor/union dynamics as a positive partnership. A roundtable run this spring by Professors Sherwyn and Hurd, in which John also participated, was cited as one of the highpoints of the semester by participants.

Continuation and expansion of classes such as the one co-taught by Sherwyn and Hurd is a primary reason for the Foundation establishing this endowment. Cornell has long been known for producing leaders in the global hospitality industry and for educating many labor experts and union advisors. By ensuring that material related to the interplay of union and management concerns is introduced to students at the two schools, John and Melissa are helping to create more informed participants on both sides of the bargaining process.

Additionally, seminars and conferences targeted toward practitioners on both the labor front and from the hospitality industry bring this same awareness and balance to working professionals. Research in this area will continue to be conducted by faculty and students from both schools with funding support from the Ceriale endowment.

The gift from the Foundation comes as John Ceriale has agreed to serve a three-year term on the School of Hotel Administration’s Dean’s Advisory Board, a 35 member group of alumni, parents, and industry leaders who help ensure that the school continues to best meet the needs of the world’s largest industry.

“Kids are so influenced by their families as it relates to issues like religion, politics, etc.,” observed John Ceriale. “People’s opinions on issues like unions versus management fall into the same category, not so different than the civil war, Blue versus Gray. Yet there is so much common ground. It’s important to us that this gift promotes that kind of common understanding. We must teach the youth of today, the leaders of tomorrow, to open their minds and see things from different perspectives.”

“We would like to express our sincerest gratitude to John and Melissa Ceriale and their foundation for their exceptionally generous gift,” said Michael D. Johnson, dean and E. M. Statler Professor. “Professorships are extremely important in maintaining and attracting quality faculty and giving them the tools they need to succeed. This gift also allows us to continue our collaboration with the ILR School in the study of hospitality human resources, a field that is critical in every sector of the industry.”