Leaving a Legacy - the Impact that One Person Can Make on Others; Remembering Jack Vaughn, CHA
March 10, 2015 6:42pm
By John Hogan, CHA CHMS CHE CHO and Eight Others Who Knew Him Well
"We must begin thinking like a river if we are to leave a legacy of beauty and life for future generations."
This is a short six letter word, but its definition has meaning to many of us. We all hope and want to make a difference in the lives of those we interact with. We work to positively impact others in our time.
I have written several hundred columns and articles in my career, yet I must share this one was not easy to write because it marked the passing of a hospitality professional who truly inspired me in my career.
It saddened me to receive a phone call on the passing of Jack Vaughn last November when I was facilitating a week long certification program for hotel owners in Virginia. That call came from Emily Ellis, a long time associate and friend of mine who worked with Jack for more than 10 years at the Opryland Hotel, and she stayed with Gaylord another fifteen years. She was making this call to a handful of people and had a hard time with the message. She was to the point, suggested I look at the obituary  and that we reconnect later, after the news had sunk in.
Jack Vaughn (1937-2014) certainly left his mark and a legacy in truly dramatic ways. One of the best tributes that could be offered about Jack would be to recognize the fact that he built his reputation and influenced others in ways that were seldom self serving.
Jack was a private person and that was evident by his quietly blending into the background in the 15 years since he left Opryland.
A personal friend and professional associate, David Brudney of California, wrote a wonderful recollection of the personal side of Jack that he knew in their Westin days. I enjoyed learning some things I did not know about his background prior to the 18 years Jack and I overlapped in Tennessee.
A primary observation for me was that Jack was an exceptional hotelier and caring individual. He inspired an army of other professionals through his commitment to continuous learning and certification.
I first met Jack in 1981, when he was the General Manager of the then 600 room Opryland Hotel that had been open almost 5 years. I noticed immediately the commitment Jack had to local business and by his ongoing participation in the Nashville and Tennessee Hotel & Motel Associations, well after his terms as elected President ended. The Opryland Hotel was the best in market already in Tennessee, but Jack and the team never rubbed in the fact that they could have any piece of business they wanted in Nashville. He recognized that we were all in this together, and a successful Nashville hotel market would help them as well, long term.
While I was not on the Opryland staff, I served for more than 12 years as a fellow hotelier with Jack on many industry commissions and councils with city, state and national hotel associations and bureaus. He was open to suggestions and always looking for the best solutions to problems, regardless of who thought of it. In fact, he usually went out of his way to credit others.
He frequently led by example, by his manner and by his commitment to quality in himself and the team. I still use illustrations of Jack interacting with other staff members in our training, as he was clearly one of a kind. These anecdotes continue to make people smile, because they are so real. He was elegant and cultured, and yet valued the down-home charm of the country aspect of Nashville and worked to share that charm with visitors, guests and those of us who interacted with him.
I decided that reflecting on the impact that one person can make on others was a message worth sharing. I reached out to a handful of other hoteliers and hospitality industry professionals to help with that message.
Following, in no particular order, are some reflections from others on the legacy that Jack left.
From a former Director of Training at Opryland Hotel who was there when Opryland began its incredible commitment to continuous learning and training of all staff at all levels
When I hear such words as insightful, perceptive, intuitive, charisma, commitment, integrity, trusting, charm, and vision, Mr. Vaughn comes to mind. My whole understanding of what it meant to be a professional in the hospitality industry changed the day I encountered Jack Vaughn. He possessed an allure and magnetism that captured both your mind and your heart.
Mr. Vaughn led with consistency, believed in harmony and understood relationship building before it became popular. I feel fortunate that his shadow passed over me early in my career.
Dr. Marc Clark, CHA, CHRE, CHE, CHO President SmartBizzOnline, Franklin, KY
From a Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive who was there when Vaughn first came to Tennessee in the mid 1970s
Terry Clements / Vice President, Government & Community Relations, Music City CVB
From a former Tennessee Assistant Commissioner of Tourism, who became Tennessee State Hospitality Association Director and then Chief Operating Officer of American Hotel & Lodging Association
I have two stories that I believe show that even with Jack's stature in the industry, he remembered the core and that is the people.
I was privileged enough to have breakfast with Jack at Opryland Hotel at a time when I needed his advice on next steps in my career.
Pam Inman, IOM, CAE, CMHS President, National Tour Association, Lexington, KY
From an Opryland Manager who was part of the team for 8 years, left Nashville, and 4 years later was selected to lead the company hotel at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado
….Jack's passing leaves a void in my life. You see, any measure of accomplishment I had was knowing Jack was proud of the job I was doing. Whenever we announced a new development or had a great year or there was an article on The Broadmoor in the paper or a magazine, I always sent one copy to my mom and one to Jack. I will miss being able to share those things with him.
Jack lives on in the people like me who he taught and mentored and those whose lives he touched. For nearly twenty-four years as I address our new employee orientations, I talk about the great Jack Vaughn and the things he taught me.
If they have hotels in heaven, Jack will build one, likely with a lot of meeting and convention space, and he will have Mike to keep it full.
Stephen Bartolin, President and CEO at The Broadmoor Hotel
From a former Director of Quality Assurance who was there at the beginning of Opryland's unprecedented commitment to performance and service
Jack was, and continues to be, an inspiration to me. I worked with him at Opryland Hotel from 1977 to 1988, serving first as the Employee Relations Manager and then the Quality Manager. I learned so much from him about our industry and life in general. Here are a few of my favorite memories:
Judy Z. King, ISHC Founder & Principal, Quality Management Services, LLC, Franklin, TN
From an industry innovator who made his mark based in Tennessee and who recognized Jack Vaughn as the national and global hospitality leader who changed much of how convention hotels evolved
I first met Jack when we moved STR from Pennsylvania to Nashville in the late 1980's. He had heard about our new STAR reports and wanted to learn more about the details. Jack called me one day and invited me to lunch. I drove to the Opryland Hotel with some apprehension, since at the time we did not provide STAR reports to individual hotels and I was convinced that we never would.
After the usual chit-chat (which was a lengthy but fascinating discussion about the operations of the hotel), he brought up this report that the GM of the Marriott down the road had shown him. As I was explaining how the program worked, I mentioned that at the time we were only bringing in brands to participate in the program. There were a number of perfect valid reasons for this, but as I discovered during that lunch, they were all perfectly pointless. At the time, the Opryland Hotel had something north of 2,000 rooms and as Jack pointed out, that made them bigger than some of the brands that were just starting up and therefore, he felt he qualified to participate.
So as I sat there listening to him, I pointedly asked him how much he would be willing to pay for the report as an individual property. And he responded with 'around $500'. I thought that sounded reasonable and told him I would check when I returned to my office if this was ok with our existing clients. They agreed (with a few raising objections) that this would help the overall sample. I called Jack back and told him they were in. A few days later we got a check for $500 and we were off and running with the Opryland Hotel. Up until this point we were absolutely convinced that we could never sell a STAR report to an independent property. Jack clearly pointed out how wrong we were.
Within a year, we were providing STAR reports to over 300 independent properties and had established a model for dealing with independent properties that we used to grow the program in the US and eventually enabled us to move globally. Today, dealing with independent properties has become a central focus of our global team and includes thousands of properties here in the US and Canada.
I continued to meet and have lunch with Jack for a number of years and when he and I joined the Research Funding Committee of the AH&LEF at virtually the same time, we became closer friends. I have always considered my friendship with Jack as one of the highlights of my career and he will be sorely missed but those of us who had to opportunity to meet and work with him. His knowledge of how to make a large hotel work in a relatively small market was truly impressive. There will probably never be another industry leader with the kind of vision and intellect that Jack brought to our industry. He will be missed.
Thanks for the opportunity to write this note.
Randy Smith, Chairman and co-founder of STR
From a former training Manager, who evolved to Director of Training/Quality Assurance at the Opryland Hotel (1985-2000) and then as Vice President of Training and Development for Gaylord Entertainment
I, like so many others, am grateful that I had the chance to learn "the business" from this remarkable man.
I am proud to have been a part of his family-in the house that Jack built, and I will never be in any hotel anywhere without thinking about the lessons he taught.
Emily Ellis, CHE CHRE CHT ME Principal at Education and Training Concepts (etc), Greater Nashville Area
From the associate with whom Jack had perhaps the longest professional affiliation in their careers, as the 2nd in command at Opryland Hotel for 20 years and serving as the Vice President of Hospitality for both Opryland and Gaylord Entertainment
It is hard to put into words many great years with a legend to really cover him. I was fortunate to work with Jack for over 20 years and have too many stories to tell them , so I will try to sum it up into several small statements:
As you look around today, many will say they owe their success to the influence of Jack and because of him, our industry and community are better because he crossed their paths and left his mark.
Joe Henry, CHA President, Henry Hospitality Greater Nashville Area
I can look at the preceding comments from each of those people who interacted with Jack at many levels and recognize there was more each of them could have said.
I relocated from Nashville in 1997 and had breakfast at the Opryland Hotel with Jack shortly before I left. After declining a promotion for several years, he had finally accepted a different title, with something like Senior Vice President of Gaylord Entertainment Properties. He would have responsibility for the Gaylord Hotels, the Grand Ole Opry, the Opryland theme park, the General Jackson Showboat, the Wildhorse Salon and more. I asked why he finally decided to take the newly created position after turning it down for so long. He paused and said he did not want to leave the day to day operations of the hotel, but that he had been advised the Gaylord organization decided they really needed the position filled. Jack said he felt he could better take care of "his people" in the new role rather than have to orient an outsider in the Opryland culture. I knew that Jack's people included the hotel staff, the guests and the organization. It was always about caring for others that made Jack thrive!
Legacy means handing down something of value to those who follow. There is no question about the legacy that Jack Vaughn, CHA left to those of us who were fortunate enough to have known him, and even to others that have benefited from the values he shared.
All rights reserved by John Hogan and this column may be included in an upcoming book on hotel management. This article may not be reproduced without the expressed permission of the author. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of this publication.
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John Hogan is a successful hospitality executive, educator, author and consultant . He provides keynote addresses and leads seminars leader at hotel brands and hospitality industry events. He is the Principal of HoganHospitality.com , which offers hotel expert witness services and hospitality consulting.
He is CEO and Co-Founder of HospitalityEducators.com, which has more than 2000 resource pages and has become the #1 independent website for hotel owners and managers. HospitalityEducators.com conducts certification and training programs for hotel owners and managers, working with both branded and independent hotels.
KEYS TO SUCCESS™ is the umbrella title for our programs, hospitality services and columns. This year's writings focus on a variety of topics for hotel owners, managers and professionals including both my "HOW TO" articles, HOSPITALITY CONVERSATIONS™, Lessons from the Field™, Hotel Common Sense™, THE P-A-R PRINCIPLE™ and Principles for Success.
Contact: John J. Hogan
John.Hogan@HospitalityEducators.com / email@example.com /
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