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 The Statler Hotel, an Operating Unit of Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration,
Undertaking a Bold Renovation of the Storied On-Campus Hotel


Ithaca, NY, April 4, 2008 – The Statler Hotel has joined forces with leading hospitality design firm WATG to undertake a bold renovation of this storied property at the center of the Cornell University campus.

“We are very pleased to have WATG as our lead partner on a project that will help us provide a truly distinctive experience for our guests,” said Rick Adie '75, general manager of the Statler Hotel, an operating unit of Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration. “Our aim is to create a unique blend of service and amenities that guests will want to enjoy time and again.”

WATG’s Susan Bruce, senior associate, shares design concepts for the rooms
renovation project at Cornell's Statler Hotel with student leader Geoff Gray '08
and Stephani Robson, senior lecturer in Facilities Management,
Planning & Design at the Hotel School.
Adie, his team and school faculty are working closely with WATG leaders to lay the blueprint for what will be the most ambitious refurbishment in the hotel’s 20-year history. One priority is to develop a guest room that satisfies the needs of the most discerning visitor.
“We will bring to bear the full expertise of our faculty, our hotel management team and our partners at WATG to develop a new vision for our guest rooms,” said Michael Johnson, dean and E.M. Statler Professor at the school. “Our mission is to create a prototype that offers the best in comfort, technology and amenities, while also meeting the highest standards for sustainability.”

As part of that commitment, the hotel plans to partner with leading hospitality brands whose products will be featured in the property’s guest rooms and public spaces. WATG’s design team will play a lead role integrating those products into a coherent whole.

"We look forward to helping Cornell create an innovative design solution for the industry,” said Raj Chandnani '95, director of Strategic Planning at WATG, recently named the world’s top hospitality design firm by Hotel and Motel Management. “We will do that by aligning with brands that share our commitment in creating a unique guest experience.”

The Statler Hotel is both a first-class property and a teaching hotel where students at the school apply their classroom learning to practical experience. Each year some 200 students work alongside seasoned professionals across all hotel and restaurant operations. A select group of students work along chosen career tracks, rising into management positions through participation in the school's Statler Leadership Development Program. Additionally, many faculty members work closely with hotel leadership to integrate hotel operations into the curriculum. The hotel serves not only the school’s undergraduate and graduate students, but also industry professionals from around the world who visit campus to take advanced hospitality service and management courses through the school's Office of Executive Education.

The property features 153 rooms, a conference center, three restaurants, and abundant meeting and banquet facilities. As the gateway to the university and the surrounding Finger Lakes region, the Statler plays host to a sophisticated clientele that regularly includes global leaders in government, business, and academia. Among the property's guests have been heads of state, Supreme Court Justices, U.S. senators, world-renowned entertainers and CEOs of leading hotel organizations such as Fairmont, Hilton, Marriott and Four Seasons.
“Companies that join in this effort will receive tremendous visibility at the property and through a multifaceted outreach program,” Adie commented. “This will be a partnership that delivers positive results for all parties.” 

History of the Hotel

The Statler Hotel & J. Willard Marriott Executive Education Center officially opened its doors in March of 1989. At its Grand Opening the following month at Hotel Ezra Cornell (HEC) 64, the hundreds of industry leaders, alumni, and members of the media in attendance marveled at "the jewel box," as managing director Hans P. Weishaupt '64 fondly dubbed the hotel. With its upscale decor and furnishings, cutting-edge technology, and an impressive blend of guest amenities, the Statler certainly deserved the accolades.

The most prominent feature of the new hotel's lobby was the "Wall of Honor," a showcase display of twelve-inch lead crystal plates. Each plate was engraved with the names of the corporations or individuals who had donated $1 million or more to fund the renovation of the school and construction of the hotel. It illustrated the value that the hospitality professionals placed on the Hotel School's role in educating and developing the future leaders of the industry. 

The idea of a "teaching hotel" had always appealed to industry leaders, who placed a high value on experiential learning to complement classroom education. In 1923, the American Hotel Association proposed that a 200-room hotel be built adjacent to the campus to serve as a "practice hotel" for the newly established hotel program at Cornell. But because of the Depression, followed by the World War II, it wasn't until the late 1940s that the practice hotel would come to be, in conjunction with the construction of Statler Hall.

In 1950, Statler Hall was completed and the Department of Hotel Administration became a  separate school at Cornell University.  Attached to Statler Hall, the 36-room Statler Inn opened in time for HEC '25. The inn featured three restaurants: the Main Dining Room, Cafe Rhea, and the Ratheskeller; as well as a ballroom and several banquet rooms. It also housed the university's faculty club. Located close to the classrooms, it gave Hotel students a convenient opportunity to gain practical experience in restaurant management, food preparation, and innkeeping. 

Over the years, the Hotel School's leadership found it difficult to make the Statler Inn financially self-sufficient. The small number of guest rooms and lack of convenient parking limited its ability to cover the rising cost of labor and energy.  In 1986, a decision was made to demolish the Statler Inn and build the Statler Hotel. With 150 rooms, three restaurants, banquet rooms, and a conference center, the new hotel would not only meet the growing needs of the university and be financially viable, but would also meet the growing educational needs of the school.

For more information about participating in the Statler Hotel renovation project, please contact Meg Keilbach '88, interim director of Alumni Affairs and Development at or Joe Strodel, director of Corporate Relations at

About the Cornell School of Hotel Administration
The Cornell University School of Hotel Administration is shaping the global knowledge base for hospitality management through leadership in education, research and industry advancement. The school provides management instruction in the full range of hospitality disciplines, educating the next generation of leaders in the world's largest industry. Founded in 1922 as the nation's first collegiate course of study in hospitality management, the Cornell School of Hotel Administration is recognized as the world leader in its field. For more information, visit
About WATG
WATG specializes in hospitality, leisure and entertainment design from its offices in Irvine, Orlando, Honolulu, Seattle, Singapore and London. The firm is best known for such internationally-acclaimed projects as Atlantis Paradise Island, Bahamas; Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa; Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea; Hotel Bora Bora, French Polynesia; Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa at Walt Disney World Resort; and The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel. WATG is the number one hospitality design firm in the world, according to surveys by Hotel Design and Hotel & Motel Management magazines. Hospitality Design magazine’s recent survey of architecture and interior design firms ranked WATG’s corporate culture among the top in the country: best career advancement, best firm philosophy, best client list, best list of projects, and most innovative. Since its founding in 1945, WATG has designed destinations in 157 countries from its offices in worldwide. For more information, visit


Meg Keilbach '88, 
interim director of Alumni Affairs and Development

Also See: Intercap Institutional Investors LLC Building a $30 million Hotel on the Campus of New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico; Will Provide the School's Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Program With a Teaching Laboratory / January 2008
Sage Hospitality to Renovate Historic Treat Hall on Johnson & Wales University's Denver Campus; Plans Include 55 room Full Service Hotel and Instructional Facilities / July 2003


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