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Bill Marriott Tells Wake Forest University's Business Graduates
  'Don't be Afraid to Get Your Hands Dirty,' and 'Learn the
 Business from the Bottom Up'

By Laura Graff, Winston-Salem Journal, N.C.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

May 18, 2009 - The chairman of the world's largest hotel chain told Wake Forest University's business school master's degree graduates that the people who succeed are those who are self-reliant and have determination.

"Throughout life, you will face some difficult times," said J.W. "Bill" Marriott, chairman and chief executive officer of Marriott International, Inc. "But don't become discouraged. And don't ever give up."

Marriott, who has led the hotel corporation for more than 50 years, spoke to graduates of the Babcock Graduate School of Management and the Calloway School of Business and Accounting last night during a hooding ceremony -- a smaller ceremony devoted just to business master's degree candidates. About 1,200 people, including about 275 graduates, attended the ceremony at Wait Chapel, on campus.

Marriott told the graduates about his father, who grew up a sheep farmer in Utah. He said his father started a root-beer stand, which led to a restaurant, which led to a hotel, which led to the global chain Marriott International is known for today.

He talked about Steve Reinemund, Wake Forest University's dean of business, who started his career as an intern for Marriott.

Reinemund, Marriott said, cooked hamburgers in one of the company's restaurants. He later became chairman and chief executive officer of PepsiCo.

"Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty," Marriott said. "Learn the business from the bottom up."

Graduates who attended the ceremony said that Marriott's words resonated.

"I think it's very important, before you become a manager, to understand what's happening on the front lines," said Elizabeth Briggs, who is 34 and will graduate with a Masters of Business Administration.

Patty Hamilton, a graduate of the Babcock School's weekend program in Charlotte, said she appreciated hearing about Marriott's father and his belief that every facet of his business should be perfect.

"You have to pay attention to the details," said Hamilton, 49. "You didn't get a generic speech, you got something from his life."

Other Wake graduate schools, including the School of Law and School of Medicine, held similar ceremonies yesterday. The Graduate School and School of Divinity held hooding ceremonies on Saturday. The students will officially graduate today, when Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to give the commencement speech. The ceremonies begin at 9 a.m. at Hearn Plaza. Attendees must have a ticket to be allowed on campus.

Laura Graff can be reached at 727-7279 or at


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