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The School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State
Honors Five of its Alumni, Including Alumnus
of the Year Kenneth C. Weber (BA ’77)

(East Lansing, Michigan). July 10, 2010 - The School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State University honored five hospitality executives on Monday, May 24, at its Annual Gathering of Leaders at the Drake Hotel in Chicago. Over 125 alumni, students, faculty, friends, and family attended the event, which The School hosts annually during the National Restaurant Show.

Annual Gathering of Leaders this year honored Alumnus of the Year Kenneth C. Weber (BA ’77), president of Weber’s Inn & Restaurant in Ann Arbor, MI and Honorary Alumnus of the Year James W. Chamberlain, senior vice president & general manager of Institutional Foodservice for Ecolab. Honored as Emerging Alumni Leaders of the Year were Christopher J. Durso (BA ’82), vice president of operations for Rim Hospitality; Gary R. Hernbroth (BA ’79), chief motivating officer for Training for Winners; and Ryan S. Meliker (MBA ’05), vice president – gaming and lodging for Morgan Stanley Equity Research. 

The evening reception and award ceremony was particularly meaningful to Ken Weber, whose family has owned and operated Weber’s Inn in Ann Arbor since 1937. The multiple-award winning property is an icon in “wolverine country,” though Ken is Spartan, through and through, serving as president and now chairman of The School’s Alumni Association. In fact, two of his sons are also Spartans, with Mike graduating from The School in 2008, and Brian scheduled to do the same in 2011. Both were in attendance as dad received his award. Accepting his award, Ken acknowledged The School’s role in his family’s life, and urged students to be active alumni. Then he advised them in their careers to “know your weaknesses,” and surround yourself with others who will mitigate them. “Have integrity,” he said, and “be involved and listen. Anticipate problems and fix them before they happen. Provide value.” 

Jim Chamberlain is an industry leader with long and strong ties to The School, with Ecolab recruiting School students each year at CAREER EXPO. In fact, Ecolab was named the 2008 CAREER EXPO Industry Partner of the Year. And in 2009, Jim was instrumental in Ecolab, Inc. and Ecolab Industry Foundation’s generous donation of $300,000 to The School’s revitalization of its Culinary Business Learning Lab. Jim accepted his award “on behalf of the 26,000 men and women who work for Ecolab every day.” He reminded the students that “you’re not done when you find a job. Take initiative and help everyone. Find a work/life balance, and network with everyone.”

Chris Durso has a wide range of experience in over 20 years in the industry, having worked with franchise, management companies, and corporations in multi-unit, multi-brand consulting roles with hotels and resorts located in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Australia. With Rim Hospitality, he oversees the financial performance of a portfolio of hotels across multiple brands. He is extremely active in his School’s Alumni Association, serving as chairman of its Marketing and Publicity Committee, working with its Spartan Sponsors Mentor Program, and helping to establish its effective public relations system. He told the students to live by their values; to follow their passions; to continually learn; to avoid procrastinating; to trust that their coursework is relevant and useful; to listen to their customers; to seek to understand more than to be understood, and admit when they are wrong; to rely on their team; to get involved in their local alumni association; to never burn bridges; to know technology; to respect others; and to learn from mistakes. 

Gary Hernbroth founded Training for Winners in 1995, after years of leadership in sales, marketing, and management in the hospitality and meetings industries. He assists The School in its Spartan Sponsors Mentor Program, on its Alumni Association Marketing and Publicity Committee, and as a Visiting Leader. He advised the students to never stop learning. “Be enthusiastic – be the one who goes the extra mile,” he said. “Be proud of your MSU roots,” he encouraged them, but “EARN” the legacy of being a Spartan. 

Ryan Meliker, in his relatively short career, has already shown ability and promise. Even as a graduate student, he stepped in and taught an upper level finance class when a professor was injured. He is vice president with Morgan Stanley Equity Research, advising powerful investors on lodging industry trends and lodging stocks, based on an analysis of company valuations, forward estimates, stock catalysts, and industry catalysts. He plans, and Morgan Stanley generously sponsors, a gathering of School alumni and students each year at the Americas Lodging Investment Summit (ALIS), and in other ways encourages networking among School alumni in his segment of the industry. He told the students that he has found that “everyone loves our School. It sets us apart.” So take the opportunity to get to know alumni, he urged, and “love what you do.”

Interim Dean of the Broad College of Business at MSU Elvin Lashbrooke, Jr. offered closing remarks, telling those gathered that all the honorees reflect the values of The School. “I hear from recruiters and employers that our students are well-educated, have a strong work ethic, are team players, and that they are ready to hit the ground running.” 

He introduced the new Dean, Stefanie Lenway, who arrives this summer, and thanked the alumni, faculty and staff for the support he enjoyed as Interim Dean. 

Director and Professor of The School Dr. Ron Cichy (BA ’72, MBA ’77), Alumni Association Chairmen Emeriti Richard Farrar (BA ’73) and Marc Gordon (MBA ’73), and Vice President Dan Burdakin (BA ’81) were also on hand to congratulate the honorees and host the elegant reception which followed the award ceremony.

Annual Gathering of Leaders is made possible by generous companies, corporations, and institutions, as well as individuals who are friends and supporters of The School. The nearly 20 students who attend the NRA Show and participate in professional development programs and Annual Gathering of Leaders are able to do so also because of those who have endowed funds and provided sponsorship support for student travel. 

About The School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State University
Recognized as the top-ranked hospitality business school in the world, The School celebrates its 83rd year anniversary in 2010. The School has almost 10,000 graduates worldwide, including a number of leading academicians and industry executives, who have earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees. Founded in 1927, the mission of The School is to continually enhance The School's leadership position in hospitality business education through teaching, research, and service. The School offers an exceptionally well-crafted curriculum, taught by innovative professors who are leading textbook authors, sought-after consultants, and respected researchers. The mission of The School of Hospitality Business Alumni Association is to provide active leadership in support of the mission of The School of Hospitality Business through membership participation, image enhancement, financial commitment, and promotion of synergies among students, faculty, alumni, and friends. The First, The Original, and STILL The Leader. . . The School of Hospitality Business. For more information, please visit


The School of Hospitality Business
232 Eppley Center
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824

Also See: 1958 MSU Hotel Alumnus, William Clithero, the First and Original Sparty - the Mascot of Michigan State University / April 2009

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