Ithaca, NY, November 11, 2013 – The Cornell University School of Hotel Administration (SHA) has selected the Mariani family, founders and proprietors of leading US importer Banfi Vintners and the renowned Castello Banfi vineyard estate in Montalcino, Tuscany, to receive the 2014 Cornell Icon of the Industry Award. This award recognizes Mariani family members for their achievements in business and support of hospitality education. The family will receive the award at the 6th annual Cornell Hospitality Icon & Innovator Awards gala at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City on June 3, 2014.

“The Mariani family is a leading wine producer and merchant, but-more importantly-it is a leader in research and education that elevates the entire global wine industry. We look forward to celebrating the Marianis at the Cornell Hospitality Icon & Innovator Awards in June,” said Michael D. Johnson, dean and E. M. Statler Professor of Hotel Administration.

Founded in 1919 by the late John Mariani, Sr., Banfi is led today by the third generation of family management. At the gala, Dr. John F. Mariani ’54, chairman emeritus; Harry F. Mariani, president emeritus; James Mariani MBA ’91 and Cristina Mariani-May, co-CEOs; and Virginia Mariani-Kitt ’82, director of hospitality, will be honored.

John Mariani graduated from Cornell in 1954 and spent the following two years studying viniculture in Europe. On returning to the U.S., he pursued graduate work at New York University and joined his father in the family business. They were later joined by John’s younger brother, Harry Mariani, following his graduation from Colgate University.

John and Harry assumed control of the company in 1964 and expanded Banfi from a small wine house into America’s leading importer of fine wines. They also founded two highly successful vineyard estates in Italy. Encouraged by their success, the brothers established the Banfi Foundation, which has generously supported Catholic Relief Services, endowed select charities and universities around the world, and sponsored annual scholastic tours to study the food and wine culture of Italy.

James Mariani officially joined the family business in 1991. He has traveled extensively across the U.S. and Canada, conducting seminars, university lectures, and wine maker dinners. Assuming many of his father’s responsibilities in sales and marketing, he has restructured both departments to facilitate the company’s efforts in achieving sales objectives and strategic goals in brand building. He holds a BA from Colgate University and an MBA from Cornell University.

Cristina Mariani-May joined Banfi in 1993. Since then, she has introduced many forward-thinking initiatives, including the creation of progressive new tracking and monitoring systems at Castello Banfi, designed to elevate performance and establish new goals in the fields of customer satisfaction, environmental responsibility, and social responsibility. She earned degrees from Georgetown University and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business.

Virginia Mariani-Kitt joined Banfi’s public relations department in 1982 before transitioning into the national sales division, where she developed Banfi’s presence in hotels and restaurants across the United States. She subsequently served as marketing manager for the premier wines of Castello Banfi and, in 1993, assumed her current role as hospitality director. She is a graduate of the Cornell School of Hotel Administration.

The Cornell Icon & Innovator Awards Dinner began in 2009, and previous recipients of the Cornell Icon of the Industry Award are J. W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr.; Charles “Chuck” Feeney; the Hilton family and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation; James S. Tisch ’75, Andrew H. Tisch ’71, and Jonathan M. Tisch; and Tom Pritzker. This special event, the largest on the School of Hotel Administration’s calendar, raises funds for the school’s scholarships and programs.

Current sponsors are Exclusive Media Co-Hosts Travel + Leisure and USA TODAY; Red Carpet sponsor Forbes Travel Guide; Diamond sponsors Baccarat, Banfi Vintners, Delta Air Lines, Groupe de Louvre, InterContinental Hotels Group, Marriott International, The New York Observer; Strategic Brand Marketing and Design DoMoreGood/The CSK Group; Platinum sponsors Access Point Financial, Boutique Design, Cipriani 42nd Street, Cleverdis, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Hilton Worldwide, Hotel Business,, Hsyndicate, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Nobu New York/The Tribeca Grill, PwC, Questex Hospitality Group, Stonebridge Companies, Sweet Street Desserts, Thayer Lodging Group, The Lodging Conference, Veolia Transportation; Gold sponsors Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, Denihan Hospitality Group, Duetto, Fairmont Raffles Hotels & Resorts with Hotel Capital Advisers, FRANCE 24, Hersha Hospitality Trust, Jones Lang LaSalle, PAR Springer-Miller Systems, PhoCus Wright, Inc., Wells Fargo, Wyndham Hotel Group; Silver sponsors American Hotel & Lodging Association, Cornell Hotel Society national chapter, Cornell Hotel Society – New York City chapter, Cornell School of Hotel Administration Centers & Institutes, Empire Merchants, Southworth Development LLC, SpencerStuart, Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces.

For more details about the 6th Annual Cornell Icon & Innovator Awards Dinner, please visit: or contact Kathleen Bolton, manager of corporate affairs, at [email protected] or 607.255.1204.