Howard Bagnall Meek, founding dean of the Nolan Hotel School, surveys a model of Statler Hall during the 1940s.

Photo exhibit showcases a century of hospitality education

A new exhibit in Statler Hall commemorates 100 years of hospitality education at the Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration in the SC Johnson College of Business.

Dozens of photos illustrate the school’s culture and storied timeline. The completion of the multifaceted exhibit in August capped a series of celebratory 100th anniversary events and initiatives.

Students participate in the 98th annual Hotel Ezra Cornell, a student-led business conference for hospitality, in April.

“The exhibit as a whole is a beautiful reminder that our school’s energy and enthusiasm today is built on a century of hospitality leadership – and it showcases our truly welcoming community,” said Kate Walsh, dean of the Nolan Hotel School and E.M. Statler Professor.

Set in the heart of Statler Hall, amid crowds of students hustling up and down the central staircase, the exhibit brings to life E.M. Statler’s sentiment: “Life is service – the one who progresses is the one who gives … a little more – a little better service.” It also reflects the school’s ethos to use hospitality to make positive change in the world.

Entering Statler Hall from the east, students, faculty, alumni and visitors are greeted by colorful large-format images mounted high in the two-story lobby, on a backdrop of subtle sweeping infinity symbols.

Upstairs in the student services office hallway, viewers first encounter a photo of a classic table setting – a metaphor representing their place at the Nolan Hotel School, whether as students in a finance class, alumni returning to serve on advisory committees, or corporate partners supporting new initiatives. Images that follow mark important milestones – from the school’s establishment as the first institution for hospitality management education to its industry leadership that shapes the global hospitality landscape.

“Over the last century, the school has defined the concept of hospitality education,” Walsh said.

In the 1920s, for example, the school’s founding dean, Howard Bagnall Meek, worked hard to convince his peers that hoteliers belonged in academia. By the 1970s, the school had launched the first academic journal devoted to hospitality; its first graduate program; and its one-of-a-kind teaching hotel.

“Today,” Walsh said, “our graduates are leading the way in a wide range of service-focused businesses from technology to real estate.”

The exhibit continues to the west of Statler Auditorium, with contemporary images of red and white balloons that inspire celebration. The “Hotelie” community’s personality shines through in photos of student work sessions, business plan competition winners, treks to corporate sites and more.

Said Walsh: “The entire exhibit serves as an important focal point for visitors, but more importantly, it honors our legacy of excellence as we begin our next century of preparing tomorrow’s industry leaders.”

Alison Fromme is a writer for the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business.

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