Karly Krasnow / Sun File Photo

A hospitality program was founded at Cornell in 1922, and the University established a full-fledged School of Hotel Administration in 1950.

March 5, 2020

Ask The Sun: Why Does Cornell Have a Hotel School?

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Ask The Sun is an explainer series where The Sun answers questions about the Cornell and Ithaca communities.

Q: Why does Cornell have a hotel school?

A: Howard Meek, an American educator of hotel management, founded a hospitality program at Cornell in 1922, at the request of the American Hotel Association and hotel magnates during that time period.

One of the school’s founding benefactors, American hotel businessman Ellsworth Statler, was skeptical of teaching hospitality to students in a classroom setting. He believed on-the-job training would better serve students wanting to pursue a career in the hospitality industry.

However, in 1927, after attending the second-ever Hotel Ezra Cornell — a student-led industry conference that is now in its 95th year — Statler changed his mind. Statler’s support for student experiential learning remains through the school’s practice credit requirement — which aims to put “classroom theory into practice” according to the School of Hotel Administration website.

In the 20 years after Statler visited Cornell, the “hotel department” program, as the school was then known, pioneered a program in hospitality education.

As the program needed to grow and change, the Statler Foundation funded the construction for Statler Hall and Statler Inn in 1948, which was a 50-room “management laboratory.” The University established a full-fledged School of Hotel Administration two years later, and in 1986, the current Statler Hotel was built over the original location of the Statler Inn.

Undergraduates in the hotel school pursue a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Administration and Management with a structured core curriculum, along with 800 hours in the hospitality and service industry through the practice credit requirement.

“For my hotel operations and food operations class, we work a six to eight hour shift at [the] Statler,” said Michelle Yang ’23, a student in the hotel school.

Yang, who was a waitress at Taverna Banfi, a restaurant in the Statler Hotel, said the class gave her the opportunity to learn about the hospitality industry through a “hands-on perspective.” 

Along with the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and the Johnson Graduate School of Management, the hotel school is currently one of three accredited business schools under the Johnson College of Business.