Birtha Assumes Leadership of the Cornell Hotel Society

Jan 18, 2011

Contact: Ashlee McGandy, 607.254.1368, am754@cornell.edu

The Cornell School of Hotel Administration (SHA) is pleased to announce that Mark Birtha will serve as president of the Cornell Hotel Society (CHS) for 2011. During his 12-month appointment, Birtha will lead the executive board of CHS, the 82-year-old alumni association that represents 12,750 SHA graduates in 56 active chapters worldwide.

"I am very proud to have the honor of serving as president of the Cornell Hotel Society," said Birtha. "We have done great things throughout our history to support the SHA and each of our constituents. My focus is to continue to bring value to each of our members."

Birtha, who has more than 18 years of experience as a renowned gaming and hospitality executive, is currently president and chief development officer of SOL Casinos and AVA Amphitheater, an enterprise of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe. In this role, he focuses on the strategic vision for the company and has general operations management responsibilities for Casino Del Sol, Casino of the Sun, and the AVA Amphitheater in Southern Arizona. He also oversees the design, construction, and operations of Casino Del Sol’s $130M resort development. Prior to this, Birtha was vice president of development with Marriott International. He has also held executive positions with W Las Vegas, Las Vegas Sands Corp., and Mirage Resorts.

Since graduating from Cornell in 1994, Birtha has maintained strong ties with the university. He has been a regular lecturer at SHA and is a trustee of the Cornell Hotel Society Foundation. He was also president of the Cornell Alumni Association and Cornell Hotel Society of Nevada for ten years.

Birtha has been a featured speaker at multiple gaming, hotel, and real estate development conferences. He is on the board of directors of Internet Marketing, Inc., and serves on the advisory boards of the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) and Global Gaming Business and Casino Connection magazines. He is also managing editor of the Retail, Dining and Entertainment publication, and has written editorial pieces for various publications. In 2006, he was recognized as one of the "Top 40 Under 40" business executives in Las Vegas by In Business Las Vegas Magazine. He is a member of the UNLV Golf Foundation and the Nevada Tourism Alliance, as well as the AHLA, ARA, and MPI in Arizona. He was also the founder and chairman of the Millennium Hospitality Summit.

With the CHS executive board, Birtha has outlined a strategic plan that focuses on strengthening the value proposition for the key CHS stakeholders—alumni, students, faculty, and administrators. The plan focuses on chapter programming and financial assistance, job placement, internships and mentoring, industry and faculty partnerships, leadership accountability and training, and scholarship fundraising. According to Birtha, "The CHS has donated over $1M during its history to support scholarship funds and the Beck Center at the SHA. It has produced books including Hospitality Leadership and Hospitality Goes Global, and our chapters and alumni host over 125 events annually around the world."

In 2010, CHS launched an innovative “member benefits” e-commerce platform for alumni to offer and redeem high value benefits. In 2011, the focus will be on a membership drive and enhanced communications program.