The Essence of Leadership: CHS at the Summit

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Cornell Hotel Society chapter leaders at the Gaylord National Resort and Conference Center

The power of the Cornell Hotel Society’s network is the stuff of legend and the envy of many an alumni association. True, Hotelies are a famously personable and loyal bunch, but it takes more than all-out love for one’s school and fellow graduates to ensure a thriving alumni network. Among other things, it takes planning, training, marketing know-how, technology savvy, and access to mentoring. August’s  CHS Leadership Summit offered up a trove of expert advice and information on all these topics and more.

Cornell Hotel Society chapter leaders from Nairobi, Stockholm, Toronto, Seattle, Sydney, New Delhi, and many more points on the globe came together August 15–17, 2008 for the third CHS Leadership Summit, a once-in-five-years opportunity to learn and share best practices for maintaining a vibrant chapter organization.

Their long journeys were rewarded with superb accommodations and delightful service. Organizer Rocco Angelo ’58, with assistance from Bill Quain ’74 and Raj Chandnani ’95, set the meeting at the Gaylord National Resort and Conference Center, a virtual palace of glass, steel, marble, and gilt in National Harbor, Maryland that opened last April across the Potomac River from Old Town Alexandria, Virginia.

Kemp Gallineau of the Gaylord Palms, who is serving the Gaylord National as interim senior vice president and general manager, delivered his personal welcome to the summit’s participants. The packed agenda featured CHS president Jay Treadwell ’61, CHS Foundation chair Bill Caruso ’70, and Alan Tantleff ’87, program director for the Cornell Alumni Federation, who explained the roles of their respective organizations. Timothy Dick ’88 discussed the CHS strategic plan. William Balinbin ’04 and Monica Gelinas ’99 brought everyone up to speed on new technologies. Jill Siegel ’75, Les Stern ’60, Katherine Chan ’06, Travis Ray ’94, Michael Schiff ’87, and Gelinas shared insights and strategies for chapter development. And Nathalie De Andreis ’05, Mark Birtha ’94, Gelinas, and Chandnani moderated breakout sessions for small, medium, and large chapters and for regional vice presidents.

Dean Michael Johnson led off the view from the Hill with a summary of SHA’s academic-year highlights and his vision for the future, including his “pet project” to identify a suitable opportunity to honor founding dean Howard B. Meek. Chris Marshall, Cornell University’s new associate vice president for alumni affairs, dropped in to share his story with the group. SHA staffers Christine Natsios ’85, director of alumni affairs and CHS secretary, and Meg Keilbach ’88 (CALS), director of development, gave the group pointers, respectively, on organizing the ideal chapter and on organizing chapter fundraising events.

But the star speaker of the summit was Bill Quain, who delivered the Friday night keynote, some Saturday morning remarks, and the Saturday evening wrap-up. Quain’s first words of advice were to start with the basics, a point he underscored by invoking coaching legend Vince Lombardi and the statement with which he opened every Packers training season: “Gentlemen, this is a football.” With lively pacing and well-honed comedic skill, Quain scattered a wealth of essential advice. Those who didn’t know him reacted with total surprise when he revealed that macular degeneration had left him with no central vision and only dwindling peripheral vision. He explained that his wife, Jeanne, compiles his Powerpoint presentations. With a short prompt from Angelo to signal each new slide, he delivered a remarkably detailed presentation. When he ended his closing remarks of the summit, he was answered with a standing ovation.

So was Rocco Angelo, for whom the outpouring of affection filled the room. With the greatest of kindness and humility, and with the help of Quain, Chandnani, Natsios, and SHA program assistants Erin Rodriguez and Joyce Leonard, Angelo planned and executed  a flawless event. And the Cornell Hotel Society’s chapter leaders went home inspired, informed, and assured of the support of an alumni network that’s truly out of this world.

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