Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Series

The Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Series (DDLS) is a long-running Friday afternoon tradition in the Cornell Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration. We call it ‘Hotelie Friday.’  For nearly 100 years, Hotelies have taken this course. Top industry leaders in hospitality operations, food and beverage, and real estate, many of whom are our alumni, present a lecture to students, where they share their career journeys and provide insights on their leadership styles, business strategies, and industry trends. Students meet with the leader throughout the day in small group discussions and over shared meals. Journey through the most recent speaker lineup, below.

2023-2024 Speakers


Kate Walsh, Ph.D.,Dean and E.M. Statler Professor, MPS ‘90

Kate Walsh is Dean of the Nolan School and E. M. Statler Professor. A professor of management, Dr. Walsh has been a member of the School’s faculty since 2000. She […]


Speaker: Chris Kirby '15, Founder & CEO - Ithaca Hummus

Chris Kirby is a trained chef and the founder and CEO of Ithaca Hummus. In 2013 Chris left his restaurant career and opened a stand at the Ithaca Farmers Market […]

Ron-3 - website 1

Speaker: Ron Simpson, Founder - The Avocado Show

“You can speak anything into existence.“ Creative serial entrepreneur Ron Simpson [36] discovered this life philosophy at quite a young age and never ever looked back. After setting up and […]


Speaker: Jeanelle Johnson, Principal & Lead Partner - PwC

Jeanelle Johnson is a Principal, Lead Client Partner and Travel, Transportation and Hospitality (TTH) sector Co-Leader at PwC, focused on client service, industry perspective and research for the firm’s leading […]

Wine Headshot - WEB

Speaker: Dana Beninati '15, Founder - Dine with Dana

Dana Beninati is a James Beard award-winning producer, educator and writer. After years teaching celebrity chefs how to cook on camera, she has turned her kitchen into a classroom for […]

Sean Headshot - web

Speaker: Sean Tolkin '13, Vice President, Land Strategy & Market Performance - World Travel Holdings

Travel is in Sean’s DNA and he has been with the World Travel Holdings’ family his entire career. As the Vice President of Land Strategy and Network Performance, Sean is […]

Jennifer HeadShot - Web

Speaker: Jennifer Chaplin Tolkin, Vice President, Family-Owned Brands - Southern Glazer's Wine & Spirits

Jennifer Chaplin Tolkin is Vice President, Family-Owned Brands and East Region Trade Development Director for Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, the world’s preeminent distributor of beverage alcohol. In this role, […]

Barr 4x4 Photo

Speaker: Keith Barr '92, Advisor - IHG Hotels & Resorts

Keith served as Chief Executive Officer of IHG® before stepping down in June of 2023. He was responsible for implementing IHG’s strategy for high-quality growth and generating industry leading value […]

4x4 Ruben Ortega

Speaker: Ruben Ortega Jr. '13, Co-Founder & Principal - Spark Hudson Advisors LLC

Ruben is Co-Founder and Principal of Spark Hudson where he primarily provides strategic hotel advisory services for family offices, investors, developers, and operators. The firm’s core capabilities flex across hotel […]

AS - New Headshot - website

Speaker: Andreas Scriven '00, Lead Partner - Deloitte UK

Andreas is the Lead Partner – Hospitality & Leisure based in our London office. He has extensive advisory and M&A experience across the UK, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and […]

Will Guidara website

Speaker: Will Guidara '01, Co-Founder - Make it Nice

Will Guidara is the former co-owner of Make It Nice, a hospitality group that included Eleven Madison Park, the NoMad restaurants, Davies and Brook at the Claridges Hotel, and Made […]

Christina Tosi Headshot (1) - website

Speaker: Christina Tosi, Founder & CEO - Milk Bar

Christina Tosi is the rule-breaking, award-winning chef and founder of Milk Bar. She was named one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies in the World in 2022, whose inventive and […]

Ama Photo -website

Speaker: Ama Romaine, Executive Vice President & General Counsel - Progress Residential

Ama Romaine is the Executive Vice President & General Counsel of Progress Residential, the single-family rental company owned by private equity firm Pretium Partners. Before joining Progress, Ms. Romaine served […]

Michael Gross website

Speaker: Michael Gross '97, CEO - Knotel

Since April 2021, Michael Gross has been the CEO of Knotel, a leading amenitized, flexible office provider in North America and Europe. Prior to that, Michael joined WeWork in March […]


Speaker: Malaika Myers, Chief Human Resources Officer - Hyatt Hotels Corporation

Malaika Myers has had a 25+ year career in Human Resources, working in the chemical, consumer products, and hospitality industries for public and private companies.  She currently has the honor […]

Past DDLS Speakers

Journey through years of inspired dialogue, with distinguished thought leaders on the past DDLS speakers page.