Patricia Will: The hospitality touch in senior living

April 15, 2016

The Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Series (DDLS) brings prominent industry professionals to speak at SHA most Fridays during the fall semester. For 2015, students worked in groups each week to research, meet, and profile featured speakers, and then guest-blog here about the experience.

This week’s student authors are Danielle Sims ’16 and Jess Zhang ’09.

Patricia Will, founder and chief executive officer of Belmont Village

Patricia Will, founder and chief executive officer of Belmont Village

We had the honor of spending time with Ms. Patricia Will during her visit to Cornell for the Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Series (DDLS). Ms. Will is the founder and CEO of Belmont Village Senior Living, which she co-founded in 1997.

We attended the dinner and lunch leading up to the DDLS lecture, which provided a great opportunity to learn more about Ms. Will’s background in a more intimate setting. She spoke about her education at Reid College and Harvard Business School, as well as her career prior to Belmont Village in real estate development.

Ms. Will shared her story about what motivated her to start her own business: her efforts to find a community for her mother-in-law. She founded Belmont Village to provide a way for seniors to lead happy, self-directed lives in a supportive community. Additionally, she touched upon the company’s tactics for recruiting talent, as it is difficult for a senior-living company to cater to college graduates.

Ms. Will’s lecture was extremely impressive and informative. Prior to this lecture, our knowledge about the senior-living industry was limited. Ms. Will walked us through the financial and real estate components of the business, and presented the information in a way that was very comprehensive. We were particularly interested in the future development of senior housing, and she discussed this in both her presentation and the seminar. One slide in her presentation showed a population distribution of each generation, from baby boomers to millennials. It was interesting to analyze the fluctuations in populations, especially with the baby boomer generation having the largest population. The information Ms. Will incorporated into her presentation made it easier to understand the importance of senior housing and the industry’s future development. After the lecture, we attended the seminar with Ms. Will. Students asked questions about the future development of the senior housing industry and about the biggest challenges she has faced in her career.

Patricia Will was motivated to start her own senior-living business by her efforts to find a community for her mother-in-law.

Most importantly, what stood out to us is how passionate Ms. Will is about her job. She shared an anecdote at the end of her presentation and read aloud a hand-written appreciation note from one of Belmont’s oldest citizens. Ms. Will loves what she does because she is able to touch the lives of others and provide hospitality to the elderly, while being a CEO and real estate developer simultaneously.

It was an honor to spend time with Patricia Will during her visit to Cornell, and we are both thrilled to have been able to co-host her during her stay. Most importantly, we were pleased to learn about an industry about which we did not have much prior knowledge. Ms. Will’s knowledge, insights, and advice were extremely memorable, and she did a great job captivating the audience.

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