The New York State Hospitality and Tourism Association selected Rick Adie ’75 as this year’s Outstanding General Manager for hotels with more than 150 rooms. Surrounded by his longtime managers from Cornell’s Statler Hotel, Adie received the award on October 16 at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, NY.
“Rick’s had an immeasurable impact in putting together the policies and procedures we have for customer service in order to rise to the AAA Four Diamond level and to get the first-place spot on TripAdvisor for the Ithaca market,” said Rebecca Rypkema, the Statler’s director of rooms, who nominated Adie for the award.
Adie, who was once a student employee of the hotel, returned as general manager 15 years ago after a 27-year career with Hyatt Hotels. At Hyatt he had served as general manager of five hotels, including the Hyatt Regency Chicago, the largest in the country. He had opened three Hyatts and had been selected as the company’s General Manager of the Year.
Despite those successes, he knew he couldn’t turn down the opportunity to manage the Statler Hotel when asked. “What attracted me about the job was working with the students and trying to make their time at Cornell more meaningful and relevant with what was going to be important to them when they went into the hospitality industry,” he said.
Shortly after returning to Cornell, Adie created the Hotel Leadership Development Program, or HLDP, which transformed the hotel into a living learning laboratory where students could work in front-line operations and gain management experience. Through continuous improvements in quality and service, he positioned the Statler to become Ithaca’s only AAA Four Diamond hotel and the area’s top-ranked hotel on TripAdvisor.
Adie has overseen renovation of much of the Statler Hotel over the past decade. All 153 guest rooms have been refurbished, with new beds and glass shower stalls among the improvements. Taverna Banfi and the Regent Lounge were upgraded and the lounge redecorated, and carpeting was replaced in the hotel’s public areas.
“All of our standards kept getting better and better, and ultimately the big payoff was getting that Four Diamond rating from AAA,” said Rick Kuhar ’86, the Statler’s director of human resources. Only six percent of the 59,000 hotels AAA evaluates in the United States are awarded four diamonds.
“Excellence is in the details, being concerned about the small things and getting others to be concerned about the small things,” Adie said. “Is everyone wearing their nametags? Are they dressed and groomed properly? And how do they greet customers?”
Adie’s leadership led to the adoption of sustainable practices throughout the hotel, with the Statler working closely with Hersha Hotels and Resorts to adopt its EarthView program. In addition to composting more than 165,000 gallons of food waste every year, the hotel now donates used soap, shampoo, and shower gel to an organization called Clean the World, which sanitizes, melts, and reconstitutes the products before sending them to developing countries.
Because of its extensive sustainability program, the Statler was recently awarded Silver status as a TripAdvisor GreenLeader, which helps travelers plan greener trips by highlighting hotels and bed and breakfasts that engage in environmentally friendly services.
Beyond the improvement of the hotel’s standards, Adie is most proud of his work with the students in HLDP, which this year added Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts as a financial sponsor. Students in the program progress through different employment phases, including passing a certification process and undergoing cross-training in two departments before they qualify to become student supervisors or managers.
“I just get such a thrill out of their success, knowing that we had some small part in launching their careers,” said Adie. “That’s why I came back.”
HLDP gave Peter Carrera ’16 the opportunity to move from entry-level work as a bellman in his freshman year to the top of the org chart as student general manager in his senior year. After graduation, Carrera was hired at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar San Diego as the youngest manager on the staff.
“The number-one thing that allowed me to come and work at this hotel and take a leadership role,” Carrera said of his new position, “is all the work I did at the Statler as part of HLDP and the great leadership lessons I learned with Mr. Adie and the rest of the staff.”
Ren Towell ’18, the Statler’s current student director of rooms, said she landed two internships—helping to develop standard operating procedures for the first building completed within the Related Companies’ Hudson Yards project in New York, and working with the feasibility and development finance teams at Hyatt’s corporate headquarters in Chicago—because of her experience working in the Statler. Not only has she been learning how to run a hotel, but she has also gained the “soft skills” that Adie believes are critical for every employee.
“He definitely inspires a lot of respect when he walks around the hotel, because he carries with him a lot of industry experience that would qualify him for more than a 150-room hotel,” Towell said. “We just know that he could do a lot of things with his life, but he’s made the decision to be here with us and this hotel.”