CHS Rome – Fireside Chat with Tony Capuano ‘87

“Travel and change of place impart vigor to the mind”

On Thursday, September 9, 2021,Cornell Hotel Society (CHS) members from as far as Zagreb, Milan, Verona, Sardinia and Tuscany, came together in Rome for a special meeting with Anthony Capuano, class of ’87, and CEO of Marriott International.

Before we enjoyed a fun and lively reception in the Lumen Garden at the St. Regis Rome, we gathered together in the Salone Ritz – Rome’s first public ballroom built in 1894 and opened by legendary hotelier, Cesar Ritz. Like Hotelies, we pulled chairs and tables together, like we were preparing for some make-shift group project in the Regent Lounge at the Statler Hotel, to have an informal chat with Tony, hear his views on the state of the industry, the future of hospitality, and what it was like to ascend to CEO in the midst of a global pandemic and taking the place after the sudden and tragic loss of Arne Sorenson.

At his request, we called the event a Fireside Chat, a name that comes from President FDR during the Great Depression and WWII who hosted radio programs aimed at comforting American families at home with talks of hope and optimism. Along the same vein, I asked Tony if he could offer any words of comfort to us in the industry now. And his poignant answer included the above quote by ancient Roman philosopher, Seneca. He emphasized that while the pandemic has brought incalculable loss both in life and business, it also spurred creativity and leadership to take center stage – like transforming the St. Regis’ antiquated smoking lounge into an outdoor cocktail garden and restaurant. And it’s with this sense of optimism that he, and his exceptional team, continue to move the world’s largest hotel company forward to lead the industry.

A massive thanks to everyone who made the event possible. Giuseppe De Martino and his team at the St. Regis Rome. Palmiro Noschese, whose black book in Rome helped reach members who haven’t been active in years. Silvija Iliskovic Balagovic whose dedication to CHS is inspiring, and led an incredible and productive hybrid chapter meeting before. Christian N Walter and Nils of PKF who offered an insightful analysis of the future of hospitality, “Serviced Living”. And everyone else who gave their time to be there with us. It always makes me so proud to be a #HotelieForLife with all of you.

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Submitted by Jonathon Dominic Spada ’10, founder of SAYHELLO Creative, and organizer of the event.