Michael Kay ’61 passed on Thursday, January 19, 2023 in his home in Atlanta. Michael served as the Cornell Hotel Society Global President during the 1975 to 1976 academic year. Michael was a third generation Cornellian. He served the university as a member of the Cornell Council, and supported the Hotel School by serving on the Dean’s Advisory Board and deans search committees.
Below is an obituary published in the Atlanta Journal Constitution on January 22, 2023. It describes Michael’s many contributions to the hospitality industry, and extensive support of philanthropic organizations.
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Michael Zola Kay, age 83, of Atlanta, GA passed away peacefully in his home on January 19, 2023. Michael was born in New York City, spent his boyhood in Pittsburgh, and earned a B.S. degree in Hotel Administration at Cornell University. After launching his career at many of the marquis hotels in New York City, Michael came to Atlanta in 1980 as the CEO of Omni International Hotels. He went on to run the Portman Hotel Company and then in 1991 went on to become the turnaround CEO of LSG Sky Chefs, the largest provider of integrated in-flight airline catering.
Michael has served on the boards of Radiant Systems, NSI, Shoptaw and Pullapart and dedicated much of his retirement years to serving on the boards of national and local nonprofits. Michael is the past Chair of the Board of the Jewish Community Legacy Project and past board chair for the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta where he created the first donor-advised fund committee and chaired the investment committee. He served on the board of Jewish Federation of Atlanta and co-chaired the creation of their strategic plan with Mike Leven. At JF&CS, where Michael chaired the board and served for two years, he and his wife Ann were honorary co-chairs of the capital campaign that resulted in an expanded campus and new space for the agency’s innovative IndependenceWorks program. Up until the time of his death, Michael was on the boards of The Weber School and the MJCCA. Michael also served on the boards of the Atlanta Botanical Garden, United Way of Greater of Atlanta, YearUp Atlanta, The Center for Working Families and KIPP Schools in Atlanta. Michael served as Vice Chairman of Points of Light and was on the national board of Repair the World. He and Ann then assisted in helping bring Repair to Atlanta.
Michael was a force for goodness and philanthropy and through his professional and volunteer pursuits, he created a lasting impression and an impressive legacy. Michael dedicated countless hours mentoring others and sharing his experiences and advice. Michael was a man of many thoughts and words, but he chose them wisely. His love of family, friends, running, books, and crossword puzzles are everlasting, and his presence will be missed by all who knew him.
Michael is survived by his wife of 43 years, Ann Kay; his brother, Jeffrey Kay; his son, Jonathan Kay, his wife, Marcia and their two children, Hayden and Phoebe; his daughter, Jennifer Gilbert, and her two children, Mason and Max; his daughter, Alison Doerfler and her two children, Harrison and Jordan; and his son, Todd Lubin, his wife, Lindsay and their two children, Ozzy and Lou. Memorial donations may be made to Jewish Family & Career Services or Atlanta Jewish Federation. The Funeral Services will be held Sunday, January 22, at 3p PM, at Congregation Or Hadash at 7460 Trowbridge Rd., Sandy Springs, GA 30328, with Rabbi Edward Harwitz officiating. Arrangements by Dressler’s, 770.451.4999.