Cheryl Farr MMH ’04

Cheryl Farr MMH ’04, Founder & Chief Strategist of SIGNAL.csk Brand Partners, shares what it means for her to be a Hotelie for Life®.

“Since my days in tourism and as a travel writer, I’ve always had a passion for creating unforgettable experiences for others. So, when it was time to go to business school, The Hotel School was the natural fit for me. I felt like I had found my people there — others who believed that hospitality, food & beverage, and travel experience creation were both living acts of service and the world’s most exciting businesses to be in. Nearly two decades later, I’ve transformed what I learned at The Hotel School into my own thriving branding agency, working with clients around the globe to create multidimensional, multisensory brand experiences that make magic for organizations, their staff, and their customers alike.

I bring a “Life is Service” mindset to every brand development project, helping the organizations I work with in hospitality and beyond to amplify and embed customer-centric thinking at all brand touch points. Being a HotelieforLife® has made me uniquely qualified to create exceptional, customer-focused brands and branded experiences in any industry. Of course, I love building brands with my fellow Hotelies whenever I get the chance!”

Stefan Diederichs ’92

Stefan Diederichs ’92, Managing Director of his company Othello Hotel Projects, shares with us what it means to be a Hotelie for Life.

“During my time at Cornell and during the first 10 years after graduation I was strongly involved with CHS. I held a number of national and regional positions in Europe and together with the team in the Benelux we organized a good sequence of cool events. But then with 3 kids and professional obligations I scaled down my involvement.

I have followed the Society from a distance and only stayed in touch with my closest contacts. But sometimes I reach out to a fellow-member whom I met 20 years ago or even members that I don’t know at all, usually for professional reasons or for travel advice. The response is always as if we had been friends forever. Nice to be part of this family.”

Bhavnesh Vivek ‘11

Bhavnesh Vivek ‘11, Vice President of Hotel Acquisitions at The RADCO Companies and CHS Lifetime Member, shares with us what it means to be a Hotelie for Life®.

 “Growing up in a family that has owned, operated, and developed hotels since migrating to the United States, I have always been very passionate about the hotel industry. I knew at a young age that I wanted to attend CornellSHA due to the uniqueness of their curriculum, students, and alumni. The bonds that I have made with other Hotelies during my time in Ithaca and afterward is what I truly appreciate about being a part of the Hotelie network. Since settling in Atlanta, I have become involved in our local chapter, which has allowed me to connect with other alumni locally and continue to connect with other Hotelies and be a ‘Hotelie for Life’.”

JT Baker ‘21 – Philippus Miller III ‘83 Hotelie for Life® Prize Winner

In 2020, the Cornell Hotel Society (CHS) Hotelie for Life® Senior Prize was named in honor of Philippus Miller ’83, longtime director of alumni affairs at the Hotel School and founder of the executive search firm Philippus Miller III and Associates.  Phil was famously known for facilitating relationships among Hotel School students, faculty, and alumni.  He was the consummate Hotelie – a people-person dedicated to serving others.

JT Baker ’21, the winner of the 2021 Philippus Miller III ’83 Cornell Hotel Society (CHS) Hotelie for Life® Senior Prize, is also a people-person.  It all started at the Sunnyside Café, his family’s restaurant in Minneapolis.  “Growing up with two parents in the restaurant business, you would think I am a foodie.  The truth is I can’t cook, but I did fall in love the hospitality ethos and providing service to our customers,” said JT.

At age 13, JT and his family took a trip to Las Vegas.  Driving down The Strip, JT was wowed by the grandeur of the casino hotels.  “Who owns these hotels?”, he wondered.  “One day I want to own a hotel.”

JT was a star football player in high school and recruited by several colleges across country.  During his recruiting trip to Cornell, one of the coaches innocently asked the question, “What do you want to do in life?”.  JT responded, “I want to own a hotel.”  The coach immediately stopped the interview and proceeded to walk with JT from Schoellkopf Hall to Statler Hall.  JT did not know that Cornell was home to the world’s best university hospitality program.  From that point on, JT was committed to attend Cornell regardless of making the football team.

To say that JT made the most of his time at Cornell is an understatement.  Under the guidance of the Entrepreneur in Residence Phil Miller, JT used his great interpersonal skills to form relationships with his fellow students and members of the faculty.

Two of JT’s early faculty mentors were Professors Andrew Quagliata and Jan DeRoos.  JT first met Professor Quagliata the summer before his freshman year while attending the Hotel Operations Program on campus.  Professor Quagliata teaches Management Communication and likes to challenge his students.  He took JT aside and told him, “if you work hard, I’ll help you get the most out of your experience at Cornell.”

If JT wanted to own a hotel, then he knew he needed to succeed in Professor DeRoos’ real estate class.  Accordingly, JT, along with football teammate Eric Gallman ’21, took the time to meet as frequently as possible with Professor DeRoos.  Professor DeRoos acknowledged the disadvantages JT and Eric had as young African Americans that had attended high schools with limited excel training resources.  However, he assured them they could be at the “top of hotel real estate game.”  JT was inspired not only by Professor DeRoos’ message, but by the personal time commitment he spent with himself and Eric.  This changed JT’s perspective on how beneficial his Cornell experience could be if he took advantage of all the resources available.

From his freshman year on JT began to expand his relationships with university administrators, alumni, and industry executives.  While attending a high school event JT received a business card from Kevin Warren with the Minnesota Vikings.  At that time, Mr. Warren was the highest ranking African American executive with an NFL team.  On his own initiative, JT reached out to Mr. Warren and was able to land summer jobs summer jobs with the Vikings after his freshman and sophomore years at Cornell.  Under the tutelage of Mr. Warren, JT not only learned about the business of sports management, but also worked directly on a big mixed-use real estate project developed by the Wilf family (owners of the Vikings) next to the team’s new training facility in Eagan, MN.  The project included a 310-room luxury hotel.

On campus, JT added to his classroom and football commitments by winning a campus-wide election to serve as a student representative on the University Board of Trustees.  While serving on the Board of Trustees, JT was able to form relationships with prominent Hotel School alumni like Richard Baker ’88, Lee Pillsbury ’69, and Andrew Tisch ’71.  He also was able to establish personal connections with Cornell President Martha Pollack and Marriott CEO Tony Capuano ’87.

During the summer of 2020, COVID prevented JT from holding any in-person internships.  However, he took advantage of the opportunity to work remotely and tackled three opportunities.  One was with Kevin Warren, who moved on from the Vikings to become Commissioner of the Big 10.  JT’s association with Trustee Richard Baker ’88, Executive Chairman and CEO of Hudson Bay Company, gave him some exposure to the real estate side of the retail industry.  Finally, JT landed a remote internship with JP Morgan.

Prior to his summer experience with JP Morgan, the thought of working on Wall Street after graduation was not on his mind.  However, during his brief time with JP Morgan, JT was exposed to the finance side of the real estate industry and liked it.  Fortunately, his strong performance led to an offer for permanent employment after graduation.  JT will be joining JP Morgan in Manhattan during the latter part of the summer of 2021.

Since graduating, JT achieved another great accomplishment.  In June of 2021 he was admitted to the Harvard Business School.  Harvard has given him a two to six year window to work in industry, and then enroll in graduate school when he is ready.  “I initially did not think about attending graduate school, but the offer to attend HBS was just too good an opportunity to pass on,” noted JT.

As a graduate of the Hotel School, JT wants to live the life of a Hotelie as demonstrated by Phil Miller.  “I’m constantly amazed at how busy Hotel School alumni professionals take the time to help others.  Hotelies develop into selfless leaders that make the experiences of others better, both professionally and personally,” said JT.

Upon arriving in Ithaca, JT quickly noticed that he was one of very few African American students in the Hotel School.  Based on his positive experience at Cornell, it is JT’s goal as an alumnus to become successful in the real estate industry, and then use his resources to open the door for more black students to study hospitality and real estate.

“I’ve told President Pollack that Cornell changed my life.  The University is at its best educating students, especially those who come to campus with limited resources and are in need of extra assistance.  Ultimately, if we can educate a diverse student body, that will reduce the incidences of racism going forward,” JT concluded.

Like Phil Miller, there is no doubt that JT will use his strong personal skills to establish relationships that he can leverage to serve others and make their lives better.  This is the essence of being a Hotelie for Life®.

* * *

The Cornell Hotel Society and Cornell Hotel Foundation congratulate JT, and wish him the best of success on his journey as a Hotelie for Life®.  This interview was conducted by Robert Mandelbaum ’81.



Stacey Nadolny ‘05

Stacey Nadolny ‘05, MAI, Managing Director at HVS shares with us what it means to her to be a Hotelie for Life®:


“When I entered Cornell almost two decades ago, I was completely unprepared for what was ahead of me in the Hotel School, and honestly a little unsure of it. But it was not long before I was working at the Statler Hotel, volunteering for HEC, taking every meal at Macs, and fully immersed in the school’s culture, not to mention my classmates and our phenomenal faculty and staff. I have been fortunate enough to work in hospitality since I graduated, for which I credit SHA in opening the doors for me, to make a career in this industry.

This network does not end when you leave SHA, it only grows. To me, it is most literal to be a Hotelie For Life. I have been so lucky to meet some of my closest friends and business contacts through the alumni network. The Cornell Hotel Society has connected me with some of the most committed alums, and I am so grateful for those the volunteers and staff that run this network like a machine. The countless hours that go into planning events, education, and fundraising are why we can continue to be Hotelies For Life!”

Photo 1: Volunteering in Chicago for Pelotonia

Photo 2: Biking in Idaho

Photo 3: With some of my HVS Besties

Hollis Silverman ‘00

Hollis Silverman ‘00, Founder of Eastern Point Collective, Owner/Operator of The Duck & The Peach DC, La Collina DC, and The Wells DC in Washington, DC shares with us what it means to her to be a Hotelie for Life®:

“Discovering, adapting, listening, innovating…all of these things are part of being a #HotelieForLife. For me, hospitality is a way of life, bringing people together over food is always the winning formula to create conversations and connections. I’ve learned so many lessons in my career, but what guides me as a Hotelie is to be both people- and purpose-driven and to anticipate the moments of conflict and of celebration. This amazing industry is all about passion, human energy, and taking care of one another. Our teams and our guests. And when in doubt, add roast chicken! Everything is made better with a roast chicken.”


Lee Pillsbury ‘69

Lee Pillsbury ‘69, Chairman – TenX Healthcare Systems, Chairman – TLG Investment Partners, Managing Director – Thayer Ventures, shares with us what it means to him to be a Hotelie for Life®.

“I’m a Hotelie For Life. I’m fortunate to be part of the best network in the country. It has empowered my success, strengthened my family, and supported me when I struggled. It is at the core of how my life works: Network-Connect-Collaborate.”


Bill Minnock ’79

Bill Minnock ’79, Managing Director Asia Pacific, Marriott Vacations Worldwide, shares with us what it means to be Hotelie for Life®.

“Being a Hotelie for Life is like being part of a family: anyone affiliated with Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration is family to me. When anyone contacts me or wants help – whether alumni, a current student, or a new student – I always answer and try to help. Why? Because all of my Hotelie colleagues, old and new, have a special place in my heart. Fellow alumni have done this for me over the years and this is my commitment to the Hotelie community.”

Bill Quain ’74

Bill Quain ’74, Stockton University Professor, worldwide Author/Speaker, shares with us what it means to him to be a Hotelie For Life®.

 “When I received that acceptance letter, back in March 1970, I had no idea that my life had changed forever. On my first day at Statler, they took us into the housekeeping department and issued our chef coats, checkered trousers, and red kerchiefs. I wondered, “Where was I?”, and “Who ARE these people?” Slowly but surely, I learned lessons far beyond the textbooks – I was becoming a Hotelie. In the years since, I traveled the world with confidence. “Which fork to use?” Got it! “Which wine?” Got it. “Can you handle the pressure?” Certainly, I’ve been there. “Do you have any friends?” Everywhere! “Do you know where that person went to school?” Do you mean the one who is smiling, and acting as the Host? Yes, they went to The Hotel School. “Hotelie for Life?” Oh yeah! And wow, what a life it has been. To all Hotelies, past, present, and future, I raise a glass to each of you, and say “Thank You All.”


Karim Abouelnaga ’13

Karim Abouelnaga ’13, CEO of Practice Makes Perfect shares with us what it means to him to be a Hotelie for Life®:

 “I got into the Hotel School without a single recollection of ever staying at a hotel. I remember sitting in my Intro to Hotel Operations class with Professor McCarthy pretending I knew the difference between a Super 8 and a Ritz-Carlton property (nodding my head with the majority). Thankfully, being a Hotelie for Life is not about the restaurants you eat at or the hotels you stay at. It is the smaller things like smiling when you are within 10 feet of someone and greeting them when you are within 5 feet. It is going out of your way to serve others, even when it is as little as giving up your seat on a bus or holding a door open for someone else to get through. And, most importantly, it is about participating in and knowing that you are part of a much larger community of like-minded people who are committed to using the principles of hospitality to give the world “a little better service.”