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Dream comes true for managing director of new UD hotel

William Sullivan at the site of the new Courtyard by Marriott on the Laird Campus
4:40 p.m., July 6, 2004--Six months ago, William Sullivan drove past the University of Delaware’s Newark campus and thought, “This is where I belong.”

Last week, Sullivan’s dream came true when he ended a 31-year career with the DuPont Co. to become the managing director of UD’s new Courtyard by Marriott Hotel on the Laird Campus in Newark, which will be opened in late fall, and Conference Services.

“What a great opportunity!” Sullivan, whose experience includes managing Hotel DuPont and DuPont Country Club, said of his new job. “I enjoy the hospitality business and getting back to this is exciting and challenging. This will be fun.”

Sullivan, a UD alumnus who lives in Wilmington, said the new hotel is not only ideally located next to the newly renovated Clayton Hall Conference Center but it also will complement UD’s strong academic program while serving the University community.

"Students in the Department of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management (HRIM) will be involved in opening and managing the hotel, thus gaining rare, hands-on experience," UD President David P. Roselle said. "They will benefit from excellent learning opportunities in a fine hotel."

Unlike other institutions of higher learning, UD students will be fully integrated into every aspect of running the hotel, Sullivan, who retired as DuPont’s project leader for mergers and acquisitions, said.

“This enables students to learn hotel operations and guest experience at the same time, with the support of faculty,” Sullivan, who also has served as adjunct HRIM professor for 20 years, said. “UD’s program is ranked the seventh best of its kind in the country, and we believe we can do even better.”

A certified hospitality technology professional, Sullivan said the new hotel will be equipped with the latest technology and at least one guest room will be used to test new concepts, from enhanced Internet access to energy conservation.

“What we hope to do is to make this hotel a model for industry to bring their products and see how they work,” Sullivan said. “It also will benefit students as they work with vendors.”

The 126-room, four-story business-class hotel, which will feature an indoor pool, exercise room and restaurant, will have a computerized learning center for weekly classes for students assigned to the hotel for a semester’s practicum in lodging. It will double as a conference room with online meeting capability, Sullivan said.

“A lot of travelers and meeting planners like to go to a hotel that has good technology,” he said. “When you travel, you want to have all the conveniences you left at home.

“My focus is to try to apply technology to business solutions. How does it promote service and does it generate earnings for the hotel? If you don’t have those two, it’s not going to do any good. If it does not do that, then it’s just a toy. We are going to take technology to the next level,” he said.

UD has partnered with the Shaner Hotel Group, which will provide key marketing and management support for the hotel and conference operations. Under the terms of the partnership, the University owns 75 percent of the hotel and Shaner owns 25 percent.

“I’m very excited about the partnership because it will help us improve a lot of things and at the same time make better use of the conference center,” Sullivan said. “For instance, at this time of the year, a lot of facilities are not being used. If you bring more people on campus you expose them to the University, and they become familiar with the institution.”

University Conference Services includes the 40,000-square-foot Clayton Hall in Newark, Arsht Hall and the Goodstay Center in Wilmington and the Virden Retreat Center in Lewes.

Shaner Hotel Group [www.shanerhotels.com] is one of the nation’s premier private lodging and management companies. Founded in 1983 by brothers Lance and Fred Shaner, the State College, Pa.-based company owns and/or operates 23 hotels in 15 states, with assets totaling $260 million. Twelve well-known brands are represented in the Shaner Hotel Group portfolio, including Marriott, Hilton, Radisson and Holiday Inn.

“If I could have designed my next job, I don’t think I would have designed it better,” Sullivan, whose two daughters, Lauren and Kathleen, are UD students, said. “Six months ago I didn’t even think of doing this. This, truly, is a unique opportunity. To me it’s kind of a homecoming because I’ve loved the University. I’m just very proud to be part of it.”

Article by Martin Mbugua
Photo by Duane Perry

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