HRIM alum returns to Penn State as Nittany Lion Inn GM

As the new general manager of The Nittany Lion Inn, Tom Neely has gone full circle—and he couldn’t be happier about it.

With a degree in Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Management, 25 years of experience in the hotel industry, and a vivacious passion for the University, Neely says he’s proud to be part of the Penn State community again.

“I always knew about the Inn’s glowing reputation,” Neely said. “It’s one of those places that every alum wants as a part of their alumni experience when they return to campus. I am very pleased and proud to have been selected for this position, and I look forward to working with this great team of hospitality professionals in continuing to take the Inn to even higher levels of excellence.”

Neely joins the Inn after nine years as operations manager of Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg, Va. He oversees all aspects of the day-to-day operations at the Inn, including maintenance, accommodations, and the restaurants.

“I’m very excited to have Tom on board as he brings a wealth of experience and a passion for Penn State that’s perfect for the Inn,” Jim Purdum, general manager of Penn State Hospitality Services, said. “He’s hit the ground running and is absolutely committed to taking the Inn to the next level. As an alum of the School of Hospitality Management, and a very accomplished industry professional, I feel very fortunate to have Tom as a key member of the Hospitality Services leadership team.”

The Inn’s relationship with the college was one of the major drivers for Neely in taking the position. The nationally ranked HRIM program collaborates with the Penn State Hotels to provide real-world opportunities for its students in all aspects of the industry.

In the Hotel Management 380 class, students rotate through every department in lodging operations  and get a first-hand look at how these areas work.  They spend time at areas like the front desk, housekeeping and maintenance, and get a sense for the diversity and challenges of the hospitality industry. Guests enjoy interacting with part-time student employees and interns who wait tables and answer phones, and who are vital to the hotel’s success

Speaking from experience, Neely said the classroom can teach a lot, but being in the hotel and serving guests face-to-face is essential.

“There can be as many things happening as days in the year,” Neely said. “You can’t predict everything. I believe in the program because it gave me the experience I needed to get where I wanted to go.”

Over the past two years, the Inn’s high level of service has been recognized by its AAA Four Diamond rating. Having worked in Four Diamond facilities before, Neely knows the requirements to receive the designation, but he’s convinced that being Four Diamond is more a “frame of mind.”

“It’s a level of service above and beyond what people expect,” he said. “It is giving them the ‘wow’ feel while they’re here.”

To make that happen, Neely said he relies heavily on guest feedback. He encourages his employees to never fear the guest survey, but instead use it as a tool to make future guests feel comfortable and a part of the community.

“This is a great environment to live in. The Inn is ‘Penn State’s living room,’ and I want to keep that comfort and exceed our guests’ expectations every time with the high-level of service we provide for them,” he said. “It feels great to be back.”

Penn State, through the Hospitality Services unit, operates the Penn State Hotels. Neely will work in conjunction with Purdum and Judy Karaky, the general manager of the Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel.  Also, Jim “Smiley” Burket, who was manager of operations for the Inn remains a part of the Hospitality Services Leadership team as director of Facilities and Laundry operations.
 

Last Updated January 14, 2013