School of Hospitality Management names Pillsbury as Conti Professor

August 14, 2014

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Penn State School of Hospitality Management (SHM) named Leland C. Pillsbury, co-chairman of Thayer Lodging Group, as the fall 2014 Walter J. Conti Visiting Professor. Conti Professors visit the School of Hospitality Management to interact with students and faculty members, to present guest lectures in hospitality management and to speak at graduate and undergraduate colloquia.

“As the School of Hospitality Management launches its new interdisciplinary minor in entrepreneurship and innovation this year, Mr. Pillsbury is a most fitting Conti Professor,” said John O’Neill, director of the School of Hospitality Management. “He was renowned as an innovator at Marriott Corporation where he was the youngest vice president in the history of the company. More recently, as co-founder and chairman of Thayer Lodging Group, he has instituted his entrepreneurial vision to create one of the most dynamic owners and operators in the lodging space.”

Pillsbury will be on campus in September to interact with students and faculty members. He will discuss topics including entrepreneurship, real estate, strategy, finance and operations.
Prior to launching Thayer, he spent 19 years at Marriott, where he became an executive vice president and corporate officer. Pillsbury led the company’s entry into time sharing, Fairfield Inns and Residence Inns. Since leaving Marriott, he has played a major role in the launch of more than 15 new companies, including Internet services provider TIG Global, Chinese central reservations system innovator HUBS1 and PURE Rooms Co., providing hypoallergenic guest rooms.

Pillsbury is a member of the Cornell University Board of Trustees, vice chairman of the Investment Committee that oversees Cornell’s $5.2 billion endowment and a member of several other standing committees of the board. Along with his wife, he has been named a Foremost Benefactor of the University.

Mr. and Mrs. Pillsbury endowed the Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration. The institute’s objectives are to educate students about entrepreneurship and provide hands-on experience through programs such as the Business Plan Competition, and interaction with entrepreneurs-in-residence at the school. PIHE hosts the Innovation Network, bringing top industry executives together to explore global innovation, and recognizes the Innovator of the Year as part of the Icon and Innovator of the Year Awards held in New York each June.

Pillsbury is the Frank H.T. Rhodes Class of 1956 Visiting Scholar at Cornell University and teaches at Cornell’s seven undergraduate schools, the Johnson Graduate School of Business and the College of Veterinary Medicine. He is a frequent guest lecturer at numerous colleges and universities in the United States as well as China and Singapore.

Pillsbury served for many years as member of the Dean’s Advisory Board at J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, from which he received an master of business administration degree in 1982. The Kellogg School recognized him with the 2009 Schaffner Award, recognizing professional achievement and contribution to the school.

He is the recipient of the 2012 Far and Above Award for his contributions to the industry and his philanthropy. Pillsbury was also recognized in 2010 by the International Society of Hospitality Consultants with the Pioneer Award.

Walter J. Conti, for whom the Conti Professorship is named, is a well-known restaurateur and industry leader from Doylestown, Pennsylvania. He is the retired owner and chief executive officer of Conti Cross Keys Inn and the Historic Piper Tavern (formerly Conti's Pipersville Inn), both located in Bucks County, Pa. Conti has held various leadership positions in the National Restaurant Association, including a term as chairman from 1981 to 1982, and he is a "diplomat" of the association's educational foundation. The Conti Professorship Program was established by alumni and friends of the Penn State School of Hospitality Management in 1987 to honor Walter J. Conti for his contributions to the school, to Penn State and to the hospitality profession. 

For more information about the School of Hospitality Management, visit

  • Leland Pillsbury

    Leland C. Pillsbury is co-chairman of Thayer Lodging Group.

    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated August 15, 2014