The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation named 2021 Foundation Partner

October 03, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State has named The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation its Foundation Partner of the Year for 2021 in celebration of the organization’s philanthropy to support facilities and programming in the University’s School of Hospitality Management. This award recognizes a foundation that has demonstrated extraordinary generosity in promotion and support of Penn State. Recipients are chosen on the basis of consistency of giving, support to areas of greatest need, and impact across the University.

“The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation has shown tremendous generosity to the School of Hospitality Management,” said Penn State President Eric J. Barron. “By strengthening the education we provide our students, the foundation is fulfilling its commitment to creating opportunity and enacting positive change in the communities it serves, which in turn empowers Penn State to realize our own commitment to that goal. We are extremely grateful for the foundation’s partnership, and we are honored to help carry forward the Marriott family’s remarkable legacy.”

J.W. Marriott Sr.’s story starts with humble beginnings: He began raising sheep on his family’s small farm in the 1920s but went on to found the world’s largest hospitality company, now known as Marriott International. The opportunity to attend first Weber Junior College and then the University of Utah was made possible by the support and encouragement of an English professor who recognized his potential. His wife, Alice Sheets Marriott, was also vital to their tremendous success, serving as bookkeeper, adviser and true partner in early business endeavors.

The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation carries on the couple’s legacy, creating opportunities for others to make positive change in their lives and achieve their ambitious dreams. At Penn State, the foundation has furthered that goal primarily through support for the School of Hospitality Management in the College of Health and Human Development. The foundation has provided funds to help build Mateer Building, the school’s home; and to endow the Marriott Professor of Lodging Management.

The foundation's most significant gift to date came in 2019, with a $4 million pledge for renovations to, and programming within, the former Oak Building, now The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation Building, to house the school’s Collaboratory for Inclusion and Innovation. Beyond the essential physical spaces, which expand experiential educational opportunities for an increasingly diverse population of students, the gift will support the engagement of undergraduate and graduate students with faculty, alumni and industry partners.

“Like the Marriott family’s businesses, the School of Hospitality Management started in the early 20th century and grew into something remarkable,” said Donna Quadri-Felitti, Marvin Ashner Endowed Director of the School of Hospitality Management. “Today, we are one of the world’s leading programs in our field, and in recent years, the Marriott Family Foundation has played a significant role in enhancing the school’s global reach and the positive impact of our alumni on the hospitality industry. I cannot overstate the value of this partnership for our ability to attract, inspire and enable future generations to navigate an increasingly complex operating environment and to capitalize on the many ensuing opportunities as successful hospitality entrepreneurs, employers and leaders in communities large and small.”

Mieka Wick, executive director of The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation, said, “We are proud to work with academic institutions like Penn State that play an important role in ensuring students are prepared to pursue and advance in careers in the hospitality industry. Through our partnership with Penn State and other hospitality higher education programs, we aim to motivate and develop the next generation of hospitality leaders. As the industry continues to evolve, it is ever more important that future leaders reflect the diversity of our country and understand the breadth of opportunities within hospitality itself.”   

Past recipients of the Foundation Partner of the Year Award include the John E. Morgan Foundation and the Heinz Endowments.

Support from foundation partners like The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation will advance "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit

Last Updated October 05, 2021