Patrick Donnelly of The Hyatt Regency Hotel Named Honorary Alumnus of the Year
Patrick Donelly is the general manager of Hyatt Regency Hotel, Chicago's largest hotel and the largest Hyatt in the world, with 2,019 rooms and over 240,000 square feet of meeting space. He is responsible for the overall vision and future direction of this property, and ensures its prominence as a lead employer, hotel, and destination by active involvement in the business community.
The question is, "How did a young man from South Africa, who started his hospitality career as a vegetable cleaner in the kitchen at the five-star President Hotel in Cape Town, make his dreams come true?" It started when Patrick was nine years old. He and his family visited the five-star Polana Serena Hotel in Mozambique. He observed the general manager having cocktails at the pool, talking with guests, and enjoying fine dining and walking around "like a king." That's when Patrick knew he wanted to be a hotel general manager.
With that goal in mind, Patrick, after gaining experience at the President Hotel, joined Trusthouse Forte, an English company where he eventually became a training manager and learned the European Style of service. He earned positions with higher and higher degrees of responsibility, eventually becoming the rooms division manager at the five-star Rosebank Hotel in Johannesburg.
His next goal? Saving enough money to attend Cornell University for a summer. Check. He then planned to return to South Africa, get some valuable executive experience and return to the U.S. within two years.
Sure enough, within one day of his two-year goal, Patrick and his wife Fiona arrived in Reno, NV, with their savings, nine suitcases, and no jobs. Patrick pounded the pavement for three months. But like a scene in a great movie, two days before the return date on his airline ticket back to South Africa, Patrick was offered three different positions. Patrick says, "I chose Hyatt. Thirty-two years later, I am still with Hyatt, enjoying the life I had set out to accomplish, having wonderful experiences and making life-long friends along the way."
Patrick has enjoyed a successful career, serving in many positions with Hyatt in several different cities. He has earned a reputation as one who is able to unite people - staff members, hoteliers, communities - and as someone who is fair, always expecting the best from people and giving everyone an opportunity. But when asked about milestone achievements, Patrick recalls those goals he set many years ago which through hard work, perseverance, and taking opportunities, he accomplished and went beyond. What a lesson for students in the process of setting their goals and deciding how to reach them.
Patrick is well known as a volunteer leader of the Boards of Directors of the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association and the Illinois Restaurant Association. He also serves on the Board of Choose Chicago, the Chicagoland Chamber of Com merce, and the Greater North Michigan Avenue Association. He has earned numerous awards for his community involvement, including the Award of Honor from the Chicago Police Department and the Chairman's Award from the Greater North Michigan Avenue Association.
The School's Alumni Association Chairman Emeritus Marc Gordon (MBA '73) speaks highly of Patrick. "Patrick is a hotelier in the best sense of the word: he cares about hospitality and guest service, and he raises the standard for both in the Chicago area. He is a pleasure to know and to work with."
Congratulations, Patrick, and welcome to Spartan Nation as The School's Alumni Association 2017 Honorary Alumnus of the Year.
Michigan State University The School of Hospitality Business Alumni Association