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The Hospitality Industry Leadership Council (HILC) is comprised of exceptional leaders and innovators from the hospitality industry. The expertise from the HILC members provides input on curriculum and course offering, connections for jobs and internships, as well as feedback on student projects through industry panels. The members also meet with students individually, support our mentor program, and provide financial support for the School of Hospitality needs.
Carmen has a 15-year career in corporate finance and asset management. She brings extensive hotel operations and financial management knowledge to Mission Hill Hospitality where she serves as Senior Vice President of Asset Management. Prior to joining Mission Hill Hospitality, Carmen played a pivotal role in growing the select-service hotel portfolio for Investra Capital – a Dubai based private equity firm. Acquiring over $400M in assets for the firm and asset managing the portfolio. Carmen has been a panelist at the Hunter Hotel Conference and AAHOA. Carmen’s passion has always been asset management, and in her early career she served in an asset management capacity for IFA Hotels & Resorts and previously as a bankruptcy analyst where she developed and authored numerous plans of reorganization for hotel debtors in Chapter 11.
She is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics and International Business. In addition, she holds her Master’s in Business Administration (with a specialization in International Finance) from Charleston Southern University.
Carmen recently relocated to the Denver area where she lives with her husband, daughter and two dogs.
Mark Berzins is the founder and Lead Dog of the Little Pub Company, which owns and operates 19 neighborhood bars and restaurants in the Denver-metro area. He also manages investments in real estate, brewing, and other emerging industries. Along the way, Mark managed to write a book of dating advice for his three daughters, which was recently made into a Hollywood film.
In addition to helping found B:CIVIC and Social Venture Partners – Denver, Mark has served on the boards of numerous local charities, including The Denver Foundation and The Art Students League of Denver. His most proud philanthropic achievement, however, is the employee-led giving campaign at Little Pub Company, known as Raise the Bar.
Mark graduated from Stanford University in 1989 with a degree in Economics. He resides in Denver with his wife of twenty-nine years, Margaret. He’s a father of four, parent of five. Mark enjoys the great Colorado outdoors and taking his friends’ money at the poker table.
José is the Co-Founder and CEO of Raices Brewing Company, a Latinx owned and operated brewery next to the Denver Broncos stadium in Denver, CO. (www.raicesbrewing.com). He served on Human Relations Commission for the City of Boulder where he applied his commitment to social justice. He serves in a variety of leadership roles, and most recently, was appointed by Governor Hickenlooper to serve as Co-Chair of the Minority Business Advisory Council.
José was born in Costa Rica. He was the first person in his family to attend and graduate College. In 2014, he received the Boulder County Multicultural Award in Business. Jose and his wife co-founded the cultural organization Barrio E’ in 2012 and opened a physical location in 2015 in Longmont’s Art District where he hopes to leave a legacy for his community.
Dawn is a partner with the law firm of Butler Snow, a Mississippi-based law firm with over 300 attorneys across the country, and in London, Singapore and Hong Kong. Dawn specializes in complex municipal bond financing and transactions. A few of Dawn’s noteworthy achievements include representation of Forest City in the development of the former Stapleton Airport site; representation of U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray as underwriter for the Denver Convention Center Hotel; Baltimore, Maryland Convention Hotel; Omaha, Nebraska Convention Hotel; Vancouver, Washington Convention Hotel; and the Austin, Texas Convention Hotel; and representation as General Counsel to the Denver Union Station Project Authority for the enormously successful redevelopment project at Union Station in Denver.
Dawn is the founder and principal of Odd Tale Books, an airport concession concern that is an owner of four book stores and twelve retail outlets at Denver International Airport. Among the numerous awards she has received are: the National Leadership Award from the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Business Advisory Council; the Woman of Distinction Award from the National Council of Negro Women; Large Business of the Year Award from the Colorado Black Chamber of Commerce; 2016 Civil Rights Award for Outstanding Community Development and Philanthropy from NEWSED; Colorado Black Women for Political Action Award for Corporate Business; Timeless Legends Award; Chairman’s Award from the Urban League; 25 Most Powerful Women Award – Women’s Chamber of Commerce; Women of Distinction from the Girls Scouts; and the Denver Mayor’s Outstanding Community Contribution Gold Coin Award.
Dawn is a member of the MSU Denver Foundation Board of Directors, is a trustee of the Denver Botanic Gardens and is a member of the Board of Directors for the Urban Land Conservancy.
Anne Marie grew up in the hospitality industry as part of family-owned hotel company, Outrigger Hotels, where she was a member of the Advisory Board of Directors for 13 years. She began her career at Exclusive Resorts and founded the Experiences and Bespoke Travel Departments at Inspirato, developing a portfolio of 11M annually in small group journeys, independent travel, and cruise charters. Today, she is the Managing Director of hospitality-focused real estate investment fund, Colorado Ohana Ventures, and CEO of a business-to-business travel technology startup, Itinerate.
She holds a BA in English from Colorado College and an MBA from the Darden School of Business at University of Virginia.
Peter graduated with his bachelor’s degree in Operations Research Industrial Engineering in 1999 and then remained at Cornell to earn his master’s degree in 2000. At Cornell Peter also, rowed on the school’s crew team, and was a member of the Psi Upsilon fraternity.
In 2001 Peter began his career with Coors Brewing Company in Elkton, VA. In 2003 Peter moved back to Denver to study brewing at Coors in Golden and received his Diploma in Brewing two years later. Peter’s career with Coors, MillerCoors and now Molson Coors has also taken him to Texas, California and back to Virginia. Over the past 18 years Peter is filled roles in Brewing, Packaging, Quality and Customer Service. Currently Peter works in Molson Coors’ Golden brewery leading a major capital project to modernize the brewery.
Outside of work, Peter is married with four young children that keep him quite busy. He enjoys many outdoors activities. He is currently on the Board of Directors for Molson Coors and is volunteer with many charities around the Denver area.
Ashley Dimond is the Director of Strategy at Stonebridge Companies, a hotel ownership and development company based in Denver. Ashley started at Stonebridge after graduating from business school at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business in June 2021.
Prior to attending the Booth School of Business, Ashley completed her undergraduate degree at Cornell University at the School of Hotel Administration. While there, she pursued a minor in Real Estate and a concentration in food and beverage.
After graduating from Cornell, Ashley spent a year in Miami at Burger King Corporation, working on global procurement for non-food and paper items, after which she transitioned to Uber, focusing on driver and rider acquisition through local partnerships. From there, she served as a “launcher,” launching Uber in new cities and moving to India to launch new Uber products. She closed out her four years at Uber as chief of staff to the head of operations for Uber Eats.
Ashley is also a board member on the Cornell Hotel School Young Alumni Council, the Cornell Alumni Admissions Committee, The University of Chicago Booth Admissions Committee and the Dimond Family Foundation.
“My educational experiences have been transformative to the way I approach my personal and professional life, and I want the same opportunity to be available to those who choose it. I’m incredibly excited and honored to be a part of an organization that prides itself on the idea that every student should have an opportunity to better their lives through the highest quality of education at an affordable price.”
Walter Isenberg is the co-founder of Denver-based Sage Hospitality Group and serves as the company’s President and Chief Executive Officer. Sage Hospitality Group and its four business divisions are known throughout the industry as leaders in hotel and restaurant management, development, real estate investment, placemaking and brand building. In his role, Isenberg directs the efforts of all divisions including operations, real estate investment, strategic design and brand development, with an emphasis on community giving and teaching the next generation of great leaders.
Isenberg co-founded Sage Hospitality in 1984 with partner Zack Neumeyer, and the pair have worked diligently together for more than 30 years to grow the company into what we know today. Sage’s history in hospitality includes adaptive re-use of historic buildings, including the complete renovation of Denver’s historic Union Station. The companies exceptional place-making and brand building skills were brought to life with the development of the full city block mixed use project, Dairy Block. The company has grown through ground-up development, acquisitions and third-party management. Sage is known to have strong relationships with major hotel brands like Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt and IHG. Sage has also developed proprietary hotel and restaurant brands. Today the more than 20% of the company’s assets are unique and distinctive independent properties. In 2006, Sage formed the Sage Restaurant Concepts, which creates and operates unique, high-volume restaurants adjacent to its urban hotels, upping the value and profits for Sage’s investors.
Sage Hospitality has been consistently recognized for its significant commitment to corporate citizenship. The company was the first recipient of Marriott International’s “Spirit to Serve Award,” which is given annually to a franchise partner that lives the vision to be an outstanding corporate citizen. Over the years the company has been recognized by customers and brand partners for its’ exceptional commitment to customer satisfaction. Sage Hospitality Group has also been an industry leader in implementing green operating practices, committed to developing Gold and Silver LEED certified hotels as well as making it a company-wide mission to make each of its hotels and restaurants as environmentally friendly as possible. Sage’s development team has also won numerous awards including ULI Global award of Excellence and has been nationally recognized as a leader in historic preservation.
A graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, Isenberg is a member of the American Hotel Lodging Association Board of Directors and has served on the Marriott International Owner Advisory Board. Isenberg was honored as the 2020 Most Admired CEO by the Denver Business Journal and was inducted into Hospitality Design’s Platinum Circle in 2017. In 2010, Isenberg was inducted into Denver & Colorado’s Tourism Hall of Fame, which is the highest award given by Denver’s travel industry. Active in the community, he currently serves on the boards of Visit Denver, The Downtown Denver Partnership, Colorado Concern and the Metropolitan State University of Denver Board of Trustees. Isenberg and his wife Christie have two daughters, Nicole and Tirunesh, residing in Denver.
A perpetual globetrotter, Thierry Kennel, Regional Vice President and General Manager, had covered a good portion of the world by adolescence. Born in France, Kennel reminisces moving many times as a child for his father’s job. “I was hotel brat, in and out of properties a couple of times a year as we waited for each new assignment,” says Kennel, recounting stops in Algiers, Congo, Libya, Kenya, Canada, Kenya again and finally, Paris. “Seeing how hotels operate and how their employees go above and beyond made me realize my career path at a young age, 13.”
In Switzerland, Kennel studied hotel management at Les Roches International School of Hotel Management. His first position was in the U.S., at Four Seasons Hotel Houston, as an overnight supervisor in stewarding. Now, with nine Four Seasons properties on his resume, Kennel knows the hotel experiences he had at a young age shaped his future. “Equipping my teams with the skills they need to provide five-star service is my most rewarding task,” said Kennel. “In turn, I’m delighted to receive the glowing feedback from guests who received a creative amenity or an unexpected touch during their stay with us.”
Today, Kennel is based at high elevation in Denver, while still overseeing five properties and helping develop many more. After living on remote islands such as the Maldives and Nevis, he enjoys Denver, as it is the perfect launching pad for Rocky Mountain adventure.“Being an outdoor enthusiast, I enjoy living in Denver,” remarked Kennel. “The city is sophisticated and happening – evident by numerous media outlets naming it one of the best places to live – but it still possesses a small town friendliness, maybe it’s the city’s Wild West roots.”
If he’s not touring the mountains on his motorcycle, Kennel can be found playing golf, and traveling.
With nearly 25 years in food and beverage operations, Todd Moore is an accomplished multi-unit hospitality executive. His proven track record in managing high volume, high profile, full service accounts like the Colorado Convention Center, the Denver Performing Arts Complex, the Pepsi Center and Coors Field, attest to his ability to develop and manage strong, diverse management teams, oversee large event staff and identify and implement innovative revenue generating programs to benefit the accounts he serves.
In college, Todd took the easy courses like Evolutionary Biology, Math, Physics and Chemistry. He has an incisive, inquiring mind – characteristics that lend well to his orchestrating numerous national and internationally recognized events – especially those with event hosts who like precise attention to detail. His clients, peers and direct reports recognize Todd as a creative, tenacious leader who gets the job done. Whether supporting new business development, tackling capital investment projects or finding exactly the right supplier partner to enhance guest services with a special product, Todd delivers results.
Los Dos Potrillos Mexican Restaurant is a family owned and operated business located in the suburbs of Colorado. Since opening in 2002, Los Dos Potrillos has grown immensely and is currently operating with four restaurant locations, one brewery and 2 food truck concepts. After growing up in and working for the family business his whole life, Ramirez decided to join full time in 2015. Since joining full time, he has strictly focused on business development and operations. He has established a corporate structure, created a Human Resources and Compliance department and formed an on-going professional development program for management and staff. He has increased brand awareness through social media and events & promotion and has proven results for increased sales.
In addition, he led the opening of their fourth location and brewery, making Los Dos Potrillos the first Mexican restaurant and Mexican brewery in the state of Colorado as well as rebranded their stores during the 2020 pandemic to Los Dos express which created their new Food Truck. It is his goal and vision to continue growing and expanding their family restaurant not only in Colorado, but in other states as well. He wants to lead Los Dos Potrillos in becoming a well-known National brand.
He currently sits as the youngest ever Chair Elect for The Colorado Restaurant Association, the youngest member in Colorado to be part of YPO (Young Presidents Organization) and a member of the top CEO’s of Colorado in the Titan 100. He was born and raised in Denver, Colorado and was the first graduating class of Valor Christian High School. He has a wonderful wife named Malorie and together they have a two year old son named Daniel.
Jon Robinson joined UMB in 1981 and is executive vice president and regional chief credit officer for the Colorado and Arizona regions. Previously at UMB, Jon was chief executive officer of UMB Bank’s Colorado region. He has nearly 40 years of experience in the financial services industry.
Jon earned a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from Metropolitan State University of Denver, where he continues to be an engaged alumnus. As a resident of Colorado for more than 36 years, he is also an active member in the Denver community and currently serves in several community service roles including: Alliance for Choice in Education Board of Trustees, member, Colorado Uplift Development Board, member, MSU Denver, Hospitality Leadership Council, Past Board Chair, Junior Achievement.
For more than a quarter century, Richard W. Scharf Jr. has been instrumental in growing all aspects of convention and tourism business in Denver. He has been president & CEO of VISIT DENVER, The Convention & Visitors Bureau, since March 2004, managing a staff of 65 associates, which includes regional offices in Chicago and Washington D.C. With 1,300 private business members and an annual budget of $42 million, VISIT DENVER is a non-profit association responsible for marketing Denver as a convention and leisure destination. Under Scharf’s leadership, Denver has set new tourism records for the last 14 years, culminating in 2019 with a record 31.9 million total visitors who spent more than $7 billion dollars. Since 2006, Denver has seen a 68 percent increase in leisure visitors, compared to only a 24 percent increase nationally over the same time period.
Scharf has also been responsible for greatly increasing VISIT DENVER’s marketing resources. In 2005, he led a successful public vote campaign to increase the lodging tax in Denver in order to generate more marketing dollars. Voters approved the measure by a margin of two to one, resulting in a marketing budget increase for VISIT DENVER of nearly 50 percent. In 2017, Scharf worked with the City of Denver and the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association to successfully create a Tourism Improvement District (TID) tax to help pay for a major expansion of the Colorado Convention Center expansion and greatly supplement VISIT DENVER’s marketing efforts.
Scharf has also played a key role in the development of Denver’s tourism and convention infrastructure. He was one of the chief consultants on studies for the $650 million expansion of the Colorado Convention Center in 2004 and the construction of Denver’s adjacent 1,100-room Hyatt Regency Convention Center Hotel. As a result of this public investment in the convention complex, more than $1 billion of private new development has occurred in the area, including 3,000 new hotel rooms along neighboring 14th Street. Scharf also served on Mayor Webb’s Convention Center Expansion Task Force, Design Team and Public Art Selection Committee and on several committees for Mayor Hickenlooper during his term of 2003-2011.
In 2015, Scharf worked closely with the National Western Association, to lead a successful public vote campaign to expand the Colorado Convention Center and completely redevelop the National Western complex. The campaign was successful, gaining nearly 70 percent of the public vote. He is currently serving on Mayor Hancock’s center expansion advisory team with the second expansion scheduled for a 2022 completion date.
A graduate of Purdue University, Scharf began his career at Hilton Hotels and joined VISIT DENVER in 1993. From 1988-1993, he owned a publishing and consulting company representing more than 400 colleges and universities as conference and meeting sites. Under his supervision, VISIT DENVER has won all of the meeting industry’s top convention service awards for the past 27 years.
In 1999, Scharf was the second person to be inducted into the Colorado Hotel Sales & Marketing Association’s Hall of Fame. In 2000, he won the Executive Excellence Award, given by the Association of Convention Operations and Management; in 2002 he won the Governor’s Tourism Award; and in 2007 he was named Business Person of the Year by the Rocky Mountain News and won the Leadership Award from the Meetings Industry Council of Colorado. In 2009, he also received an honorary degree, Doctor of Business Administration in Travel-Tourism-Hospitality Management from Johnson & Wales University.
Scharf is an active member in all travel industry associations. He served two terms as chairman of the board of the Governor’s Colorado Tourism Office and is a past president of the Tourism Industry Association of Colorado (TIAC), where he played a significant role in restoring funding for state tourism marketing. He currently serves on the board of directors for the U.S. Travel Association, Colorado State University’s Master of Tourism Management, Von’s Vision, The Denver Police Foundation, and is a past board member of the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts, Colorado Sports Hall of Fame, Destination Colorado, Metro Denver Sports Commission, and Destination International (DI, formerly DMAI), and DI Foundation. Scharf also served on the Mayor and Governor’s Olympic Exploratory Committee as chairman of the Operations Committee. He is a member of Colorado Concern, which is a nonpartisan association of CEO’s who work towards solutions to mutual statewide business challenges. In addition, he is a member of Trinity United Methodist Church and is a graduate of Purdue University.
With 35 years of experience in the hospitality industry, Schirmacher leads the team at THIS-Total Hospitality Industry Solutions since October 2020. Previously, he led Experient’s strategic plan development and implementation, as well as industry presence for Maritz Global Events for 25 years. He was awarded the company’s highest honor, the Pinnacle Award, in 2005, and was inducted into the Colorado Meetings Hall of Fame in 2011 with the Lifetime Achievement Award. He served as Chairman of the Meetings Industry Council of Colorado from 2002-2007. Schirmacher is the Chair-Elect for the MPI Global Foundation Board. He serves as Chair of the Meetings Industry Fund. Gary is a member of the EIC APEX Commission for Business Recovery. He is a member of PCMA, MPI, IAEE, ASAE, Association Forum and CSAE. Schirmacher is a Past Chair of the PCMA Education Foundation Board of Trustees and a frequent speaker at major industry meetings and events. Schirmacher is a graduate of the Worldwide College of Auctioneering.
Gretchen Selfridge recently retired in early 2018 after 23 successful years at Chipotle Mexican Grill. During these past 6 years, Gretchen served as Restaurant Support Officer; in this capacity, Gretchen oversaw all of Chipotle’s restaurants and field leadership teams across half the country, as well as the company’s compliance and people support departments. Prior to this position, Gretchen served as Regional Director for Chipotle’s Rocky Mountain Region, where she demonstrated an outstanding ability to develop managers and field leaders, and was promoted into her current position for her extraordinary accomplishments in running solid restaurant operations, building strong teams and developing people; her success as a leader of the organization was evident in her ability to recognize and foster talent among individuals and inspire them to reach their goals. Gretchen began her career at Chipotle in 1995 as a General Manager, and became a Regional Director in 2000. Prior to Chipotle, Gretchen held other management positions in the restaurant industry.
Keith’s higher education began with an undergraduate degree from the University of Colorado, Boulder in Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology in 1986, and began conducting research for the Coors brewery in Golden. In 1988, Keith and his wife, Jodi, traveled to Belgium when Coors sponsored his education at the University of Brussels. He received a Ph.D. in brewing science in 1995.
Keith created Blue Moon Brewing Company in 1995 as an operating unit of Coors Brewing Company. It was a new interpretation of the Belgian styles he became enamored with while studying abroad. Blue Moon Belgian White Ale became the number 1 craft beer in the U.S. and is sold worldwide.
When Keith retired from MillerCoors in January 2018 after 32 years, he and his wife launched CERIA Brewing Company, dedicated to brewing the finest non-alcoholic beers. CERIA’s Grainwave Belgian-style White Ale was released in December 2018 and was an instant success. A year later CERIA added a non-alcoholic IPA called Indiewave. Both brews are available nationwide. Both are also available in Colorado, infused with cannabis.
In his spare time, Keith plays golf, rides Harley Davidsons, and enjoys tinkering with several collectible cars.
One of the founders and principals of City Street Investors, Joe Vostrejs has been involved in real estate and restaurant development in Denver since 1985. Joe and his partners have been investing in Denver neighborhoods for almost two decades, with a philosophy of choosing transformative projects that create both financial and social value – a practice he and his partners have dubbed “Custom Crafting”.
In City Street Investors, the partners have created a highly capable, real estate-based, investment, management and development group that primarily works on complex projects that require creative solutions and that conform to the group’s mission of creating places that genuinely improve the communities in which they exist. Through a series of creative partnerships, projects and innovative acquisitions, the group has built a portfolio that consists of more than twenty restaurant investments and partnerships as well as a collection of over twenty re-positioned retail and multi-family properties in Denver’s most desirable neighborhoods.
Joe is also a partner in Union Station Alliance, a dynamic multi-organizational group tasked with the redevelopment of Denver’s historic Union Station, which opened in July, 2014. Joe and his partners created the locally-oriented retail vision and strategy for the project as well as created and operate five new food & beverage concepts for the project: the Cooper Lounge, The Terminal Bar, Milk Box Ice Creamery, Pigtrain Coffee Company and Acme Delicatessen.
Prior to City Street Investors Joe was the Chief Operating Officer of Larimer Associates, during which time he was responsible for the operation of Larimer Square as well as the company’s other significant real estate & restaurant holdings. Joe remains a partner in many of its investments.
Joe is designated as a Certified Retail Property Executive (CRX) by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), and as a Real Property Administrator by the Building Owners Management Association (BOMA). He is the past Chairman of the Downtown Denver Partnership where he continues to serve on numerous councils and serves on the boards of several philanthropic organizations.
Charlie Walling is Chief Relations Officer of Well Advised, a new Healthcare Technology company based in San Francisco. The Artificial Intelligence Technology company’s initial focus is helping Medicare consumers find the right healthcare coverage through a simple and quick web application process.
Charlie has extensive management and entrepreneurship experience in the consumer-packaged goods Industry. With roles including general manager of Robinson Dairy, a $95 million division of Dean Foods that packaged and distributed a diverse non-organic and organic dairy product line. In addition to his Robinson Dairy chief executive position, he served as Chief Operating Officer of Froozer; a healthy frozen fruit snack brand and managed an $85 million dairy distribution center in Houston. Charlie was recipient of the 2010 Colorado Ethics in Business award, appointed to two Colorado Governor’s Agricultural Commission transition teams, as well as serving on the nine member Colorado Milk Marketing Board.
Charlie currently serves on the board of Denver Health Hospital Foundation and Metro State University of Denver Foundation. He is past chair of the Denver Metro Leadership Foundation board, past board member of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Saint Joseph Hospital Foundation, Denver Athletic Club, Denver Metro Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and a graduate of Leadership Denver. He is a Texas Tech alumnus and currently lives in Ken Caryl Valley.
Leadership Council Members