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Christian Hardigree

Dean, School of Hospitality at Metropolitan State University of Denver

Serving as the founding dean of the School of Hospitality at Metropolitan State University of Denver, Christian engages with industry, alumni, and benefactors to develop resources for faculty and staff to provide hospitality students with competitive, low-cost, high-value programs. Theoretical learning is enhanced through experiential learning in the School of Hospitality’s Hotel and Hospitality Learning Center (HLC), a distinct combination of teaching laboratories and brewing space, a 150-room commercial hotel – Springhill Suites by Marriott – event and conference space, all located adjacent to the Lower Downtown (LoDo) dining district, convention center, three sports arenas, and the performing arts complex. The flexibility of the School’s curriculum allows students to emphasize careers in hotel management, event and meeting management, travel and tourism, restaurant management, brewery operations, and craft brewing and pub operations.

Prior to coming to MSU Denver, Christian served as the founding director and professor of the Michael A. Leven School of Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality at Kennesaw State University. Addressing both “sustainability on the plate” as well as “sustainability beyond the plate” in terms of water, waste and energy efficiencies, the highly relevant management program provided a competitive advantage and discernible point of differentiation as the epicenter for teaching, research and best practices in sustainable culinary and hospitality management.

Previously, Christian served as a tenured faculty member in the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), teaching graduate and undergraduate courses in law, management, ethics and diversity. During her tenure at UNLV, she also served as the Assistant President and Chief of Staff to the University President, the Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives in the Hotel College, the Department Chair for Hotel Management, and as the Associate Athletic Director for Community Development and Special Projects. Christian started teaching courses at UNLV in 1997, being awarded several awards for teaching and service, in addition to compiling an impressive and nationally renowned research and scholarly engagement portfolio.

In addition to her academic obligations, Christian has an extensive background as a trial attorney practicing primarily in the areas of premises liability, security/safety, products liability, and employment law. She maintains an active caseload, including private consulting and mediation/arbitration services. She is a Nevada state-appointed Arbitrator. She is licensed to practice law in the states of Nevada and Georgia, as well as the United States District Court, District of Nevada. Christian also serves as a consultant for numerous clients on a variety of issues. Christian conducts research and presents nationally at industry conferences as related to her areas of expertise, including food safety, risk management, sustainability, workplace violence and employment/management issues. She is a national expert on bed bug litigation, speaking across the country on the subject.

After obtaining her B.S., cum laude, from the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration at UNLV, Christian obtained her Juris Doctorate from the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University, focusing on employment discrimination, arbitration/mediation, and labor management relations. She is of counsel with the law firm of Parnell & Associates. Christian has served on a variety of committees and advisory boards, including the Colorado Hotel & Lodging Association, the ConServe Sustainability Advisory Council for the National Restaurant Association, the KSU Brian Jordan Center for Excellence and Professional Development at LakePoint Sporting Community, and the Women in Lodging Advisory Council for the American Hotel & Lodging Association.


Walter Isenberg

President and CEO, Sage Hospitality

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.


Anne Marie Kelley

Colorado Ohana Adventures | Itinerate

smiling woman with a black backgroundAnne 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.


Charlie Walling

Chief Relations Officer, Well Advised

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.


Dawn Bookhardt

Butler Snow Law Firm

headshot of a woman dressed in all blackDawn 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.


Gary Schirmacher

Senior Vice President, Industry Presence and Strategic Development

man in a suit smilingWith 34 years of experience in the hospitality industry, Gary Schirmacher, CMP, leads Experient's strategic plan development and implementation, as well as industry presence for Maritz Global Events. 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 on the Executive Committee 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 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

Retired Restaurant Support Officer, Chipotle Mexican Grill

Gretchen Selfridge recentely retired in early 2018 after 23 successful years at Chipotle Mexican Grill. During these past 6Headshot of a woman with her arms crossed and a wood background 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 abilkty 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. 

 


Ian Steyn

Jellystone Park

Mr. Steyn served on the Colorado Tourism Office Board from 2010 -2018 representing outdoor recreation, appointed by Governor’s Ritter, and Hickenlooper.

He served as Vice Chairman of the Board, Chair of the Colorado Tourism Leadership committee, Co Chair of the Heritage and Agritourism committee, and member of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board, representing tourism.

Ian served on numerous boards and committee’s, including: Appointed by Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, to the Recreation Resource Committee, member of MSU Denver Hospitality Industry Leadership Council, member of Colorado Tourism Industry Leadership Advisory Council, member of the Board for the Colorado Campground and Lodge Owners Assn, member of the board of the Tourism Industry Association of Colorado member of the advisory board for Pikes Peak Community College Outdoor Leadership and Recreation Technology, member of the Board of Program Advisors to The Wildlife Experience member of the board of Castle Rock Economic Development Council member of the Regional Advisory Council of the National Wildlife Federation and co-chair for the prior Lt. Governor Barbara O’Brien’s Colorado Kids Outdoor Initiative.

Ian is also an active member of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds as well as The Business Forum. He graduated from the ARVC Certified School of Park Operators and completed the graduate course. 

Ian was an active member of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds as well as The Business Forum. He graduated from the ARVC Certified School of Park Operators and completed the graduate course.

Previously, he set up a network of new car dealerships in Denver, and served as President of the New Car Dealers Association.

He was VP of sales for Newgen Results Corporation, Vice President of Global Business Development, Automotive Division, at TeleTech, President of Whosecalling, an automotive call tracking and marketing solutions company, before moving on, to outdoor recreation, hospitality, heritage and agritourism investments, supporting initiatives to inspire children and families, to engage in healthy outdoor activities.


Joe Vostrejs

City Street Investors

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.


Jon Robinson

Executive Vice President, Regional Chief Credit Officer, Arizona and Colorado, UMB Bank

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


Keith Villa

CERIA Co-Founder and Brewmaster

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.


Linda Appel Lipsius

Co-Founder, Teatulia Organic Teas

Linda Appel Lipsius is the Co-Founder of Teatulia Organic Teas. Since 2007, she's worked with her partners in Bangladesh to bring premium, 100% Organic, direct-sourced teas & herbs to the United States. Teatulia produces innovative, delicious & award-winning hot teas, iced teas & canned teas that are sold throughout the US in grocery, foodservice and online. Lipsius has built a universally-respected brand known for doing things better: From the 3,000-acre regenerative garden itself to Teatulia’s stunningly sustainable packaging to the long list of awards Teatulia has received for quality and using business as a force for good.

Named one of Food & Wine/ Fortune’s 20 Most Innovative Women in Food & Wine, one of Denver Business Journal’s Outstanding Women & Business and a frequent public speaker, she is a leading voice on topics ranging from entrepreneurship to sustainable business practices to the food & beverage industry in general.

In 2012, Linda also started the mama 'hood (a shop & studio for new & expecting moms & their families) and opened Teatulia Tea & Coffee Bar, next door to Teatulia’s Denver Headquarters. Previously, Linda was VP International with Orange Glo International (OGI) - makers of OxiClean, Kaboom, Orange Glo and Orange Clean - and Account Manager for Young & Rubicam.

A Denver Native, she earned her Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from Columbia College at Columbia University in New York City and her MBA in Finance and Organizational Management from New York University before moving to Washington, DC, London, Los Angeles then back to Denver. She lives in Downtown Denver with her filmmaker husband and her two children. She currently serves on the boards of Denver Urban Gardens, Boundless Landscapes and Firefly Autism. In her spare time, Linda hangs with her kiddos, escapes to the mountains, devours movies & books and runs, cycles, practices yoga and gymnastics to keep her head & heart clear. 


Navin Dimond

CEO and Chairman, Stonebridge Companies

Navin Dimond is the founder, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Stonebridge Companies, a privately-owned hospitality firm founded in 1991. Stonebridge owns and operates a diverse portfolio of 64 hotel properties in the United States, with approximately 12,000 rooms. Dimond has received numerous awards for his work in the hospitality industry, including the prestigious Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award®, and the Award of Excellence from the American Asian Hotel Owners Association. Dimond is a firm believer in serving his community; currently he serves on the Board of Trustees for the University of Denver and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA). Dimond also served as the former chairman of the Denver Metro Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (Visit Denver). Most recently, he was appointed the Kansas City board of the Federal Reserve Denver. Dimond serves in an advisory role for many organizations, including Washington State University’s College of Engineering and Architecture Executive Leadership Board and Cornell University’s Dean’s Advisory Board for the School of Hotel Administration. Dimond is a graduate of Washington State University where he earned a B.A. in Business Administration and a B.S. in Construction Management. He also earned his MBA in Real Estate/Construction Management from the University of Denver.


Peter Coors

Coors, MillerCoors and Molson Coors

smiling man in a pink bowtiePeter 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. 


Richard Scharf

President and CEO, VISIT DENVER, The Convention & Visitors Bureau

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.


Sean McNicholas

Chief Executive Officer of SSA Group

man staring at camera with a nature backgroundSean McNicholas, Chief Executive Officer of SSA Group (SSA), manages a family-owned and operated company that provides food and retail services at zoos, museums, aquariums and other iconic attractions across the United States. SSA was founded in Denver, Colorado in 1971 and headquarters still reside in the Denver metro area today.

Sean leads the SSA Growth & Innovation Initiatives that continue to create opportunities for SSA’s employees and its partners. With Sean’s leadership, SSA is shifting the paradigm of food and retail at cultural attractions, with sustainable practices (impacting change in both the food and retail supplier chains), cutting-edge strategy and the best talent in the industry. Sean is passionate about keeping the family legacy alive and building upon the deep roots of culture inside this 8,000+ employee organization.

After completing two masters programs, Sean began working with the global consulting firm, Accenture. After years of working on projects nationally, Sean took the leadership experience and business acumen he gained from Accenture and joined SSA as a Regional Vice President. Two years later, Sean began his transition as SSA’s next leader to carry on the company’s ethos, set by his father Kevin McNicholas, who founded the company.

Sean is actively involved in the Denver community and serves on the Board of Directors for many non-profits including Rocky Mountain Multiple Sclerosis, Boys Hope Girls Hope, Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado and St. Joseph Medical Hospital. He is also involved with the Kempe Foundation and Mount Saint Vincent home, serves as a Trustee on the Board of the T. Kevin McNicholas Foundation and is an active member in the Young President’s Organization.

Sean, his wife Audra, and their two daughters Aralilia and Avalynn, enjoy spending time at home (or one can say on the farm) with their pig, cats, dogs, horses, and chickens.


Thierry Kennel

Regional Vice President and General Manager, Four Seasons Hotel 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.


Todd Moore

Centerplate

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


Hospitality Industry Leadership Council

Co-Chairs
Christian Hardigree MSU Denver
Walter Isenberg Sage Hospitality
 
Leadership Council Members
Allison Kinsley Kinsley Meetings
Anne Marie Brown Colorado Ohana Ventures
Bob Fanch Devil's Thumb Ranch
Charlie Walling Cool Frootz, LLC
Cindy Johnson The Broadmoor
Dawn Bookhardt Butler Snow
Gary Schirmacher Experient, Inc.
Gretchen Selfridge Chipotle Mexican Grill (ret.)
Ian Steyn Jellystone Park/Cruise Inn (ret.)
Jesse Morreale M Inc.
Joe Vostrejs City Street Investors
Jon Robinson UMB Bank
Keith Villa Blue Moon Brewing(ret.)/Ceria Beverage
Leigh Sullivan Leigh Sullivan Enterprises
Linda Lipsius Teatulia
Navin Dimond Stonebridge Companies
Peter Coors MillerCoors
Richard Scharf VISIT Denver
Rita Cuddihy Marriott International (ret.)
Sean McNicholas KMSSA
Thierry Kennel Four Seasons Hotel Denver
Todd Moore Centerplate
 

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