Chef Mark Chopko shows off his signature crab cakes with students (from left) Corinne Fioretti, Nicholas Goerg, Holly King and Kerry Kulpinski.
When Bill Sullivan joined the effort to open a new hotel at the University of Delaware more than 10 years ago, he was realizing the best of all worlds. Freshly retired from a 31-year career at the DuPont Co., Sullivan was tapped to open and run a 126-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel on the university’s Laird Campus in Newark. Sullivan’s selection made perfect sense, considering he had managed the Hotel du Pont and had also been serving as an adjunct faculty member in UD’s Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management program since its inception in 1988.“I thought, ‘I can run a hotel and teach,’” says Sullivan, a 1974 UD grad. “It doesn’t get any better than that.” The hotel, the result of a partnership between UD and the Shaner Hotel Group of State College, Pa., opened on Nov. 15, 2004.
As it celebrates its first decade this month, the Marriott has seen 1,000 students complete the “lodging module,” during which 50 juniors spend 140 hours during a semester learning all jobs in the hotel—from housekeeper to general manager. “I think the fact that the hotel was coupled with the student restaurant (Vita Nova), that really gave us an edge when competing with other colleges,” Sullivan says. “When employers see the hands-on experience our students get, it really gives them an edge.” Many graduates have gone on to successful careers in the hospitality business, including Maria Tampakis, who works as senior sous chef at celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen in London. The hotel’s guest rooms were recently renovated, and a $560,000 state-of-the-art classroom for hospitality education is scheduled to open in March. As for Sullivan, he’s not just kicking back and celebrating. He’s pursuing a master’s in hospitality business analytics at UD and expects to graduate in May.