Robert Habeeb wears a number of hats. He is president and COO of First Hospitality Group (FHG), he is the chairman of the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association, he is The School's 2008 Honorary Alumnus of the Year, and as of September 29, 2008, he is an Honorary Faculty Member and Visiting Leader in The School.
Robert's career has spanned more than 20 years of high-profile, multi-unit experience in hotel, resort, and food and beverage management. Robert joined First Hospitality Group's (FHG) executive team in 1997, and as its president and COO, has helped create an inspiring success story. Chicago-based FHG develops, markets, and manages a host of different properties across the country. Robert serves as FHG's spokesman, is highly involved in investor and franchise relations, and oversees all legal and administrative functions.
After arriving on campus, Robert met with selected student leaders from the Hospitality Association, including the Lodging & Gaming Management Association, in a roundtable format. He also spoke to seniors in HB 451 - Emerging Leadership, taught by Dr. Ron Cichy (BA '72, MBA '77) and John King and to undergraduates in HB 237 - Management of Lodging Systems, taught by Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center General Manager Joel Heberlein.
His "Leadership Essentials" presentation in HB 451 encouraged the students to remember that the "essence of your strength is within you." By staying true to their values, he said, and creating an environment where people have a say, young leaders can progress quickly in the dynamic hospitality industry.
In HB 237, Robert covered hospitality and economic trends in Chicago and around the globe tracing the recent growth in some sectors and downturn in others, and noting the resiliency of the hospitality industry.
Robert also explained what his company looks for in new staff members, including entrepreneurial, enthusiastic individuals with a sincere commitment to business. And the general managers at the 38 different hotels Robert operates are evaluated based not only on the financial performance of the properties, but also on the assessments of guests and staff members. Robert acknowledged that he is always looking for ways to affirm individuals' good work. In fact, he told the students of a time when Cher was having dinner one evening in the hotel's restaurant. She sent Robert a note, which said simply, "Give this server a raise - Cher."
At the roundtable and at both classroom presentations, Robert spoke of the benefits of giving back in his leadership positions with the Illinois and the American Hotel & Lodging Associations. His longtime commitment to both organizations impressed the students, some of whom already benefit from scholarships from the AH&LA and from the various state associations.
"We are proud of our relationship with Robert Habeeb, an exceptional leader in our industry," says Dr. Ron Cichy, professor of HB 451 and director of The School. "Students and faculty alike learn from our Visiting Leaders, and we are glad to welcome Robert as an Honorary Faculty Member."
About The School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State University
Founded in 1927, The School celebrates its 81st year anniversary in 2008. The School has more than 9,000 graduates worldwide, including a number of leading academicians and industry executives, who have earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees. The mission of The School is to continually enhance The School's leadership position in hospitality business education through teaching, research, and service. Recognized as the top-ranked hospitality business school in the world, The School offers an exceptionally well-crafted curriculum, taught by innovative professors who are leading textbook authors, sought-after consultants, and respected researchers. The mission of The School of Hospitality Business Alumni Association is to provide active leadership in support of the mission of The School of Hospitality Business through membership participation, image enhancement, financial commitment, and promotion of synergies among students, faculty, alumni, and friends.