The School of Hotel Administration (SHA) was founded in September of 1922 as the Hotel Department within Cornell University’s School of Home Economics in the New York State College of Agriculture. The first higher education program of its kind anywhere, the school began with twenty one students under the direction of Professor Howard B. Meek.
In 1927, Ellsworth M. Statler, one of the greatest hoteliers of the time, was persuaded to attend the second Hotel Ezra Cornell (HEC) weekend organized by the Hotel Department students. When he first arrived, Mr. Statler was skeptical about the school’s program. By the end of the weekend, he was so impressed with what he had seen that, when asked to say a few words at the HEC banquet, he said, “I’m converted. Meek can have any damn thing he wants.” His speech was perhaps one of the most meaningful in the history of the school. Although Mr. Statler died in 1928, just eleven months after he attended HEC, he became the school’s greatest benefactor through provisions in his will, which included establishment of the Statler Foundation. Over the years, the foundation has provided millions of dollars to the school for support of teaching, research, scholarships, and facilities.
During the twenty years following Mr. Statler’s visit to Cornell, the Hotel Department’s curriculum and student enrollment grew steadily. In 1949, Mr. Statler’s widow, Alice Statler, formally laid the cornerstone for Statler Hall, which opened one year later to give the hotel program its permanent home. In 1950, the Hotel Department formally became the School of Hotel Administration, and in 1952, the school separated from the College of Agriculture to become an independent academic unit. In that year, the original 36-room Statler Inn was also opened.
The Hotel Library had its beginnings soon after the founding of the Hotel Department. By the late 1920s, rooms in Roberts Hall were being used to house a growing library of hotel literature, but the library’s own identity was not really established until Statler Hall opened in 1950. At that time, Blanche Fickle, formerly librarian for the College of Home Economics, was appointed as the first Statler librarian, and the library moved into its own facilities in Statler Hall. Though other librarians from the School of Home Economics had been associated with the department prior to Ms. Fickle’s appointment, she is usually credited with creation and organization of the library’s unique collection of hospitality literature. Ms. Fickle established the Bibliography of Hotel Management and Related Subjects, a publication which eventually evolved into the present Hospitality Database.
Kay Spinney served as the second library director from 1960 to 1977. Ms. Spinney became legendary among the school’s students in the mid-1960s when she allowed the seniors to turn the library into a Polynesian restaurant during Parent’s Weekend. Margaret Oaksford succeeded Ms. Spinney as the third library director from 1977 to 1986. Katherine Margolis, the fourth library director, first came to the Hotel Library as reference librarian in 1985. In 1987, Katie was appointed library director and led the library into the age of technology. In 2003, Don Schnedeker became the fifth library director. Don began working in the Cornell Library in 1974 and also later served as the director of the Johnson Graduate School of Management Library. In 2009, the Nestlé Library joined two other libraries as part of Cornell’s Hospitality, Labor, and Management Library.
1986, the original Statler Inn was torn down, and construction began on the present Statler Hotel and a renovated Statler Hall classroom building. During the construction, the library moved out of its quarters and its books were housed in the University Library Annex and on what is now the stage of the Statler Auditorium. In August 1988, the new Statler Hall opened and the library moved into its present facilities. The library was named Nestlé Library in 1996.
Today, SHA enjoys the reputation of being the world’s finest educational program of its kind. The Statler Hotel is known as the world’s best teaching hotel and the library has the reputation of being the finest of its kind anywhere. The library works together with the school and the hotel to maintain a commitment to excellence and to help prepare the future leaders of the global hospitality industry.