The word paragon means a person or thing regarded as a perfect example of a particular quality, a model of excellence. To that end, in 1999, HFTP selected two individuals, who have made a significant and lasting contribution to both HFTP and the hospitality industry, to be the inaugural Paragon Award recipients. Ms. Alice Bank and Mr. Henry “Buddy” Weeks carried the banner in 1999. Since then, a total of 17 individuals have been honored with this accolade.
Unlike other awards, the Paragon is most inclusive. It is an HFTP award, however the nominees are not restricted to HFTP members. They can be representatives of industry-related associations, societies or trade publications. They can also be leaders from hospitality businesses, educational institutions and other related disciplines. The Paragon is also most prestigious because individuals are not only nominated, but the nomination requires recommendation letters to be submitted to a panel of industry experts — peers of the potential recipient — to choose the winner.
This is the reason why almost four years later, not a day passes by that I do not consider myself to be one of the most blessed and obviously luckiest persons on earth to be one of the 17.
So, how did the Paragon change my life? I look at the likes of Alice Banks, who has a named scholarship at the Conrad N. Hilton College, and from which deserved students obtain financial assistance for their college education. I used to take my students to meet Alice at HFTP’s Annual Conventions and introduce them to “Ms. Banks.” And now, when I work with my students, I often ask myself: What would Alice do?
I look at the likes of Buddy Weeks, the ultimate leader, who saw HFTP through its growth and success, helping chapters along the way. And now, when I see a chapter working to achieve its best, I think: What would Buddy do?
I look at another Paragon recipient, Frank Santos, the consummate host and organizer — HITEC and Annual Convention in Orlando forever have to live up to his art of hospitality. And, every time I am at any convention, especially if I am on the organizing end I ask myself: What would Frank do?
I look at the likes of recipients Len Bartello, Raymond Schmidgall and Wendy Zurstadt, who just gave the club industry the newest edition of the Uniform System of Financial Reporting for Clubs. And, every time I am working on a piece of research, I ask: What would Wendy, Ray and Len do?
Yes, awards normally recognize past behaviors. However, the Paragon is the encouragement and inspiration for me to do my best, so I can live up to what the award is really about. I have no doubt that the 2013 Paragon Award recipient will be another leader that I will look up to, learn from, and hopefully have the pleasure and honor to work with, in order to make HFTP and the hospitality industry better, each and every day.