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Chicken Dinners, Hospitality and Northwood University

Northwood University has something important in common with almost one million chicken dinners. We learned recently from Restaurant Business Magazine that two of Northwood University Trustees served more guests in their Frankenmuth restaurant last year than any other independently owned diner in the U.S. Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth, home of the famous chicken dinner and one of Michigan’s top tourist destinations, served 960,000 guests in 2013. It’s an impressive achievement for Chairman and CEO Al Zehnder (vice chair- Northwood University Board of Trustees) and President Bill Parlberg (Northwood University Trustee, undergraduate and DeVos Graduate School alumnus).   In addition, Zehnder’s employs many other Northwood graduates in key roles in their organization.

While Zehnder and Parlberg operate the busiest restaurant in the nation, we keep busy at our campuses educating students on how to achieve their own version of success. Northwood’s Hospitality program stands out because it offers industry expert led classes, combined with hands-on learning. We tap every resource at our disposal to connect students to all aspects of the industry, from facilities management to front desk operations. In fact, during the recent Auto Show held on the Midland campus earlier in October, the Hospitality Program led, managed and prepared food for the Woodside Grill, serving thousands of show visitors.

Our graduates are successful leaders and entrepreneurs, as in the case of our friends at Zehnder’s, and they manage resorts, travel agencies, and casinos. Distinguished alumni like Brandon Porterfield, the Hospitality Training Manager at Soaring Eagle Casino in Mt. Pleasant, Mich.; Crowne Plaza’s General Manager John Lagazo in Grand Rapids, Mich.; David Dunn, General Operations Manager at Catawba Island Club in Toledo, Ohio; and Craig Bonter, Director of Business Development at American Hospitality Management in Cheboygan, Mich., are just a few.

Pursuing a career in "hospitality" has many meanings and there is a growing demand for creative leaders with a passion for this multifaceted industry. We are pleased to do our part to prepare our students for an exciting future in the field, and thrilled to know we had a small part in the successful Zehnder’s legacy.

Have a great weekend!  And remember to set your clocks back this weekend!



Keith A. Pretty, J.D. President and CEO Northwood University 4000 Whiting Drive Midland, MI 48640 989.837.4203

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