Schwebel Lecture Series

The Schwebel Family Foundation of Youngstown, Ohio, is a major supporter of the Hospitality and Event Management program. More than 30 years ago, the Schwebel family established an endowment for the program, primarily to support an annual Schwebel Guest Lecture Series. In addition, the endowment has supported the development of the Catering and Research Kitchen and various levels of student support.  Lee Schwebel has served on the Hospitality and Events Management Advisory Board for over 20 years. 

The Schwebel Family Foundation logo

2023 Schwebel Lecture Series Speakers

2023 Schwebel Lecture Series flyer

Past Schwebel Guest Lecture Series Speakers

2022 Schwebel Lecture Series

Joe Mineo

Joe Mineo is the Owner and Creative Director of Joe Mineo Creative. He is known for having a larger-than-life personality and an innate passion for design. His career began with flowers and his first business, Something New Florist, opened its doors in 1987.

It was Joe's floral design innovation powered by his driving ambition that transformed his business into what it is today, a national award-winning event design and production studio. Now known as Joe Mineo Creative, Joe's company strives for flawless execution of standout events representing an impressive roster of private and corporate clients such as The Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, JoAnn Fabrics, the San Francisco 49ers, Hines Ward, Carnegie Museum of Art, to name a select few.

Joe is an active member with the International Live Events Assocation and American Institute of Floral Designers. He is also founding board member for Dare2Care in Cleveland, Ohio. Along with his husband, Gary, Joe contributes annually to Stonewall National Museum and Archives.

2021 - Panel (left to right) of Michael Gurriero, Nate Giesen, Donniella Winchell and Richard LaRocca


Michael, Nate, Doniella and Richard photo collage
  • Michael Gurriero serves as the president of Digitell Inc., and has served in a variety of roles over his 30-year career in the meeting and events industry. Guerriero is active in the hospitality industry and is a member of PCMA, MPI and IAEE and serves on the Kent State University Hospitality and Event Management Advisory Board.
  • Nate Giesen helped open the Thistledown Racino as a VLT Manager, and later led the transition from Caesars to JACK Entertainment, leading initiatives on guest service and team member satisfaction, and taking on the VIP Marketing department.
  • Donniella Winchell has been the Executive Director of the Ohio Wine Producers Association for 30 years, and chair of their Vintage Ohio wine festival. Additionally, Donniella is an active member of Winegrape Growers of America, the Ohio Travel Association and serves on a number of other state and national committees. She has contributed to several national wine publications and writes weekly wine columns for a dozen Ohio print and online publications. She is an Adjunct Professor at Kent Ashtabula teaching wine related courses.
  • Richard LaRocca began his career as a General Manager at Allegheny Country Club (ACC), one of the oldest clubs in the United States. In December 2019, LaRocca returned to Northeast Ohio and accepted the General Manager/COO position at the Beechmont Country Club. He is a member of the Club Management Association of America (CMAA) and has served as the president of two local chapters (greater Cleveland and Pittsburgh), and he is currently a member of the Greater Cleveland Chapter.

2018 - Scott Ryan

In 2012, Ryan was voted American Culinary Foundation Chef of the Year. Currently, he is the Executive Chef at The Country Club in Pepper Pike. Ryan was chosen to speak at Kent State University because of his national and international successes in the field. In addition to his Chef of the Year award, he was also the first runner-up in Global Chefs Challenge held in Norway - the best an American chef has placed. Currently, he serves as the American Culinary Foundation Cleveland Chapter president. In 2018, he was inducted into Les Amis d Escoffier Society of Chicago, a fraternity dedicated to the propagation of the high standards and ethics of the culinary profession.

Watch video lecture (2018)

2017 - Karim Kalifa

As Senior Vice President of Marriott Global Design Strategies, Karim leads a dynamic, multidisciplinary team on a mission to shape more meaningful and relevant travel experiences for Marriott guests through design. In 2012, Karim’s goal was to understand and address the new millennial generation for the Marriott Hotels brand. This deep dive approach was a perfect match for launching Marriott’s innovation lab (The Underground), an underground collaborative design space where guest driven research comes to life — including the new award-winning design strategy for Marriott’s flagship Marriott Hotels brand. The same approach was leveraged to rapidly accelerate the launch of the new lifestyle budget brand Moxy for Europe, and now the US, as well as the import of the fashionable AC Hotel brand to the United States.

Watch video lecture (April 20, 2017)

2016 - Rick Doody

In 1992, Rick Doody, his brother Chris Doody and their executive chef Phil Yandolino opened their first restaurant – Bravo Cucina Italiana – in Columbus, Ohio. The BBRG has grown to include more than 115 Bravo and Brio Tuscan Grille restaurants throughout the United States, with over 11,000 employees and over 17 million guests per year. Doody is a member of the Young President’s Organization and the International Council of Shopping Center Owners and is a board member for the Cleveland Restaurant Association.

Watch video lecture (April 14, 2016)

2015 - Jacob Tomsky

Jacob Tomsky is a hotel industry expert who has been in the business for over a decade. Global Gurus noted him as one of the “World’s Top 30 Hospitality Professionals for 2014.” Tomsky’s vast experience in hotels has allowed him to work through all the ups and downs of the service industry. Pulling from his real-life experiences, Tomsky amuses readers with his tales of various positions from serving as front desk man, valet parker, sheet folder and more. Readers are presented to a full spectrum of hotel workings, from the inside and outside views.

2014 - Rocco Whalen

Rocco WhalenFormer "Fat Chef" Rocco Whalen is the owner and operator of Fahrenheit-Cleveland and Fahrenheit-Charlotte. He has also been busy showing off his culinary skills with Rosie & Rocco's Italian Eateries inside the Horseshoe Casino and First Energy Stadium, and Rocco's at the Q inside Quicken Loans Arena.

2013 - Janie Wiltshire

Janie WiltshireJanie Wiltshire is a hotel veteran with a career that spans over 25 years. She began as a desk clerk and worked her way through the industry with positions including Guest Service Manager at Hyatt, Director of Sales at Sheraton, General Manager at Marriott, and Corporate Director of Sales and Marketing.  Janie opened the first Homewood Suites for the Hilton Hotels, and operated their training center property.

Over a decade ago, Janie started the Due West Company and has worked with thousands of hotels and corporations worldwide.  She travels internationally as a recognized public speaker and trainer for the hospitality industry. 


2011 - Tom Lutz & Ronald Kooser

Tom LutzTom Lutz is a successful restaurant owner, operator and developer. Tom is the owner and developer of Gamekeeper’s Taverne, 87 West Wine Bar, West End Bistro and the Inn of Chagrin Falls in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Some of the additional operations that Tom has developed and owned include Timberfire in Bainbridge; Big City Grill in Cleveland; Bass Lake Inn and Bass Lake Taverne in Chardon; 87 Crocker Park in Westlake; Gamekeeper’s Lodge in Rocky River; and Gamekeeper’s Taverne in Fairlawn. Tom Lutz is a graduate of Kent State University and a member of the Kent State University Hospitality Management Advisory Board.



Ronald KooserRonald Kooser, FFCSI, is the chief executive officer of Cini-Little International Inc. Ron Kooser started his career in the hospitality business at a family restaurant in Western Pennsylvania performing the typical family restaurant tour of duty from washing dishes to short order cook. A degree from Cornell University with a focus on food facilities
design led Ron to a position with Stouffers Management Foodservice in the Planning department. When Stouffers Management Foodservice division relocated to Cleveland, Ron became director of the Facilities planning department. In 1970, Ron joined Cini-Grissom Associates at a Cleveland branch of the company. Today, Cini-Little has 12 offices worldwide.

Ron’s creative designs have won several project awards including 2005 Best New Servery Design from Food Management; 1998 Best Servery Concept from Food Management; and 2007 Honorable Mention for Facility Design Project of the Year from Food Equipment & Supplies for The Country Club and Union Pacific World Headquarters. Recent Northeast Ohio projects include St. Ignatius High School, Hiram College, Lorain Community College and Cuyahoga County Juvenile Justice Center, while projects in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Qatar continue in development. Ron is actively involved in many professional organizations. He is past-president of Foodservice Consulting Society International (FCSI), a member of the prestigious FCSI’s Council of Fellows and the recipient of the NAFEM Doctorate of Foodservice.

2009 - Marcus Samuelsson

Marcus SamuelssonSamuelsson was born in Ethiopia and then raised by an adoptive couple in Goteborg, Sweden. At a young age he discovered his passion for cooking and began his journey as a chef. Shortly after completing culinary school at the Culinary Institute in Goteborg he apprenticed in Switzerland, Austria, France, and the U.S. and then began working at the world‐renowned three‐star Michelin restaurant Georges Blanc in Lyon, France. Soon after, he became executive chef and co‐owner of Aquavit, in New York City, which was given a three‐star review from The New York Times.

The James Beard Foundation honored Samuelsson as “Best Rising Star Chef” in 1999, then honored him again as “Best Chef: New York City” in 2003. He was also celebrated as one of “The Great Chefs of America” by The Culinary Institute of America. Samuelsson is a co‐founder and chief creative director of Townhouse Restaurant Group, a restaurant management and consulting company, which he started with his partner Hakan Swahn. Samuelsson’s management and consulting company has worked on projects in the U.S. and Europe, including New York City’s Riingo, AQ Kafé, August, Chicago’s C‐House and Marc Burger.

Marcus Samuelsson has written four critically acclaimed cookbooks. His first was award‐winning En Smakresa: Middagstips Fran Marcus Samuelsson in Swedish in 2002 followed by Aquavit and the New Scandinavian Cuisine in 2003, Street Food in 2004, and Soul of New Cuisine‐ A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa in 2006. His most recently published cookbook, The Soul of a New Cuisine – A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa has received accolades from publications such as The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the Washington Post, and won “Best International Cookbook” from the James Beard Foundation in 2007.

Samuelsson has appeared on numerous television shows such as, ABC’s Good Morning America and The View, NBC’s Today Show, and The Food Network. He has also been featured in publications such as, Gourmet, USA Today, Food and Wine, The New York Times, and Bon Appétit. The Discovery Home Channel also airs the television show Inner Chef of which Samuelsson is the host.

Samuelsson serves as an ambassador of U.S. Fund for UNICEF and serves as a spokesperson for and provides support for tuberculosis initiatives in developing countries.

2008 - John Altomare, Adam Buehler, & Allysun Doty

John J. Altomare is a restaurant consultant and president of 3 Foodies, a company that includes a restaurant in Hudson and Fairlawn, Ohio, which he runs with his two sons. Altomare is a restaurant industry veteran with a long career history of success. He was the senior vice president of concept development for Darden Restaurants, Inc. Within the Red Lobster brand he oversaw innovations in the menu, restaurant operations, design, service, and technology. Altomare started his restaurant career in 1979 and distinguished himself in leadership roles with Ground Round Restaurants, Chi Chi's Mexican Restaurants, and P&L Foodservices – a Boston Market franchisee. Altomare later became the executive vice president of concept development for Boston Market. Altomare is an ambassador of the Culinary Institute of America and serves on the Kent State University Hospitality Management Advisory Board.

Adam Buehler is the area supervisor for Arby's Restaurant Group which recently merged with Wendy's International, Inc. With Arby's he has distinguished himself by being recognized as the area supervisor of the quarter and the top sales increase for the region in 2007. Previously he was a managing partner of Outback Steakhouse. At Outback he was recognized as the proprietor of the year in 2000. The Cleveland Magazine recognized his Outback Steakhouse as one of the top steakhouses in northeast Ohio. During the days following September 11, 2001, Buehler was one of the Outback volunteers who served 8,000-20,000 meals daily to rescue workers. Early in his career, he managed restaurants in Washington, DC and Columbus, OH. Buehler served in the US Army and completed of a Hospitality and Food Service Management degree at Kent State University.

Allysun Doty has managed two properties that have consistently scored within the top 10% of the brand for guest satisfaction. The Holiday Inn Dayton/Fairborn won three consecutive "IHG Quality Excellence" Awards and the Marriott Cleveland East was the recipient of the Marriott International "Spirit to Serve" Award. Doty was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. Her hospitality experiences include Sans Souci, at the Renaissance Cleveland Downtown, Sammy's Metropolitan and Four Points by Sheraton. Doty has degrees from The Culinary Institute of America and the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration.

2006 - Debi Benedetti, Coach & Explorer

Debi Benedetti

Debi Benedetti is currently a "Stategist, Coach" with Beyond the Possible. Highlights of her career include: Adjunct Professor at the Culinary Institute of America, Chief Administrative Officer and founding member of the management team of Bon Appetit Management Company, District Manager with Marriott Corporation, Manager with Saga Corporation.

She has been recognized as a 1997 Silver Plate Award winner from IFMA and Women of the Year from Round Table for Women in Foodservice.

Beyond the Possible

2005 - Valerie Ferguson, Regional Vice President & Managing Director

Valerie FergusonWith 25 years of experience in the hospitality industry, Valerie Ferguson was named one of the 100 Most Influential Women in Travel for 1998 and 1999 by Travel Agent magazine and one of the Top 100 Women in Corporate America by Ebony. Ms. Ferguson is the Past Chairman of the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AH&LA), where she spearheaded "Opportunity of a Lifetime," a campaign to promote hospitality careers throughout the United States. She currently serves on the AH&LA Diversity Committee.

The Lodging Investment Conference awarded Ms. Ferguson the Above and Beyond Award for 2003. In 2000, Ms. Ferguson was named as Diversity Institute's Hospitality Leader of the Year and the Multicultural Black Culinary Alliance Food Service and Hospitality Hotelier of the Year. She also received an Honorary Doctorate in Food Service from the Food Manufacturing Association. She was awarded the Drum Major for Justice Award on behalf of Coretta Scott King and the women of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1998 and, that same year, the Georgia Hospitality and Trade Association voted her Lodging Leader of the Year. In 1994, she received the Turner Broadcasting Trumpet Award saluting African-American achievement and was named to the Atlanta Business League's list of Top 100 Black Women of Influence. The Network of Executive Women in Hospitality voted Ms. Ferguson National Women of the Year in 1993, and she was the recipient of the Atlanta Business League Pioneer Award in 1991. Ms. Ferguson was also awarded the 2004 Women of Distinction award as well as an honoree for the 2004 Salute to Philadelphia Women of Achievement.

Loews Philadelphia Hotel

2004 - Martin Yan, Master Chef

Martin YanMaster Chef Martin Yan is an International renowned television personality and winner of a James Beard Award for Best TV Food Journalism. He has hosted over 3000 cooking shows and is well known for his PBS program "Yan Can Cook," his restaurant, cooking school, and 30 books. He can cut up a chicken in 18 seconds - and showed his Kent State Audience!

Yan Can Cook

2002 - James Broadhurst, Chairman/CEO

James BroadhurstEat & Park Hospitality Group

2001- Loretta Paganini; Pamela Waterman, Executive Chef; & Suzanne Malone, Registered Sanitarian

Pamela WatermanLoretta Paganini is a television chef and founder of the Loretta Paganini School of Cooking. Paganini had operated the cooking school in Chesterland for over 10 years at the time of the lecture.

The Loretta Paganini School of Cooking

Pamela Waterman was executive chef of the LockKeeper's, a Fine Chop and Seafood House. Waterman's tantalizing dishes earned the only 5-star award given to a Cleveland area restaurant from the Northern Ohio Live magazine.


Suzanne Malone, as an instructor at the Loretta Paganini School of Cooking, is in demand across the country for her humorous lectures and classes on food safety.

Cuyahoga Country Board of Health

2000 - Bob Dibiasio, Vice President of Public Relations

Bob DibiasioThe Cleveland Indians

1999 - Herman Cain, President & CEO

Herman CainHerman Cain, Chief Executive Officer and President, National Restaurant Association and Chairman, Godfather's Pizza. His career highlights include:

Godfather's Pizza – 1986 – Pillsbury appointed Cain to presidency of this troubled company. Within 14 months, Godfather's regained profitability, in 1988 Cain and his executive team bought this company from Pillsbury.

Burger King – 1979 – resigned position at Pillsbury for a new challenge with Pillsbury's Burger King division, within nine months he was managing 400 units, within three years his region was the company's top performer

Pillsbury Company – 1977 – within five years promoted to Vice-President of Corporate Systems and Services

National Restaurant Association

1998 - Denise Fugo, President

Denise FugoSammy's

1997- John B. Lawn, Chief Editor; Michael DeLuca, Chief Editor; Michael Buzalka, Executive Editor

John B. Lawn, Chief Editor & Associate Publisher of Food Management - An award-winning writer and photographer, Mr. Lawn has been an editor in the business press since 1978. He has served as chapter president of the American Society of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) and has won numerous awards from ASBPE, the Society of Technical Communications and other organizations. Food Management is published monthly for an audience of 52,000+ food service professionals.

Michael DeLuca, Chief Editor & Associate Publisher of Restaurant Hospitality - As editor since 1990, Mr. DeLuca has spearheaded the magazine's editorial resurgence, which culminated with national awards in 1994 and 1995 as the best-designed trade magazine (Signature's Ozzie Award), and in 1994, 1995, 1996, and 1997 as the best-written and –edited foodservice publication (Folio's Editorial Excellence Award). In addition, his "editorials" in Restaurant Hospitality have won numerous awards. Restaurant Hospitality is a leading publication in the restaurant industry with 123,000 subscribers.

Michael Buzalka, Executive Editor of The Foodservice Distributor - Following editorial positions with other professional publications, Mr. Buzalka began at Foodservice Distributor in 1989 as an assistant editor. He progressed to news editor, then senior editor before being named to his current position in 1996.

1996 - Linda Sampieri, Senior Vice President

Linda SampieriOlive Garden Italian Restaurants

1995 - Chris Sullivan, CEO

Chris SullivanOutback Steakhouse Inc.

1993 - Henry Haller, Chef

Henry HallerThe White House