2019 Hospitality Awards Honorees

J. Patrick Leahy Lifetime Achievement Award Recipients

Marc J. Gordon
Marc Gordon began his hotel management career in 1973 with Westin Hotels at the Continental Plaza Hotel in Chicago. In 1976, he opened the Holiday Inn/Chicago City Centre as Front Office Manager and was promoted to Assistant General Manager in 1978. By 1981, he became the Midwest Regional Director of Training for over 250 Holiday Inns. Marc then served as Director of Sales and Marketing for the Educational Institute of the American Hotel and Motel Association, where he achieved significant revenue growth for the organization. Meanwhile, he also taught at the School of Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Management at Michigan State University. Marc went on to work as Senior Director for the Educational Foundation of the National Restaurant Association. During his tenure, the foundation’s revenue grew from $2 million to more than $16 million. In 1997, Marc became President & CEO of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association. Serving over 500 hotel members and 150 allied members, he worked to promote, protect, and educate the association’s members and constituencies.

Marc’s dedication to the hospitality industry spans nearly half a century. In addition to his various career roles, he has received copious honors highlighting his contribution to hospitality in Illinois and beyond. Marc was elected in 2005 as President of the International Society of Hotel Association Executives. In 2006, he was inducted into the MSU School of Hospitality Business Wall of Fame. He served on the American Hotel and Lodging Association’s Board of Directors and Executive Committee from 2015 to 2017. And, recently in 2019, Marc was recognized as the Civic Partner of the Year by the Magnificent Mile Association.

Arnie F. Karr
Kicking off his hospitality career in 1966, Arnie Karr joined the Greater Chicago Hotel and Motel Association (GCHMA) as Executive Secretary. He served the industry’s trade associations for 31 years and was instrumental in the merger of GCHMA and the Illinois Hotel and Motel Association, ultimately becoming the Hotel-Motel Association of Illinois (HMAI). He served in the roles of Executive Vice President and, later, President until 1997 when he retired. Far from finished, Arnie established Karr and Associates, Inc. to continue the betterment of the hospitality industry. As Chief Operating Officer of the Hotel Employers Labor Relations Association (HERLA), he ran the labor negotiations for unionized hotels, leading to the equitable resolution of payments and benefits for over 20,000 hotel employees.

Arnie is an advocate and spokesperson for the hotel industry with a measurable track record to show for it. Among his many accomplishments: he has gathered support for three different expansions of McCormick Place, been appointed as an Illinois delegate to the White House Conference on Travel and Tourism, and established the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association Education Foundation which has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars toward scholarships for the next generation of hospitality professionals. He remains an active member of its board today. Arnie’s 50+ years of service to the industry carries on today as he serves on several advisory boards, including the DePaul University School of Hospitality Leadership and Roosevelt University.

Ambassador of Hospitality Award Recipients

Holly Agra
President, Chicago’s First Lady Cruises

Holly Agra is President of Chicago’s First Lady Cruises and Vice President of Mercury, Chicago’s Skyline Cruiseline. Celebrating 40 years with the former, she remains deeply committed to promoting Chicago as a world-class tourist destination. The latter brand traces its roots to the humble beginnings of Holly’s grandfather-in-law, who founded the flagship tour boat company, Mercury, after emigrating from Portugal in the 1930s. Today, Holly, Captain Bob Agra (husband and business partner), and sons, Bob and Tim, continue this 84-year family tradition of showcasing Chicago’s skyline to visitors from around the world. Moreover, Holly is an active member of numerous organizations. To highlight a few of her roles, she has served three terms as a member of the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, working to advise the Secretary of Commerce on policy issues. She also proudly served as the National Trade Association’s first woman president in 1991 for the National Passenger Vessel Association. Locally, she has operated as the Chairman of Visit Illinois and the Magnificent Mile Association. And most recently, Holly completed two three-year terms as a member of the Choose Chicago Board of Directors and Finance Committee.

Anthony “Tony” Klok
Principal, Rebel Hospitality, LLC

Tony Klok is the co-founder and Principal of Rebel Hospitality. Rebel was the first to introduce boutique hotels to Chicago’s lakeshore neighborhoods. From the company’s founding in 1988, Tony has become the point person in the oversight of government approvals, execution and negotiation of partner contracts and overseeing of operations. He plays an integral role in the success of 15 independent boutique and brand hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues located throughout Chicago and Memphis. Tony is a long-standing and active member of the IHLA Board of Directors. Additionally, Tony serves as the 2019 Chairman of the Board of Directors of Best Western International, where he provides his expertise on creating, opening and managing hotels and restaurants. Drawing from decades of experience, Tony ensures that all the hotels and entities he oversees are running seamlessly and successfully.