MICHAEL V. HARRELL SCHOLARSHIP TO BENEFIT CULINARY, HOSPITALITY, ENTREPRENEURSHIP MAJORS
Gary A. DeLapp, recipient of the 2019 Pensacola State College Distinguished Alumni Life Achievement Award, has established a scholarship to honor his longtime mentor –the late Michael V. Harrell.
Open to culinary and hospitality management, culinary arts and business entrepreneurship majors, recipients of the Michael V. Harrell Endowed Scholarship must have a minimum 2.75 grade point average, be a U.S. citizen or resident alien and enrolled full- or part-time. Scholarship funds can be used for tuition, fees, books and other supplies.
Harrell, 77, passed away of leukemia in February 2019. A trailblazer in the corporate hospitality industry, he founded Vista Host, a hotel development and management company.
“Michael will be remembered for his industry vision, his passion for superlative results, and his competitive spirit,” said DeLapp, who first met Harrell in 1978.
At that time, Harrell was a hotel industry executive. DeLapp was a Pensacola Junior College student working as a busboy and dishwasher at the Holiday Inn North– the first hotel Harrell converted to a Vista Host property.
“I learned many lessons from Michael, there are too many to name but he always stressed the importance of hard work, honesty, integrity and always giving 100 percent,” recalled DeLapp. “Sensitivity to guests, attention to detail in all that we do and being bottom-line focused were also other practices he shared.”
Linda Harrell, Michael Harrell’s widow, was touched that DeLapp chose to memorialize her husband with a scholarship.
“In the early days of my husband’s company, Gary was a student working in his spare time. His abilities were quick to surface, and my husband encouraged him to continue in the course he had charted,” said Linda Harrell who noted her husband always played the role of teacher and was a “hands-on” leader who visited all his properties and knew every employee at each site.
“Gary became a superstar and exceeded beyond belief. My husband was so proud to see his success.”
The $12,500 endowed scholarship was made possible by a personal donation from DeLapp. The funds will be matched by the College’s Alumni Association Matching Program.
The Harrell Family also donated $25,000 for a challenge match where donor gifts will be matched dollar-for-dollar.
The scholarships will range from $500 to $2,500 per award — starting in fall 2020. Members of the Harrell family plan to be on hand to meet the scholarship recipients.
Born in Carmi, Illinois, Harrell earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Evansville — where he was introduced to the hospitality industry while working as a hotel night auditor during college.
Harrell received several accolades over his career, including served as president of the International Association of Holiday Inns from 1984-1985 and as a member of the Hilton Advisory Board for Hampton Inn. In 2012, he received the prominent Lifetime Achievement Award from Hilton Worldwide.
Under Harrell’s tutelage, DeLapp also rose up the ranks to become a senior vice president and partner at Vista Host Hotel Management early in his career.
“Michael’s gift was to recognize talent wherever it might occur. He encouraged and advised everyone he touched whether they were in top management or those cleaning the rooms,” Linda Harrell said. “Michael loved his job. He loved his associates and he wanted to help everyone become the best person that they could be. His tagline was ‘What you do speaks so loudly that I can hardly hear what you say.’”
DeLapp believes Harrell would be overwhelmed by the scholarship bearing his name.
“He was always doing things for others and to have something like this in his name — he would be surprised,” he said.
Linda Harrell agreed but said her husband also loved Pensacola.
“So nothing could have been more appropriate than to provide the opportunity for a similar experience to others. Hats off to Gary DeLapp, a very thoughtful, good man,” she said.
Along with his wife, Harrell is survived by daughters, Lisa Galassini and husband Terry, and Sarah Harrod and husband John; four grandchildren, Davis Galassini, Hope Harrod, Grant Galassini and Hannah Harrod; and other relatives.
To contribute to the
Michael V. Harrell Endowed Scholarship, visit https://alumni.pensacolastate.edu/harrell-scholarship/.