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A Life in Hospitality

Peter Jenner, Chair of Endicott's Hospitality Management Program
Peter Jenner, Chair of Endicott College’s Hospitality Management Program, reflects on a lifelong career in hospitality and how Gulls are shaping the industry.
By: Danna Lorch

Peter Jenner knows a thing or two about pivoting. Long before the pandemic upended the hospitality industry, Jenner, now Chair of Endicott’s Hospitality Management Program, made a life-changing decision: He went back to school. At age 42. And he chose Endicott. 

“I was absolutely petrified to go back to the classroom with much younger peers,” he said. “But they were the most accepting bunch of people. They were very supportive of me, and we shared a lot, I had the industry skills to help them and they kept me informed on campus life.” 

Before his first day at the College, Jenner had spent two decades working extensively within the restaurant and beverage industry. After demonstrating knife skills to a class, he was offered a job as a culinary instructor in 1995. Jenner went on to earn a bachelor’s degree, and two master’s degrees, and he’s been teaching in the program ever since.

Jenner’s lifelong journey in hospitality started with a photograph of a ham and cheese quiche that he found in a magazine as a child. 

“It looked magical,” he recalled. “I wondered how someone could make that by using basic kitchen ingredients. That was an epiphany of sorts for me.” 

He taught himself how to cook, first at home, then by working under countless chefs. A later stint at Anthony Road Winery in New York’s Finger Lakes region left him with a passion for grapes and wine that continues today. 

“I’ve always been a service person,” he said. “I think that hospitality people are a little bit selfless in that we derive genuine pleasure in helping others have a memorable experience. It’s rewarding to witness our students develop the same passion.” 

Jenner’s affinity for hospitality goes beyond food and beverage, though—he has an unquenchable desire to create milestone experiences and joy-filled memories. 

Students in Endicott’s Hospitality Management Program benefit from Jenner’s passion while learning practical skills from faculty who are all industry leaders. As a result, students learn hands-on how to bake Parisian café-worthy eclairs, expertly uncork wine for customers at the College’s non-traditional classroom and restaurant La Chanterelle, or manage an international staff at a boutique hotel. 

These lessons transfer to three internships students complete to gain professional experience that makes their resumes stand out. “The internships are where things really come together,” he said. “Students get to apply what they’ve studied in class to a work setting. We usually receive high praises from internship site supervisors saying how well-qualified these students are for the industry.” 

Somehow, even at the height of the COVID-19 lockdown, 100% of the students still completed their internships. But that doesn’t mean they weren’t impacted by the pandemic along with the rest of their sector as travel and dining hit months-long lows.  

While the hospitality industry has been slowly and steadily improving, Jenner prefers the term “recovery” over “bounce back.” 

“If you look at 9/11 and major recessions, the industry has never bounced back exactly the same,” he said.

Jenner forecasts travel, events, and dining will recover in full force over time, pointing to an Oxford Economics + Smith Travel Research report that found that hotel occupancy in 2021 was estimated at nearly 58%—a full five percent higher than what was projected this time last year (52.5%), but still down more than eight percent from pre-pandemic levels. 

Last year, the Hospitality Program moved to an official new home at the School of Business in a strategic move that allows for more cross-pollination between students in hospitality and business, Jenner said. 

That cross-pollination will produce more agile industry leaders who can pivot when and if a crisis strikes again. That’s why Jenner also predicts that hospitality employees—especially Gulls—will be the star ingredient when traveling and dining out recovers for good.   

“Hospitality is going to take the lead when it comes to restoring those human connections that were lost during COVID-19,” he said. “It’s that personal one-on-one interaction with a barista, a hotel manager, or someone working for an airline that is going to bring people back together.”