Be Our Guest

Portrait of a bald man wearing glasses and a sports jacket. He is looking off into the distance.

(Photo: Karsten Moran)

James Earley, BS’85 (Ruth)

By Julie Kayzerman

In his high school yearbook, James Earley, BS’85 (Ruth), wrote that he wanted to be an accountant. He was a little hesitant about pursuing his true passion — cooking — because “culinary was not a cool thing back in the early ’80s like it is now!” he jokes.

With encouragement from his parents, Earley reconsidered and decided to enroll in the hospitality program at FDU’s Rutherford Campus.

Earley traveled to a dozen or so European countries for study abroad practicums during his undergraduate years, fully immersing himself in the industry. In his senior year, he secured an internship with Marriott International that turned into a full-time job.

He has continued with the company for more than 30 years, working at seven different properties, and climbing the ladder of success.

In 2015, Earley joined Ironwave Hospitality Management as general manager of the Element by Westin Harrison-Newark Hotel (a Marriott International brand). He remains in this position today, where his primary responsibility is overall property management.

As copresident of the FDU Hospitality and Tourism Alumni Chapter and a member of the International School of Hospitality, Sports, and Tourism Management Advisory Board, Earley has provided mentorship and internship and career opportunities to FDU students and graduates.

“One of the things that I’m most proud of is providing students and alumni with guidance and career opportunities,” he says. “I love to mentor them and to see people grow as they work their way up the ladder.”

The Future of Hotels

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic took a significant toll on the hotel industry. But things are starting to turn around.

“People are certainly catching up on travel and being with family. They are realizing that time and life experiences are precious,” Earley says. “We are seeing leisure travel [at higher levels] than pre-pandemic 2019 levels.”

This, Earley says, is paving the way for multigenerational families to comfortably share spaces while enjoying high standards of service and security at affordable rates.

“When people redeem Marriott Bonvoy points with their families, they’re looking for unique experiences where they can all reconnect,” he says. “Marriott has a high-end collection of unique properties that will meet their standards, and has also expanded brands like Residence Inn by Marriott and Element by Westin that provide suites with full kitchens, allowing extended families to travel together but with privacy.”

Even though corporate travel is not quite back at pre-pandemic levels yet, Earley is also excited about the new ways that companies are using hotels. With remote work here to stay and a significant decrease in corporate leases, Earley says hotels have become a hub for employees to gather for meetings, participate in trainings and rebuild vital in-person workplace relationships.

And that, Earley says, is cause enough to remain optimistic about the future of the industry and to encourage students to continue pursuing hospitality and tourism degrees.


James Earley’s daughter, Brittany Earley, BS’18 (Flor), also graduated from FDU, and studied hospitality and tourism management.


Earley once served dinner to future President George H.W. Bush and future First Lady Barbara Bush, just a week before he was elected to office!


While studying hospitality at FDU’s Rutherford Campus, Earley played for the Division I tennis team at the Metropolitan Campus.