Parker Henderson ’99 knows the importance of opportunity. His first hotel job was with the Comfort Suites in Boone, which led to an internship with the Pinehurst Resort where he worked during the US Open. This, in turn, would eventually land him with Hilton where has been for the past 12 years. What sounds like a logical progression of events was more akin to a series of seized opportunities.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do at first. I knew I liked business, but I didn’t like finance and I didn’t like sales,” Henderson says. Eventually he stumbled upon the Hospitality and Tourism Management major, which he considers his calling. But finding a major was only half the battle, according to Henderson. If he was going to make it in the hotel industry, he was going to need some practical experience.
“Dr. Dana Clark pushed me to start somewhere and get some hotel experience,” Henderson says. He netted his first gig with Comfort Suites, and Clark continued taking a personal interest in his future, urging him towards an internship and offering advice throughout his college career.
Henderson, now a corporate regional director with Hilton’s Embassy Suites brand, credits the Walker College of Business with much of his success.
“Through the College of Business, there were so many team projects,” Henderson says. “Everything in the corporate world is a group project.” Praising the variety of people he worked with in college, Henderson acknowledges that working with different personalities and cultures taught him a lot about collaborative effort and teamwork. More than this, however, Henderson fondly remembers his friends, many of which he is still in contact with.
“What sets Appalachian apart is the connection you have with the university,” Henderson says. “Other universities don’t have that same pride and legacy.”