On Monday, March 6, hospitality management students had the great opportunity to meet and learn from one of the most successful hoteliers of his generation. Mike Leven, who doesn’t abide by the concept of retirement, is now CEO of the Georgia Aquarium.

He started his career in 1963 at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City. Through the years, he climbed to the highest executive levels, ran the franchising business of companies like Days Inn and Holiday Inn, turned around the Las Vegas Sands, and founded his own successful hotel franchising business.

“Don’t be afraid to take risks,” he told students, and “don’t stay at a place for too long. You need to ask yourselves, what’s in it for me?”

Recounting the story of when he took a pay cut by accepting a job offer in the Bahamas and left New York City with his wife, a baby and a toddler, he encouraged students to focus on developing diverse skills and knowledge about different areas of the industry.

“In the early part of your careers, you need to move for the experience, not for the money,” he said.

Read more about Mike Leven.