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In August 2023, Stephen Pole, ’95, general manager of the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton, Boston-Cambridge, was named the Hilton 2022 “GM of the Year.” It’s the second time that Pole has been recognized by the organization for his dedication, leadership, and commitment to excellence, attributes that were instilled by his family and honed during his time at Niagara University.

Pole comes from a legacy NU family—father, Alan, ’69; mother, the former Maryalice Purick, ’69; and younger siblings Kevin, ’98, and Lindsay Blair, ’05, are NU alums. He credits the strong Vincentian values that he first learned about as a student at Christian Brothers Academy High School in his hometown of Syracuse, N.Y., and strengthened during his studies at NU, with his ability to work effectively with his team and create an environment that inspires them to do their best.

“A lot of it lies in the NU culture and philosophy, supporting others and strength in numbers and teams working well together,” he said.

Although Pole’s parents had often shared stories about their time on Monteagle Ridge, he didn’t know if he would carry on the family tradition. But once he visited the campus, he immediately felt a sense of welcome, he said, which convinced him that NU was the place for him.

Not entirely sure what career path he wanted to pursue, Pole thought restaurant and hotel management, offered that time in what was the Institute of Travel, Hotel and Restaurant Administration, might be a good fit.

“I really wanted to get into an industry that was hands on and where no two days were the same,” he said. “I have amazing memories of my family traveling growing up, and I knew I loved to travel.”

ITHRA turned out to be the right choice. Pole says he was fortunate to learn from professors including Dr. David Howell, Dr. Jan Van Harssel, Scott Beahen, and Robert Blanchard, and his summer internships with the Canasawacta Country Club in Norwich, N.Y., gave him valuable experience with grounds maintenance, bartending, and serving.

Pole began his career with Hilton as a front desk agent at Embassy Suites in Syracuse shortly after graduating. His experience, along with the analytical and communication skills he learned at Niagara, enabled him to progress quickly into positions of increasing responsibility, both at that property and at the Embassy Suites in Marlboro, Mass., where he transferred in 1996. Pole worked in several different departments of the 220-room hotel, including food and beverage and sales and marketing, learning all aspects of the hotel business.

In January 2000, Pole moved to New York City after accepting the position of director of revenue management as part of a team that was hired to open Hilton’s flagship Embassy Suites in Battery Park. He remained in that position until November 2001, when, in the aftermath of 9/11—and newly married to Colleen Dee, ’95—Pole made the difficult decision to move to Atlanta.

“Our hotel was closed immediately following those attacks on September 11th,” he recalled. “I was really enjoying being a director of revenue management, and then that curveball of the bombing of the World Trade Center just changed our lives forever.”

Although Pole could have remained in New York City, the future of that hotel was uncertain. Instead, he accepted a position at the Embassy Suites Atlanta Airport so he could continue to progress in his career.

“It really turned out to be wonderful, but it was certainly a difficult challenge at that time,” he said.

He remained in Atlanta until 2007, when he moved back to Boston as complex general manager of two DoubleTree hotels. In 2013, he was recognized with his first “General Manager of the Year” award.

Four years later, he accepted his current position.

“I really have been lucky to work for Hilton my entire career,” he said. “It’s just a great company that has all different types of opportunities if people are flexible to move. I was really lucky to be at the right place at the right time, and the hard work paid off, so it’s been a great career.”

While he humbly appreciates the recognition he has received for his leadership, Pole is quick to acknowledge that it is a team effort. He is proud of the relationships he has established with the people he has worked with over the years and his commitment to making his workplace an enjoyable one.  

“I try to treat people the way that I want to be treated,” he said. “I strongly believe that if you take care of the team members, they will take care of the guests, and the business will take care of itself. We’ve accomplished amazing things, and it can be really stressful, but it’s also very exciting.”

Pole is also proud of his commitment to the community, noting that he and his team support the Greater Boston Food Bank and Rosie’s Place, a multiservice community center for women.

“Hilton certainly embraces and encourages community service,” he noted, “but my roots at Niagara and the Vincentian philosophy are a driving force to give back to the community.”