Endowed chair established in Leven School of Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality

Culinary Sustainability


Position is part of $5 million contribution from industry titan Michael Leven

KENNESAW, Ga. (Feb 14, 2017) — The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia on Tuesday approved the establishment of the Michael A. Leven Endowed Chair at Kennesaw State University.

The $500,000 endowment is part of a $5 million commitment Leven made in 2015 to name Kennesaw State’s School of Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality. The gift from Leven, a veteran hospitality industry executive and CEO of the Georgia Aquarium, is the largest single contribution from an individual in Kennesaw State’s 54-year history.

The endowed chair, a premier scholar and teacher in the field of culinary sustainability and hospitality managements, will conduct research, develop and teach courses, mentor students and faculty, and will represent and promote the Leven School to the community and hospitality industry.

“Words cannot fully express how appreciative we are to Michael Leven for his ongoing generosity and support for the School of Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality,” said Sam Olens, president of Kennesaw State University. “The endowed chair is another example of Mr. Leven’s desire to strengthen academic programs, foster student interest, and support faculty instruction and research concerning the hospitality industry.”

Kennesaw State’s bachelor’s degree in culinary sustainability and hospitality began in fall 2013. The innovative academic program offers a unique approach to the study of culinary and hospitality management, infusing the curriculum with knowledge in sustainability while emphasizing food science, nutritional analysis, resource conservation, and essential business skills.

“We are thrilled with Mr. Leven’s continued commitment to our program and are excited to engage with leaders in our field,” said Christian Hardigree, director of the Michael A. Leven School of Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality. “It is an honor to have him involved so closely with Kennesaw State.”

Leven has devoted his entire 54-year career to working in the hospitality industry, serving as president for the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, Holiday Inn Worldwide and Days Inn Corporation. In 1995, he founded U.S. Franchise Systems Inc., which franchises the Microtel Inn & Suites and Hawthorn Suites hotel brands, and served as its CEO and president until 2007. He also co-founded the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, which has 14,000 members who own more than 20,000 hotels.

Leven was named chairman and chief executive officer of the Georgia Aquarium in January 2015. He previously served as CEO of the aquarium from 2008 to 2009.


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu