By Don Glynn
Niagara Gazette — Paul Verciglio has been looking after other peoples' needs and comforts for more than 50 years so, understandably, he relishes the thought of having some time for himself.
"My first job was as a teenaged bus boy at Hotel Niagara," Verciglio, 66, said as he approached his retirement next month as the general manager of the posh Park Hyatt Toronto, his current assignment in a 24-year career with the international hotel chain.
Today, the Niagara Falls native is one of the most respected executives in the hospitality industry in the U.S. and Canada. "It takes incredible business acumen, genuine mentoring, charisma and style to help a company like Hyatt to define its luxury hotel brand and Paul has done just that over the years with us," said Rakesh Sarna, chief operating office of the Hyatt Hotels Corp.
Any hotelier with decades of experience has a treasure-trove of memories.
"I can still remember taking room service to Robert Kennedy in the mid-1960s," Verciglio said, alluding to RFK's stay at Hotel Niagara during his successful cross-state campaign to unseat U.S. Sen. Kenneth Keating, R-NY.
Over the years, especially with the high-profile hotel in Toronto, Verciglio would be host to foreign dignitaries, film festival stars and famous entertainers, plus countless government officials, convention delegates and sports celebrities. No matter their station in life, with Verciglio at the helm, they always received the same treatment: first class.
The expression "giving back" is often over-used by people who don't always adhere to that lofty pursuit. But Verciglio has been a staunch believer as evidenced by his years of assisting the tourism and hospitality programs at Niagara University, Niagara County Community College, and the George Brown College in Toronto. Through his efforts, Hyatt has hired a substantial number of NU graduates since the early 1980s.
After working for Harold Levin and Bill Ratzel, longtime managers at Hotel Niagara, young Verciglio moved swiftly through key posts at the original Holiday Inn, Buffalo Avenue, near the American Rapids Bridge to Goat Island; the former Parkway Inn, the former Treadway Inn, Fourth Street and Buffalo Avenue, before the franchise relocated to the LaSalle area (near the North Grand Island Bridges); and the 400-room Niagara Hilton, Third Street, then owned by Radomir Matovic, a Niagara Falls, Ont., businessman.
The Park Hyatt is in the heart of Yorkville, a bustling commercial and cultural sector that includes some of Canada's outstanding art galleries and museums, and across from the Royal Ontario Museum, a tourist mecca. The 336 guest rooms, including the Sarah Richardson-designed pink and blue suites and the 2,500-square-foot Algonquin Suite offer commanding views from the Roof Top Lounge. Guests seldom leave the premises without sharing their experiences in the award-winning 10,000-square-foot Stillwater Spa added during Verciglio's tenure.
Among numerous awards in his career, most recently Verciglio was named Hotelier of the Year for Canada and General Manager of the Year for the giant Hyatt Hotel corporation.
So how does a dynamic hotel executive like Verciglio make the obviously difficult transition from the hectic pace in the hospitality business to a less demanding role of retirement. "I'm really looking forward to the change," he said during a recent phone interview. He said a friend gave him sound advice: "May your future pace be filled with leisure, long visits with friends and pleasure in life's joys."
WORTH AN 'F': The greedy and self-serving United Federation of Teachers in New York has jeopardized that city's ability to spend some $830 million in vital federal aid for the 1.1 million children who attend public schools there. It's all because the union has failed to submit the state-mandated teacher evaluation plan. Why is it so important to protect incompetent teachers who should have been fired years ago? Small wonder that the U.S. educational standards continue to slip below other nations.
LANGUAGE BARRIER: During the Hot Stove Luncheon at Adam's Mark Friday, with the spotlight on the new link between the Toronto Blue Jays and its Triple-A franchise, the Buffalo Bisons, there were lots of stories about the earlier days. One writer recalled how former Blue Jays general manager Pat Gillick was frustrated because he could never convince a free agent to come to Toronto. When he was completing a trade in 1977, the player protested, "I don't want to go some place where they speak Canadian."
THE ODD COUPLE: Overheard in The Village Diner, Youngstown: "That Notre Dame linebacker (Manti Te'o) insists he did not make up that story about a girlfriend who didn't exist — she supposedly died — just to bolster his chances to win the coveted Heisman Trophy" — a restaurant customer who added Te'o was at least worthy of an Oscar for the best supporting role.
On a more serious note, shame on Notre Dame for covering up the incident that should have been reported to proper authorities in the first place.Contact reporter Don Glynn at 282-2311, ext. 2259