Former Steubenville resident John G. Wells, general manager of the Hilton Chicago, gains honor

CHICAGO – Former Steubenville resident John G. Wells, general manager of the Hilton Chicago, recently received the Ambassador of Hospitality award from the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association during the National Restaurant Association Show at McCormick Place in downtown Chicago.

Wells, the son of Glenn and Marcella Wells of Steubenville, was selected for his outstanding leadership and high level of excellence in the Illinois hospitality industry.

“I am both surprised and humbled to be selected for this award among the other prestigious honorees. It is truly an honor to be recognized by my peers in the hospitality industry,” Wells said of the award. “My career, the people I have worked with and the people I have met have been instrumental in shaping the path I have taken. I look forward to all the new challenges and great experiences the changing face of the hospitality world has in store for me and my colleagues,” he added.

Wells’ career as a 28-year veteran of the hospitality industry has taken him to 11 hotels in seven states. He has served as general manager of the 1,544-room Hilton Chicago since March 2007 and is a four-time general manager with Hilton Hotels & Resorts, the flagship brand of Hilton Worldwide.

Along with the team at the Hilton Chicago, Wells has welcomed domestic and international political figures, professional athletes, entertainers and celebrities and hosted countless distinguished groups and social events. Since its opening in 1927, the Hilton Chicago has housed every president of the United States.

Wells, who recently received his master’s degree in hospitality management from Roosevelt University in Chicago, is an active member of the communities in which he has worked. He most recently served as chairman for the Illinois Hotel Lodging Association and additionally sits on the board of directors for the Better Business Bureau, the Chicago Loop Alliance, the Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation and the board of advisers for East-West University.

In addition to his most recent award, Wells was singled out in 2012 to receive the American Hotel Lodging Association State Leadership Award on behalf of the industry and the 2012 Hospitality Culture Award from Hilton Worldwide.

Wells’ success is in a field he entered by accident and coincidence.

A 1982 graduate of Wintersville High School, Wells never set out to be in the hotel industry and never had a “dream job, per se,” either. He was, however, a hard worker as a teen, holding down different summer and part-time jobs. He worked as an independent landscaper of six lawns at age 12, worked with his father and brothers in Wells Construction and West End Excavating and was a part-time usher at the cinemas at the Fort Steuben Mall.

After graduating from high school, he chose pre-dentistry as his major at Ohio State University, but abandoned that his junior year after receiving a “D” in organic chemistry. He switched his major to productions operation management at a time when computers were beginning to emerge.

It was during his junior year, however, when a friend working at a hotel in Columbus told him some valet parking jobs were available.

“I thought that would be better than my previous college summer job as a fork lift driver,” Wells had communicated in a Herald-Star interview in 2008 after Barack Obama’s election as president. Obama’s election night speech unfolded right across the street from the hotel in Grant Park and was occasion for the Hilton Chicago to be booked to capacity. “We picked up two large Democratic parties of more than 3,000 people in our ballroom, and we sold out all our suites to top CEOs and presidents of major labor unions,” Wells had said at the time.

“I walked into the human resources department and found out that all the valet parking positions were filled. As I was walking out the door, I heard a voice from the back office call out, ‘Have you ever carried a tray before?’ I said, ‘No, but I’m willing to learn,’ and that’s where my career started.”

Wells, who graduated from OSU in 1986, ultimately worked in 11 hotels, living in Ohio, Indiana, Hawaii, California, New York, Massachusetts and now Illinois.

He credits much of his work ethic and leadership skills to the town he grew up in as well as to his parents, who he had said “worked tirelessly hard raising six children, were dedicated to their faith and showed true love and support to me.”

In honor of his parents’ 60th wedding anniversary, a surprise celebration unfolded Thanksgiving 2007 during a family get-together at the Hilton Chicago’s Conrad Suite, at 5,000 square feet the largest two-story suite in Chicago and the Midwest. The suite has three bedrooms and “breathtaking views” of Lake Michigan and downtown Chicago.

Guests of the Conrad Suite have included political dignitaries and presidents, top chief executive officers and royalty.

It’s also the suite where movie scenes from “Home Alone II,” “Road to Perdition” and “The Fugitive” have been filmed.

Wells likes what he does, the fact that it changes day to day, week to week. He resides with his wife, Gillian, and they have three daughters: Layne, Morgan and Katie.