In the days of the frenzied “Luv Ya Blue” movement inspired by the Houston Oilers, Robert Thrailkill ('82) was a college student working toward a business degree at what is today called West Texas A&M. He was also an avid fan of pro football. Through a friend who worked at the Marriott Astrodome, he chanced upon an opportunity to have breakfast with the team, including legends Coach Bum Phillips and Running Back Earl Campbell.
“Working at a hotel was never on my radar, but I walked out of there saying I wanted to experience more of that,” he said. “My friend knew Dean James Taylor, who was a very nice man. I gave him a call, he asked me what I needed, and I made sure to follow up after two weeks. After that, I moved to Houston to become a student at Hilton College. It was one of the best decisions of my life.”
On April 11, Thrailkill returned to the College as guest speaker for the 35th Eric's Club Distinguished Chair Alumni Lecture Series. In front of a standing-room only crowd of students and Eric’s Club members in Alumni Hall, he shared his hospitality journey and the keys to his success, including the importance of persistence, learning to change with the times and keeping calm during crisis situations.
Throughout his career, Thrailkill has worn many hats in hotel management and operations. He launched his career with Hilton as a management trainee at the Hilton Palacio del Rio San Antonio and moved up quickly through the ranks, holding leadership positions at premier properties in Boston, Atlantic City, Midtown Manhattan, DFW Lakes, Miami and New Orleans, earning numerous accolades along the way.
His most recent role has taken him full circle – back home to his native San Antonio, where he is vice president of Zachry Hospitality and general manager of the Hilton Palacio del Rio. In addition, he serves as asset manager of Staybridge Suites/Downtown Convention Center, Embassy Suites by Hilton San Antonio – Airport, and the Embassy Suites by Hilton San Antonio Landmark.
Thrailkill has also been involved extensively in the development and opening of Conrad N. Hilton College-San Antonio, and presently serves as chair for the program’s advisory board. As an Eric’s Club member, he has supported our College and student success programs in countless ways over the years. He’s also an integral part of the Alamo City’s hospitality industry, and holds various positions on area boards, including the Executive Committee Board for Visit San Antonio. He was selected by former Mayor Ivy Taylor to chair to the San Antonio Tricentennial Commission, later to which he was elected president to lead in the planning of San Antonio’s 2018 – 300th Tricentennial Celebration.
After Thrailkill’s lecture, students and guests proceeded to the Conrad Hilton Grand Ballroom for a Q&A reception, where he and other members of Eric’s Club broke into small groups to share industry knowledge and advice with students. Like many of his fellow alumni who take time to network with our students each year, Thrailkill said his philosophy is to give back whenever he can. And, he’s a believer of making – and keeping – connections.
“When you look back over a 40-year career, what you will remember are pockets of time with certain people who have journeyed with you,” he said. “Success often comes from those who have helped shape you, and it’s always important to keep in touch.”
Click here to learn more about Thrailkill and visit the Hilton College Alumni Association on Facebook to see a video of his lecture and photos from the event.
(Story & Photo: Pearl Cajoles)
Posted on April 25, 2019