Alice Sheets Marriott

By Sofia Alvazzi

Named after her mother, Alice Sheets Marriott was born in Salt Lake City, Utah on October 19th, 1907, to Alice Taylor and Edwin Spencer Sheets. Her father, a lawyer and Bishop in the local stake of a Mormon Church, died during the Spanish flu epidemic in 1919 when Alice was only 12 years old. After being encouraged to succeed academically and to follow her faith by regularly going to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (also known as the Mormon Church), Alice began attending the University of Utah at just 16 years old to study Spanish. During her junior year, Alice caught John Willard “Bill” Marriott’s attention, who was a graduating senior at the time. In fact, he told another classmate, “There’s the kind of girl I’d like to marry.”

Bill, who was 7 years older than her, came from a farm that was close to Ogden, Utah. He already had successful entrepreneurial ventures in his adolescence. One in particular included him at 13 years old planting a small piece of lettuce that he turned into $2000 in profit at the end of the season. Likewise, Bill also shared Alice’s faith as a Mormon, having done 2 years of required missionary service before continuing his education. They met through a date arranged by a mutual friend and courted for over a year before marrying the day after Alice’s graduation. Finally, Alice graduated with honors at only 19 years old on June 19th, 1927. The newlyweds immediately set off for Washington, D.C. in a Model T Ford, where 2 weeks earlier, Bill had opened a small A&W Root Beer stand franchise.

At first, Alice didn’t think she would do much for the company, but she soon found herself as a crucial component in all aspects of it. For instance, when their root beer stand was becoming less successful, Alice used her Spanish skills to ask the chef of the Mexican embassy about traditional Mexican food, where she was given recipes that she perfected at home in just 2 days. These recipes were then put on the menu, and the dishes became such a success that they renamed themselves “Hot Shoppe” once their franchise deal ended. Additionally, Alice kept the books, gathered recipes for their menu, picked out decor, and completed many more essential tasks for the business.

By 1932, Alice and her husband had opened 7 Hot Shoppe restaurants. During this year, her first son, J. Willard Bill, Jr. was born following the birth of her second son, Richard, 7 years later. By the time Richard was born, they had opened 65 Hot Shoppes. Although she spent the majority of her time at home taking care of her children, Alice still remained a big decision maker for the company. In the late 1930s, the Marriotts started a new venture where they served meals to airline passengers (in partnership with a company that later became Eastern Airlines) after they noticed a gap in the market. Their venture became Caterair International, an international flight kitchen division that was later sold off in 1989 at the height of its success.

Alice had a talent not only for charisma, but also for analyzing business concepts. Her lengthy term on the company’s board of directors also gave her a good perspective of the company. In 1953, the Marriott Company became a publicly traded firm. Four years later, they entered the hotel business, opening their first hotel in Arlington, Virginia. When her eldest son had directed the company to hotel business, Alice gave her approval. They continued to expand the firm’s restaurant section, by initiating and gaining control of various chains, such as Roy Rogers. In 1972, when her husband was struggling with deciding whether to give up his CEO role to the next generation, Alice helped persuade him to pass it on. Later on, the Marriotts established Fairfield Inn, a lower-priced hotel chain.

Alice also partook in a lot of volunteer service and helped run many organizations by holding high ranking positions. She devoted time to civic, charitable, and cultural institutions. For example, she was the Vice President and Director of Marriott Corporation. She also had several high ranking roles in the Republican party, such as being the Treasurer of national conventions in 1964, 1968 and 1972. In 1969, she was the Vice Chair of the Presidential Inaugural Committee for Richard M. Nixon, who had just recently gotten elected as President. On the Republican National Committee, she was vice chair from 1956 to 1976.

Moreover, she was Trustee of the JFK Centre for Performing Arts, serving 2 ten-year terms on the board, and being an executive of the finance committees. Alice was on the advisory council of the National Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases Advisory Council. In addition, she was on the Board of the Metropolitan Washington chapter of the Arthritis Foundation, where she won the first Lifetime Achievement Award. Additionally, Alice played an active role in many other organizations, such as the National Symphony Orchestra, National Ballet Society & Washington Ballet Guild, Goodwill Industries Guild, Mormon groups in the Washington area, and the National Committee for Prevention on Child Abuse. Furthermore, to commemorate her and her husband’s alma mater, an Alice Sheets Marriott Centre for Dance was erected at the University of Utah in 1989.

Alice was also affiliated with the Chi Omega sorority and was a member of the American Newspaper Women’s Association, Capitol Hill Club, Washington Club, and the 1925F Street Club. In 1974 and 1980, she received an honorary Doctor of Human Letters degree from the University of Utah and Mount Vernon College. In memory of her charitable attitude, an award is given out every year to the Marriott business branch that emulates her spirit the best.

Alice’s husband died in August of 1985. On April 17th, 2000, Alice died at the age of 92, leaving 2 children, 8 grandchildren, and 23 great-grandchildren in her wake. At this time, the company was still run by the family, with Marriott Corp’s sales nearing $10B. From the tiny root beer stand that she and her husband had started in 1927, the Marriott empire has and continues to grow rapidly. There are now 5 separate companies with over $20B in sales altogether: Marriott International Inc., Host Marriott Corp, Sodexho Marriott Services, Crestline Capital Corp, and Host Marriott Services. Her eldest son held the chairman and CEO position of Marriott International Inc until he retired in May 2022. Richard, her second son, is currently chairman of Host Marriott Corp. The Marriott family has also made generous donations to educational institutions, such as establishing the J. Willard & Alice S. Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University, and the Marriott Foundation For People With Disabilities, which has helped over 4,000 disabled youth find work.

Why Did I Choose to Research Alice Sheets Marriott?

I chose to research Alice because I saw a framed poster of her when I was staying at a Fairfield Inn during the summer. After reading about her impressive life, I knew that I wanted to write about her because I learned that she played a vital role in the success of the Marriott company. She is incredibly inspiring because she and her husband started off with a small root beer stand that has now become one of the biggest hospitality services in the world.

Works Cited

Alice Marriott | Alice Sheets Marriott Biography. (2019). Marriott International.

Alice Marriott Biography - family, parents, school, mother, young, son, old, born, college, husband. (2013).

Alice Sheets Marriott. (2022, September).

‌Alice S. Marriott, Company Co-founder, Dies at 92 - Article - News - BYU Marriott School of Business. (2022).

JW Marriott Jr. | J. Willard Marriott Jr. Biography. (2019). Marriott International.

This article was published on 3/6/24