Former vice chairman of Hilton Hotels passes away

Director of the Hilton Foundation and former vice chairman of Hilton Hotels Corporation, Eric Hilton, dies at the age of 83

Eric Hilton.
Eric Hilton.

Eric Michael Hilton, retired vice chairman of Hilton Hotels Corporation, passed away early on Saturday, December 10, 2016 of natural causes at his home in Las Vegas. He was 83.

Born in EI Paso, Texas in 1933, Hilton was raised by his mother, Mary Barron Hilton.

Hilton worked summers at the EI Paso Hilton and, after two years at Texas Western, he was accepted to The School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University. However, after receiving his draft notice, he joined the army. After being discharged, Hilton set his sights on the family business.

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In 1956, he went to work at the new Dallas Statler Hilton and was soon promoted and named resident manager of the Deshler Hilton in Columbus, Ohio in 1959. The following year, he received his first appointment as general manager of the Hilton in Aurora, Ill. In 1961, he was made general manager of the Shamrock Hilton in Houston.

In 1966, he was promoted to southwest regional sales manager for the company's franchising division, Hilton Inns, Inc. and was named senior vice president in 1969. He helped drive the company's franchise development efforts for the next 14 years.

In 1983, he was named senior vice president of development for the company's new Conrad brand, marking the company's return to the international marketplace after the sale of Hilton International 16 years earlier. He was elected executive vice president of Conrad International in 1986 and spent much of his time based in Hong Kong. It was only 20 years later that the company was able to reacquire Hilton International.

In 1985, Hilton put together a deal for the Shamrock Hilton Hotel to be donated to the Texas Medical Centre. He was elected to the board of Hilton Hotels Corporation in 1993 and named vice chairman. A year later, he was elevated to the presidency of Conrad International. Eric Hilton retired in 1997, but continued to serve as a consultant and member of the board until 1998.

Hilton's career was also marked by his long service to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Houston in 1969. He was elected to the board of directors of the Hilton Foundation in 1971, and served as chairman of its affiliate, the Best Foundation. Best's Project ALERT drug resistance curriculum was created by the RAND Corporation with funding from the Hilton Foundation to help reduce drug abuse among youth.

He was also a member of the Hilton Foundation's international jury that selects the recipient of the annual US $2 million Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize.

He conceptualised and created Three Square, a nonprofit organisation that collects and distributes food to children and seniors in Southern Nevada. Hilton received the American Vocational Association Award of Merit and was honoured with the Alumni President's Award and an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the University of Houston, where he was inducted into the Hospitality Industry Hall of Honor. He previously served on the board of Future Business Leaders of America-Phi Beta Lambda, and was a trustee for the Little League Foundation for more than 35 years.

In addition, he has been involved with many projects in Las Vegas, including the Smith Center, The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, Opportunity Village and the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration at UNLV.

“Eric was a gregarious, charismatic leader who represented our family superbly throughout his career, both in the hotel business, and the work of our foundation,” said Barron Hilton, the retired chairman, president and CEO of the lodging enterprise founded by Conrad N. Hilton in 1919.

“Through his charm and tenacity, Eric helped spur our growth through franchising, and guide our return to the international marketplace through Conrad International Hotels. My brother will be missed by everyone who benefitted from his kindness, friendship and philanthropy.”

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