Mary D’Argenis ’93, Owner of MDA Hospitality Solutions, LLC

Mary D’Argenis ’93 is owner and managing director of MDA Hospitality Solutions, LLC in Miami Beach, Florida, which “provides expert food and beverage advisory services to the hospitality industry.” She is also an instructor of hospitality management at Miami Dade College, and in both roles, she draws on her years of experience working for such industry leaders as the Walt Disney Company, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts and Fairmont Hotels.

How did you end up in the hospitality/food and beverage industry?  
Since I was a child, I had been visiting Disney and always wanted to work there. I turned 16 on June 1, 1987, and traveled to Orlando for a vacation that summer. On July 7, 1987, I was hired to work at Walt Disney World. Given my age, I was offered two positions: custodial (cleaning toilets) or Food & Beverage (making ice cream cones). I chose the latter. This began a passion of a lifetime and one that has shaped my entire career path.

What are the top three skills you have drawn on to build your career?
Negotiating skills, understanding of a multicultural business and relating to all employees, regardless of position, to achieve company goals

What was your most exciting or surprising moment in your career so far?
I’ve had so many! I’ve never been surprised, but I have been rewarded on numerous occasions: Taking a team from a 1.1 percent profitability on 23 million in revenue to 42.5 percent in three years; being named the #1 Food & Beverage operation for both knowledge and creativity (Fairmont Hotels); exceeding the Walt Disney World Leadership Benchmark; winning the Partners in Excellence Award (Walt Disney World); moving from the last ranked hotel (#63) to #10 for Meeting Planner Satisfaction Index (in three years); seeing many of my leaders be promoted through various companies; and realizing huge financial and profitability results in every organization.

What role did Holy Cross play in your path into this field?
Holy Cross satisfied my thirst for learning and understanding that ethics is the foundation for a successful life. Business is tough, and when you lead with ethics you always win.

Did any experience on campus or work with professors influence your career path?
Professor Theresa McBride of the history department demonstrated her passion for French history and women’s studies. I enjoyed her classes and still have a passion for French culture. She inspired me to recognize that when you have a passion for something, you should understand it fully and never stop learning.  ■ 

—Rebecca Smith ’99 and Kimberly Staley ’99