GVSU mourns alumnus and supporter Raymond Bennett, '92

headshot of Ray Bennett, in shirt with open collar and blue suit coat
Raymond 'Ray' Bennett was the Marriott president of U.S. and Canada, Franchising and MxM MSB.
Image Credit: courtesy photo

The Grand Valley community mourns the death of Marriott International executive Raymond “Ray” Bennett, ’92, who died May 5.

A Detroit native, Bennett earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and played on the Laker basketball team for two years.

After working for Pepsi Bottling Group in various managerial positions, Bennett joined Marriott International Inc. in 2001 and served in many leadership roles, most recently as Marriott president of U.S. and Canada, Franchising and MxM MSB.

Bennett was passionate about giving back to Grand Valley and his community. He served as a director for the Grand Valley University Foundation since 2016, and was a member of the national board of directors of Kids Enjoy Exercise Now (KEEN), and The Executive Leadership Council.

Bennett returned to campus many times to speak to students who were majoring in hospitality and tourism management or business. In 2012, he was named Seidman College of Business Alumnus of the Year for his career achievements. In 2018, he was Grand Valley’s commencement speaker and received an honorary doctorate in business administration.

Ray Bennett, left, standing with hand on shoulder of Don Williams
Ray Bennett, '92, is pictured with Dean Emeritus Don Williams Sr. after the announcement that Bennett established a scholarship to honor his mentor.
University Communications

Diana Lawson, dean of the Seidman College of Business, said it's both a time to mourn Bennett's death and to recognize his achievements.

“We have appreciated Ray's continued engagement with his alma mater, and his family’s generosity that has allowed students to attend college and prosper," Lawson said. "Moreover, we applaud his career success with Marriott, where his leadership skills have been demonstrated in innumerable ways.” 

To recognize the education and support he received through GVSU's former Multicultural Business Education Center, Bennett and his wife, Vivian, established the Don Williams Sr. Dean Emeritus Multicultural Business Education (MBEC) Scholarship in 2011. Their gift supports students from Wayne County who are pursuing a business degree at Grand Valley.

“Ray was not only a loyal supporter of Grand Valley, but a role model and mentor to our students," said President Philomena V. Mantella. "His leadership has left a lasting legacy at our university, and he will be greatly missed.”