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UJ alumnus and hospitality industry magnate Len Wolman shares the keys to success

A stalwart supporter of the University of Johannesburg's (UJ) School of Tourism and Hospitality (STH), Len Wolman epitomises what it means to be a part of a university's alumni. He has maintained and strengthened his connection with UJ through his support for the STH, both financially and with his time and expertise.

Wolman's UJ journey began when he studied a National Diploma in Hotel Management at the former Witwatersrand Hotel School, graduating in 1976. His then military service influenced his decision to go into the hospitality, when worked in the Officers' Mess after having been drafted to Cooks' School. This gave him a taste of the industry and encouraged him to pursue studies in that field. During his internships Sunnyside Park and Landdrost hotels, Wolman has learned a great deal from the experience: "I was given the opportunity to work in each and every department," he recalls. "This provided me with a comprehensive look at all aspects of running a hotel and confirmed my interest in pursuing a lifelong career in hospitality."

Since 1986, Wolman served as Chairman and CEO of Waterford Group, LLC, and under his leadership, Waterford has established itself as a leading company in the hospitality industry. Wolman also serves as a permanent Board Member of the STH Board and has previously served on the UJ Board of Governors. Of his dedication to his continued involvement in STH, he says, "I truly believe it is important to give back to STH at UJ and to future generations. Without the opportunities, support, and assistance that I received as I developed my career, I would not have been able to realize my dreams."

Over his 40 years' experience in the hospitality and tourism industry, Wolman has learned the importance of cultivating and maintaining great relationships and creating experiences. He emphasises that "The greatest asset of any organisation is its human resources, and you need to take care of them." On a personal level, it all comes down to dedication, he says: "The keys to success are hard work, perseverance, persistence, and the pursuit of one's goal while never compromising your values or integrity. It is vital to treat failures and setbacks as learning opportunities – a career is a marathon, not a sprint – and to lead by example," he says.

Wolman's relocation to the United States did not dampen his passion for making a difference to those around him and advancing the hospitality and tourism industries. After moving to the USA, he founded the non-profit group Mystic Coast & Country, serves on the leadership boards for a wide variety of organisations, including the Eastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce, the Connecticut Tourism Advisory Council, and the American Hotel & Lodging Association, and has been actively involved in the establishment of tourism-related programmes at various schools and colleges in the Connecticut area. In addition, Waterford has offered more than 30 STH students the opportunity to work at hotels in the US operated by the hotel group since 1990. This is further reflected in his response to #FeesMustFall – reiterating the importance of continued alumni support of scholarships for their alma mater institutions.