Happy Birthday, MS Management, Inc.
It all began with a friendship 50 years ago...
Manager Earle Jones, now assured of steady
ike Sturdivant, Glendora, Mis-
employment, had married Sunnyvale, Califor-
sissippi entrepreneur, had been
following the success of the nia sweetheart Irene Tikvica in January,
new Holiday Inn hotel com- 1956. Over the next three years, the Sturdi-
pany. Kemmons Wilson of Memphis, Ten- vant-Wilbourn-Jones partnership developed
nessee had founded the Holiday Inn hotel additional Holiday Inns in Columbia, South
brand in 1952 based on “the premise that … Carolina; Vicksburg, Mississippi; and a sec-
mobile Americans, at the end of a day’s ond property in Meridian. Over time, addi-
travel, wanted modern, clean and safe (hotel)tional brands were embraced by the partner-
accommodations that were easily accessible ship, including the Cabot Lodge Hotel brand,
from new (super) highways.” Sturdivant de- the company’s own limited feature concept
cided that their “business concept offered a and the historic King and Prince Beach and
great opportunity for success” and just threeGolf Resort on the Atlantic coast. “Today, the (Photo: Earle Jones &
King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort is one
years later in 1955 he and his uncle J.C. Wil- Mike Sturdivant Sr.)
bourn of Meridian, Mississippi contacted of the most celebrated hotels on the coast and
Holiday Inn about locating a hotel in Merid- its Hampton Club golf course was voted a highly successful Hotel Group, and Ronald
ian, Mississippi “on property near where one TOP 10 new course in 1989. Cockayne, a longtime friend and tennis part-
of those new superhighways was to cross.” ner of Earle Jones, was named President.
In 1988, Mike Sturdivant’s son, Gaines, was This new contract foodservice management
A year later on May 19, 1956, Mike Sturdi- promoted from Executive Vice President to company added a wide range of valuable cli-
vant and J.C. Wilbourn opened a Holiday President of the company with Mike Sturdi- ents including businesses, industries, clubs,
Inn in Meridian with Earle Jones serving as vant, Sr. and Earle Jones becoming co- colleges and schools and healthcare facilities.
General Manager (Mike had convinced his chairmen of the Board. Mr. Cockayne passed in November 2005 from
former Harvard Business School roommate to a massive stroke suffered in September, 2005.
move from California to Mississippi and join MMI Dining Systems was established in the
him in this opportunity.). Partner/General company in 1993 as a complement to the
Ronnie Cockayne Named President of MMI Dining Systems
onald J. Cockayne, Jr. began leading 10-plus year MMI Dining Systems in November, 2005, suc-
ceeding father Ronald Cockayne, Sr. as President. MMI Dining Systems’ Board installed
Ronnie as Interim President, and he quickly proved worthy of permanent ascension to the leader-
ship role. Early in January 2006, Ronnie was named President of MMI Dining Systems.
Where will he take this dynamic foodservice management firm? Straight to the top, MMI Hotel Group and
MMI Dining Systems execs opine.
No newcomer to the food service and hospitality industry, this President brings many years of district man-
agement and business development experience with him to lead this company. Along the way, he was men-
tored both by his father, Ron, and by hospitality industry leaders Earle Jones, Mike Sturdivant and Gaines
Ronnie is a graduate of Mississippi State University, earning a BBA degree in banking and finance. Prior to
(Continued on page 2)
The MMI InnSpirer — Spring 2006
Publisher: Gaines Sturdivant \ Editors: Norma Brown and Jim Hart \ Producer: Trey Tracy
(Ronnie Cockayne Named President Continued from service and to maximize the "Guest First"
tation of dining operations in university and
page 1) college environments. concept - a primary goal of MMI. Ronnie also
helps stimulate and develop contract sales by
joining MMI Dining Systems, he held a vari- Ronnie joined MMI Dining Systems in 1994 working with sales departments of MMI ho-
ety of management positions in the foodser- as a Resource Manager. Since he joined MMI tels, existing client contacts and corporate
vice industry. he has opened and successfully met clients' MMI personnel.
expectations for quality foods and services in
From 1991 to 1993, Ronnie was the Food college, business and industry facilities. Ron, Sr. passed away in 2005 following
Service Director for an acute care hospital in a massive stroke. Ronnie’s proven capabili-
Jackson, Mississippi, where his duties in- For his initial responsibility with MMI Dining ties and work ethic have merited his promo-
cluded production, inventory, merchandising, Systems, Ronnie was a District Manager for tion to President of, and partnership interest
and marketing for patient feeding, hospital the Mississippi and Louisiana regions. His in, MMI Dining Systems. He continues to
cafeteria services, and catering. Subse- primary objective was to supervise, coordi- lead the company, observing its founding
quently, he was Resource Manager for a con- nate, merchandise and control costs of the principles. Foremost is that he follows the
tract management service company, focusing food and beverage operations, to insure cor- MMI credo wherein "the customer is our true
on the successful development and implemen- porate standards of quality in product and boss".
MMI Dining Systems Update
Cynde Houston, Food and Beverage Director of Belhaven College, has been promoted to District Manager at MMI Dining Systems’ corpo-
rate headquarters. In this position, Cynde will oversee and expand MMI Dining Systems presence and effectiveness in college and academic
contract foodservice operations. Congratulations Cynde!
Donnie Edwards has joined MMI Dining Systems as its Director of Business Development. A registered dietician (RD), Mrs. Edwards
brings strong knowledge of healthcare, business/industry and education food service operations. Using this knowledge base, she has overseen
several southeastern states’ business development for one of three large contract companies and more. Donnie and spouse Carlton have three
daughters: Lindsey, Natalie and Katy and one grandson, Michael Lee. Welcome Donnie!
Training Director’s Corner
he late Ronald Cockayne, Sr. summed up the work that I
would be doing at MMI if selected its corporate director of
training and recruitment in “a six-word job description”
more than seven years: “Your job is to ‘seek, select, hire,
train, re-train and retain’ people”, he said.
Subsequently, when Ron gave visiting guests the office tour and intro-
ductions, he would immediately request the recitation of my job de-
scription, “Now Norma, tell them what your six-word job description
is!” He would count fingers as I rattled off the six words … and
would crack jokes when I got any of them out of order or was slow to
During that initial interview, Ron asked me what had brought me back
to Mississippi from Atlanta, GA, and I replied that my husband re-
turned to lead the federal Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA)
Mississippi operations. When he subsequently met my husband, he
held out both hands, grinned teasingly and said, “My name is Ron
Cockayne, with a “K”, just so you know”. This became a “no pun
intended” joke between them.
Ronald, Jr. has assumed the leadership of MMI Dining Systems and
he is destined to take the company to new and different levels. He MMI InfoLink is back and better than ever with its
obviously has Ron, Sr.’s flair for hospitality and passion for perfec- new, fresh look and easy access.
tion. It will be my pleasure to continue to practice the components of
my six-word job description under his leadership. Visit https://www.mmi-infolink.com to check it out.
Contact Webmaster Trey Tracy if you have any sugges-
By: Norma C. Brown, tions, updates, etc.
Corporate Director Training and Recruitment
2 The MMI Inn-Spirer Spring 2006
MMI Hotel Group Update
Hilton Garden Inn is now open for business in Madison, MS. MMI Hotel Group’s new Hilton
Garden Inn is a welcome addition to the Madison community, with its 134 well-appointed guest
rooms. General Manger Tim Coleman and Assistant General Manager Larry Hazen launched and are leading the new Hilton Garden Inn,
that opened its doors mid-January, 2006. Word is that it was Mayor Mary Hawkins-Butler’s call to Hilton’s corporate headquarters in Mem-
phis and her insistence that Madison’s first hotel had to be a “Hilton” that secured the franchise. A strict enforcer of codes and standards, the
Mayor beamed with pleasure at the outcome of her city’s first Hilton Hotel at a recent opening celebration. A bridge across the lake connects
the HGI to Bonefish Grill, which provides room service for HGI guests. Check
out the new Hilton Garden Inn at Madison for yourself – call (601) 420-0442 to
make a reservation.
Congratulations to the staff of the Hilton Garden Inn Madison for a success-
ful “Grow a Garden Day” that was held April 7, 2006. The participating class
was Mrs. Sharon Kirk’s 4th grade class at Madison Avenue Upper Elementary
School in Madison. HGI GM and staff had a great time and, most importantly,
the Kids had a wonderful learning experience.
(Photo: “Grow a Garden Day” at Madison Avenue Upper Elementary School’s
Cabot Lodge Jackson North recently was selected a finalist for “Best Places to Work in Mis-
sissippi” by the Mississippi Business Journal. Uniquely, Cabot Lodge – North’s associates decided
the finalists and winners by logging-on to MBJ’s website and voting for the Cabot Lodge. Congratulations to General Manager Scott Sledge
and the worthy Cabot North associates for being recognized as one of the Best Places to Work in Mississippi. “The broad field of participants
and quality of these companies is such that your achievement is particularly meaningful,” said Robbie Bell of the Mississippi Business Jour-
nal, contest organizers.
Embassy Suites – Jamaican Court was honored by the Hilton Corporation when the corpora-
tion awarded its first ever “LEAP-FROG AWARD” to Embassy for increasing its guest satisfaction
scores from below 50 % to over 100%!! Way to grow, Ron and Embassy team!
Embassy Suites – Jamaican Court was named the United Child Development Centers of Central Florida’s 2005 Outstanding Corporate
Volunteers of the Year in December, 2005. This award was bestowed on the Embassy Suites and employees for the 11-year commitment to
provide “our annual Children and Families Holiday Party, and for making wishes come true for many very brave children who receive ther-
apy and educational services at UCP. More than 9,000 children and their family members have attended this annual party, which always in-
cludes a lavish buffet, entertainment, characters, and a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus!
Tom "Daddy" Wafer, sales manager at
the Holiday Inn South in Baton
Rouge, has retired after more than 19 years of service. This is Tom's second retire-
ment. He spent over 15 years with the Louisiana Dept. of Education where
he spearheaded the LSU and Southern University sport market and established a
number of key contacts within Louisiana state government. MMI VP of Marketing
Fred Ruder and family and friends celebrated the occasion of Tom's retirement at
a January 9, 2006 luncheon (photo). Mr. Wafer's contributions are appreciated by
his MMI and Holiday Inn families, who wish him well in retirement.
(Photo L-R: Fred Ruder, VP Marketing, Scott Michelet, General Manager present
Tom Wafer a service plaque.)
Ronald J. Cockayne, Sr.
By Earle F. Jones, Co-Chairman
s I look about this remarkable church I’m reminded
that Yankee stadium in New York was labeled “The
House that Ruth built”. It was the Babe’s prowess at
the plate that brought in the crowds that paid for the
historic structure. Well, here we have a church that became a real-
ity in large part because Ron Cockayne served as the immensely
successful Finance Chair that raised the necessary millions to pro-
duce this edifice. Don’t you think the tag line on all signage, stationery, etc. should be: “The House that Cockayne
built”? Church officers considered it, but felt the implied meaning of the message would be inappropriate.
I first met Ron at a party around this time of year. He was conversing with his now-neighbor and good friend, John
Tracy about football, specifically about the upcoming Michigan-Ohio State game. The serious topic involved the ap-
propriate point spread that would define what would become the annual bet. Though a graduate of Hillsdale College
in Michigan, Ron was a diehard Michigan fan. John had graduated from Ohio State. The serious fans soon wrapped
up the terms of their wager and turned to introductory background information offered by each of us: vocation, fam-
ily, interests—especially in sports.
Not too much time elapsed before I received an invitation from Ron to join him as a tennis partner at a Saturday game
of doubles. That had to be well over 30 years ago. It was on the tennis court that I learned of Ron’s fierce competitive
spirit, his intense desire to win, his kidding, teasing and supportive enthusiasm.
I’m no athlete; Ron was. He made a great doubles partner for me as he unbelievably chased down balls that I should
have hit. They’d pass me by and I’d yell, “It’s yours, Ron!” With him making 90% of the winning shots, we made a
Our Saturday tennis lasted for over 30 years. The long term opponents were John T.C. Low and Dr. Willard Bog-
gan—both of whom were more mature than Ron and me. For the last five years they had become octogenarians. Ron
teased John unmercifully. Due to bad knees, the poor man had lost his mobility. He expected his opponents to hit the
ball to him while he stood motionless on his side of the court. Occasionally Ron delighted in dropping a short shot
just over the net, in order to hear John bellyache. On one birthday he presented John with an artistically fashioned
tennis racquet featuring, as an example of his creativity, a rear view mirror so John could see the lobs that he hadn’t
run backwards to intercept.
During his senior year at Hillsdale College, the school’s undefeated football season merited a trip to the first ever
Holiday Bowl at Orlando, Florida. It’s hard to believe, but Ron played both offense and defense … fullback and line-
backer. His team lost in a closely fought game. But it was a memorable experience for Ron, one whose anniversary
was commemorated by the school not too many years ago. The administration invited all the living members of the
team and their head coach back to the campus for a reunion week-end.
Patient Julie wasn’t accorded any immunity from his sarcasm or prankster proclivities. They met while Ron was run-
ning the food service at Western Washington College and Julie was a student. Julie departed the next year and moved
to southern California to continue her studies. She was told that Ron had been reassigned to a
4 The MMI Inn-Spirer Spring 2006
food service outlet in New Orleans, but she didn’t really know if that were the case. However, Julie had accepted a
New Orleans job with Boeing. Her friends challenged her to call around to all the schools in the area whose food ser-
vice was provided by Saga to see if Ron could be located. That’s what she did, and she found him. Can you believe it
– their first date was at the Playboy Club? Six months later they were married.
Ron’s summary interpretation was that Julie chased him all over the United States. Regardless, she nailed him and
with him raised a wonderful, close-knit family over the next 42 years. It was a joy to be around that group, especially
Ron. He’d organize annual, fascinating trips: Disney World, Colorado ski slopes and warm weather winter cruises
were among the destinations. Almost every Easter the Cockayne(s) would be found at their condominium on the Gulf,
where everyone was expected to participate in sunrise Easter services on the beach.
Sometimes Ron recruited his children to participate in impractical practical jokes on his “friends”. When his peer
group first entered their forties, it became a tradition to pull some sort of surprise happening to commemorate the oc-
casion. Evidently one of his friends had dreamed up some sort of diabolical observance of a 40th birthday that went
beyond an acceptable joke.
Ron set out to make the offender pay. Daughter Jenean, an avid horsewoman who had her own steed, was enlisted to
help. For a mere $2.00, she gathered up generous piles of horse manure and placed them in gunny sacks. When the
prospective victim had driven the last car into the garage and the family had gone to bed, Jenean and her dad spread
the manure over the concrete drive, in front of the garage door… on which was posted a scatological birthday greet-
Well, for the past 12 years, we of the MMI Hotel Group and Dining Systems had had the joy and fun of working with
Ron and his son Ronnie, too. Starting with no sales, Ron in his tenure with us built a food service company involving
outlets producing over $63 million in sales with approximately 1,200 employees. With Ronnie’s expanded help,
along with a dedicated staff, we plan to grown this significant business even more.
Frequently, when Ron would be asked to name his profession, he’d say, “I’m supposed to be in the food service busi-
ness, but I’m really in the personnel business.” That was a reference to the reality of employee turnover in contract
feeding—and food service generally. Yet somehow Ron beat all the comparative turnover data available in his chosen
field. In the process he built a surprisingly stable organization of dedicated, energized and hospitable staffs.
Famed business observer Peter Drucker passed away at the end of last week. He was 95. Many executives in our
MMI organization had read his thoughtful books on management over the years. Ron was one of them. There’s no
doubt about it. He believed in Drucker’s oft-repeated admonition: “People are key to any organization. For example
a leader who looks at workers as a cost instead of a resource is fatally flawed.”
During Ron’s last days he could enunciate very few words. His language was simply the repetition of the word “one”.
How do you feel today, Ron?” The answer would be, “One and one and one”. As I prepared for these remarks, I got
to thinking, “Maybe his brain was ingrained with the competitive spirit that’s been his life-long hallmark. Perhaps
he’s telling us that all he wants—and expects of us is to be number one”.
Well, Ron, we’ll try mightily to follow in your footsteps, to be the winners you expect of us. God bless you—and
Delivered at Christ United Methodist Church
2005 Fall Management Meeting & Leadership Awards
MMI DINING SYSTEMS AWARD WINNERS MMI HOTEL GROUP “HOTEL” AWARD WINNERS
Service Edge Award – Co-Winners Outstanding Hotel Food Operation of the Year
Capital Club General Manager, David Hollis Holiday Inn – Airport, Jack Forstrom, Food & Beverage Director
The Golf Club of Amelia Island, Food & Beverage Director Kevin Mark Kane, General Manager
Runner-up Hotel Food Operation of the Year
Dynamic Marketer Award King and Prince Beach Resort, David Morley, Food and Beverage
Jackson Yacht Club, General Manager Ronald Lucas Director, Michael Johnson, General Manager
Contract Property of the Year Hotel of the Year
Menorah Manor, Food and Beverage Director Bill Caldwell King and Prince Beach Resort, Michael Johnson, General Manager
Hotel of the Year Runner-up
Cabot Lodge – Thomasville Road, Karen Lambert, General Manager
2005 HOTEL DEPARTMENT AWARDS WINNERS!
Administration Department of the Year
Runner-up: Downtown Oxford Inn & Suites, Oxford, Mississippi – Carmin Horn
Winner: Embassy Suites – Jamaican Court, Orlando, Florida – Lea Neill
Dining Room Department of the Year
Runner-up: Holiday Inn – South, Baton Rouge, Louisiana – LaTasha Barrow
Winner: King & Prince Beach & Golf Resort, St. Simons Island, GA – Shannon Lane
Front Desk Department of the Year
Runner-up: Courtyard by Marriott, Jacksonville, Florida – Lillian Reed
Winner: Cabot Lodge – North Monroe, Tallahassee, Florida – Brennan Fogarty
Housekeeping Department of the Year
Runner-up: Cabot Lodge – Jackson North, Ridgeland, Mississippi – Ruth Scott
Winner: Courtyard by Marriott, Jacksonville, Florida – Dorothy Lovett
Kitchen Department of the Year
Runner-up: Quality Inn, Lake City, Florida – Julia Roberts
Winner: Holiday Inn – Airport, Jacksonville, Florida – Arthur White
Lounge Department of the Year
Runner-up: King & Prince Beach & Golf Resort, St. Simons Island, Georgia – Chris Baker
Winner: Holiday Inn – South, Baton Rouge, Louisiana – LaTasha Barrow
Maintenance Department of the Year
Runner-up: Courtyard by Marriott, Jacksonville, Florida – Warren Penrad
Winner: Quality Inn, Lake City, Florida – Alan McCall
Sales Department of the Year
Runner-up: Holiday Inn – South, Baton Rouge, Louisiana – Russ Lear
Winner: Embassy Suites – Jamaican Court, Orlando, Florida – Caroline Farnham
Limited Feature Food & Beverage Department of the Year
Runner-up: Sleep Inn, Flowood, Mississippi – Nina Nail
Winner: Cabot Lodge, Gainesville, Florida – Mike Bray
Safety Committee of the Year
Runner-up: Cabot Lodge – North Monroe, Tallahassee, Florida
Winner: Cabot Lodge – Thomasville Road, Tallahassee, Florida
6 The MMI Inn-Spirer Spring 2006
Faces from the 2005
Fall Management Meeting at...
King & Prince Karaoke
Congratulations LaTasha Barrow of Holiday Inn Baton Rouge
South --- winner of two domestic Delta tickets!
(Photo: Ruth Scott, Cabot Lodge Jackson North; Carmin Horn, Down-
town Oxford Inn & Suites; LaTasha Barrow, Holiday Inn Baton Rouge
MMI Supervisors Workshop — “50 Years of Leadership”
MI President Gaines Sturdivant reminded participants that “If
you are not directly serving the guest, you had bet-
ter be (about the business of) serving the people
who ARE serving the guest” at MMI Hotel Group’s
March workshops. Corporate leaders served some of the people serving MMI’s
guests at the 2006 Supervisors’ Workshops: “50 Years of Leadership”. Supervi-
sors got first-hand information from Sturdivant in his front desk department
break-out sessions. If you missed it, ask front desk department supervisors to
describe the attributes of a “Great Front Desk” operation! (The DVD soon will
be available for training of new front desk associates.)
Corporate leaders excitedly shared their expertise and exchanged ideas with
department heads, often who shared a few of their own insights. A favorite gen-
eral session was presented by Ron Caimano, General Manager of the Embassy
Suites – Orlando: “Giving Guests the Gusto—Proven
Ways to Increase Guest Loyalty! Ask any supervisor
to cite some of Ron’s very useful and cost effective
ideas. Whether recovering from “Oops” or simply
winning over children (important present and next
generation hotel guests), the Embassy seems to have
honed some very practical techniques!
Other corporate presenters included Senior VP
Operations Joe Morgan; VP Admin/HR Jim
Hart; VP Marketing Fred Ruder; Regional
Director Scott Sledge; VP Technical Ser-
vices Ken O’Keefe; Director of Contractor
Services Ronnie Roe; Consultant Claude
Collins; District Manager Bob Gilstrap;
General Manager Donald Harris; Dis-
trict Manager Dave
McEwen; Director Special Projects Tom Feller; King and Prince Director of Cater-
ing Angela Hutchins; Assistant Controller Laura Rabalais; Payroll Manager
Tina Presley and Corporate Director Training and Recruitment Norma Brown.
The corporate staff sends kudos and special thanks to host hotels and staff at Cabot
Lodge – Millsaps, Quality Inn – Lake City and Holiday Inn – Jacksonville Airport. Our accommodations
truly were spectacular.
(Photos above: Courtyard General Manager, Donald Harris leads food and beverage workshop break-out
8 The MMI Inn-Spirer Spring 2006