Remembering Ray Bennett
A message from our Board President remembering
CollegeTracks Board Member Ray Bennett
It is with deep sadness that I share the news that CollegeTracks Board Member Ray Bennett passed away last Thursday, May 5th. Ray had suffered a heart attack a few weeks earlier, and despite the efforts of his doctors and family it was too much to overcome. All of us who knew him at CollegeTracks are deeply saddened by the loss of such an incredible colleague, and such an accomplished, caring person. We are keeping Ray’s wife, Vivian, and children, Gabrielle, Rachael, Michelle, and Michael, in our thoughts.Ray was born in Detroit, MI, and was a first-generation-to-college scholar. He believed deeply in the importance of education, and earned his bachelor’s and an honorary doctorate from Grand Valley State University. Ray joined the CollegeTracks Board of Directors in 2020, and served as Marriott’s President, Franchising US and Canada, Marriott International. When he first encountered CollegeTracks in 2019, he knew nothing about the organization, but as soon as he became informed about our mission and saw the scholars we serve, he wanted to do everything he could to help because, as he said, “that was me.” As a Board Member for CollegeTracks, Ray worked hard to support the organization, despite the busy schedule and relentless travel his work required.
Ray worked for Marriott for over 20 years, holding many different positions. His recent promotion to become Marriott’s President, U.S. and Canada, Franchising, made him one of the most senior leaders in the company. Ray also was a force in founding the Marriott-Sorenson Center for Hospitality Leadership at Howard University, a member of the Academy of Hospitality & Tourism Industry Advisory Board for Washington, DC Public Schools, and of The Executive Leadership Council, a national mentoring, networking, and development organization comprised of Black CEOs and senior executives from Fortune 500 companies.
The following was included in Marriott’s statement remembering Ray, and we wanted to share it with you:
What really defined Ray was not what happened at the office, but how he lived his life outside of Marriott. Ray was a man of faith who found great strength in his church and family. Ask Ray about Vivian and the kids, and his trademark megawatt smile would emerge as he shared a story with a mix of pride and wonder at his good fortune to have such an amazing wife and children. Despite the demands of his career, Ray always made time for his family. He coached Rachael’s and Michelle’s volleyball teams to championships and was so excited when both of his daughters ended up playing volleyball in college at American University and Virginia Tech, respectively. Recently, Ray’s oldest daughter, Gabrielle, got married to Chevoy Johnson and Ray could not have been prouder as a father and in his new role, as father-in-law. Ray’s teenage son has shown an interest in becoming a pilot, so in typical Ray fashion, he was jumping in to help Michael work through how to achieve his goals. As a family, the Bennetts savored time at the beach in Delaware, where they loved nothing better than to be surrounded by family and friends. Ray was competitive and driven in all aspects of his life, including golf and he beat me often – but was always a gracious winner.
We will all miss Ray and we look forward to honoring his memory in our work every day. As Liam Brown, the Group President of Marriott, said in his message about Ray: “The best way we can all honor Ray’s legacy is by holding the door open for others, just as he did in his professional life and in his personal life.”
Information on arrangements can be found HERE.