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Monday, March 30th, 2009 - 12:25 pm

By Megan Summers

Deno K. Yiankes…

Deno K. Yiankes

President/CEO Investments and Development, White Lodging Services Corp.

From the time he was in high school and began his first job working in the hospitality industry, Deno Yiankes had a taste for the business. So, in 1984 when he graduated from Merrillville High School, Purdue University Calumet’s Restaurant, Hotel and Institutional Management (RHIM) program seemed a perfect fit.

At the time, the RHIM program (now called Hospitality and Tourism Management) was a two-year program, and Yiankes’ plan was to earn an associate degree at the Hammond campus and then transfer to Purdue’s West Lafayette campus to complete a bachelor’s degree in the discipline. However, during his second year, Purdue Calumet expanded its offering to a full, four-year baccalaureate degree.

‘. . . Great for me’

“It was great for me,” Yiankes said. “By being able to stay close to home, I could save money, go to school full time and still work 30 to 40 hours a week to self-fund my education.” While attending Purdue Calumet, Yiankes worked at the Holiday Star Plaza in Merrillville. It was during his time there that he occasionally would encounter Bruce White, now Chairman and CEO of White Lodging Services.

“My plans were to eventually become the general manager of a restaurant or hotel,” Yiankes said, “but it was an internship my senior year that helped lead me in another direction.”

Yiankes accepted an opportunity to work in Mineola, NY for a semester with HVS International, a consulting and services organization that focuses on hotel, restaurant, shared ownership, gaming and leisure industries.

Internship proved important

“My six months with HVS really expanded my horizons as to other career paths available to me,” he said. “Without the opportunity provided by Purdue Calumet to do an internship, I might not have found my true career calling.”

After graduating in 1988, Yiankes returned to work for HVS, during which time he had a chance meeting with White. Attending the same conference in 1990, Yiankes and White struck up a conversation wherein White explained his new business venture. Intrigued, Yiankes accepted White’s offer to come on board, and he has not looked back since.

During Yiankes’ tenure, White Lodging Services has grown from four hotels in Indiana to a currently managed portfolio of more than 135 premium branded hotels in 17 states totaling more than 19,500 guestrooms.

Serving his alma mater

“I’m on the Chancellor’s Board of Advisors at Purdue Calumet,” Yiankes noted, “and we talk a lot about the major emphasis the University puts on experiential learning. Whether you call it experiential learning or an internship, it’s a powerful tool that will help you succeed. I know it helped me be a step ahead of many of my fellow students when I graduated.”

While crediting his six-month period in New York with helping him get where he is today, Yiankes also noted the incredible value Purdue Calumet afforded him. “It was great to graduate and not come out with debt the size of a mortgage payment.”

Along with serving on the Chancellor’s Board of Advisors, Yiankes demonstrates his appreciation to his alma mater by teaching as a guest lecturer. He also was instrumental in the establishment of two annual scholarships offered through White Lodging Services.