MADE BY MEMBERS • November 2022
Entrepreneur Benjamin Weprin dreamed up Graduate Hotels – based in university towns – while he was an MBA student at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management in Chicago. Today, his team oversees 33 (and growing) Graduate properties in the US and two in the UK, as well as Marine & Lawn hotels in distinguished golfing destinations
Do you travel a lot for work?
Yes, I’m constantly visiting our hotels, searching for new properties and connecting with partners and investors throughout the US and UK. To create memorable experiences in unique communities across the globe, it’s crucial to spend meaningful time in each destination. It’s what connects you to the fabric of each community and helps you tell their stories.
The bright lights of Chicago (Ozzie Stern/Unsplash)
What would you tell someone planning a trip to Chicago?
Stay at the Chicago Athletic Association, visit the urban antique shop Scout in Andersonville, catch a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, have brunch at Eleven City Diner and enjoy dinner at Twin Anchors.
What plans does Graduate Hotels have for the UK?
We opened our first Graduate UK properties in Oxford and Cambridge last year, which was certainly monumental – these are two of the oldest and most prestigious university communities in the world.
St Andrews cathedral ruins
Where have you flown recently that you loved?
St Andrews in Edinburgh. Our Rusacks St Andrews hotel overlooks the Old Course and was an incredible place to stay during the 150th Open. That’s a part of the world every golfer must visit at least once.
What are your three in-flight essentials?
A book, AirPods and beef jerky.
What kind of traveller are you?
Fast and efficient, a light packer and a cultural explorer. In every one of our markets, I love to find the most iconic dive bar, the 100-year-old restaurant, the beloved antique shop.
How did your passion for interior design start?
I grew up in old homes and developed a strong appreciation for the stories behind historic properties. My passion starts and ends with storytelling, and interior design has been an incredible vehicle for that. Our residential experiences in commercial spaces work best when you combine items from a specific community with distinct design elements that encourage curiosity, discovery and nostalgia.
Reception area at Graduate Eugene
Most unusual feature in one of your hotels?
Our front desk at Graduate Eugene in Oregon. As a huge Nike fan, I had to do something big in Nike’s birthplace. We scoured the country and found 43 incredible pairs of vintage Nikes spanning from 1964 to 1980. The rare collection is reimagined into a front desk that resembles a shoe display counter. There’s also a pair of the original Nike Moon shoes.
What inspired you to focus on university towns in your new book, Graduate Hotels?
To empower guests to learn something new and spark curiosity about other Graduate destinations. It’s impossible to package up the entire experience into one book, but it’s certainly a beautiful vessel to share stories with travellers, curious locals, design lovers, and parents and students who have their eyes on university.
Favourite university town and why?
This is like asking to pick your favourite child. I’d have to say the towns of my own alma maters… Probably Rocky Top (University of Tennessee, Knoxville) and Evanston, IL (Northwestern University, just outside of Chicago).
Your dream hotel would need…
A story, a sense of purpose, soul, charm and a little mystery.