2010 – Ralph Lee

Hotel Whitcomb

In 1967, at the age of 13, Ralph Lee immigrated with his family to the United States from Taiwan. Frequent family travels as a youngster had already ignited an early curiosity about hotel business. At the age of 19, Ralph entered the hotel industry with a summer job as a utility houseman, and continued his passion towards customer service while attending San Jose State University. Over the next four years, he worked various line positions such as bellman, van driver, busboy, waiter, room service, desk clerk, and night auditor. By his 24th birthday, he was promoted from Assistant Manager to General Manager. By the age of 26, he was the Area Manager for five properties in Northern California. Three years later, he was the Regional Director for 16 hotels in California. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Ralph held various General Manager and Regional positions with Howard Johnson Company, Prime Hospitality Inc., Sage Hospitality Resources Inc., and, prior to his arrival in San Francisco, as the Regional Director for Village Resorts, where he was responsible for seven resorts on the islands of Maui and Kauai.

In 1995, Ralph arrived in San Francisco as General Manager of the Ramada Plaza. His “Aloha Spirit” philosophy – to teach beyond the work – has touched his associates at all levels through his personal, professional, and community contributions. Ralph has been recognized by both Mayor Brown and Mayor Newsom for his involvement in issues serving the community – from Mayor Brown’s Great Sweep and Mayor Newsom’s Care not Cash initiative to developing the first “Green Pod” for outdoor sidewalk seating on Market Street. His passion to preserve San Francisco history paved the way for Hotel Whitcomb’s inclusion in the National Trust Historic Hotels of America. His efforts returned the hotel to its original name and stature dating back to its days as a temorary City Hall from 1912 to 1915 after the devastation of the original City Hall in the 1906 earthquake. He has had numerous leadership roles as a member of the Hotel Council’s Executive Committee and Board of Directors, the San Francisco Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (San Francisco Travel) Board, Past President of the Market Street Association, and Vice-Chair for Goodwill Industries. In 2007 he was awarded the Hotel Hero Lifetime Achievement Award for Hotel Executive.