J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott believed that if you give to worthy causes and support community needs, people will be empowered and positive change will occur.
When J. Willard was a young man, he experienced this kind of giving on a personal level. He had left school to help on his family’s farm and did not have the high school credits or money to enroll in college. That’s when Aaron Tracy, a teacher and administrator at Weber College, stepped in.
In 1921, Aaron gave him an opportunity—the support and push he needed to pursue higher education. Aaron enrolled him in classes and helped him find odd jobs around the college that would pay his full tuition. When J. Willard graduated from Weber, Aaron Tracy— who had been named president of the college—shook his hand and said, “Forward, my boy, forward.”
J. Willard went on to the University of Utah and graduated in 1926. His dream was to build his own business and give others the kind of opportunity Aaron Tracy had given him. He married Alice Sheets in 1927 and one day later, they drove to Washington, D.C., in a Model T Ford to open a nine-stool A&W root beer stand. For the next 58 years, they focused on growing their business, while raising a family and giving back to the community. With the help of their two sons, J.W. “Bill” Jr. and Richard, they built the company from a root beer stand, to the successful chain of Hot Shoppes casual family restaurants, to one of the world’s largest hospitality companies.
J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott shared a passion for education, the arts, politics, and numerous other causes. Much of this involvement was spearheaded by Alice. She was a pioneer who paved the way for women in business and in the community. They were an extraordinary couple and the Foundation’s work preserves the legacy of the founders.