“My mother was a true partner to my father in the early days of the business.” – J.W. Marriott, Jr.
Alice Sheets Marriott was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on October 19, 1907, to Alice Taylor and Edwin Spencer Sheets. Edwin, a lawyer and a Bishop in the local stake of the Mormon Church, died in the flu epidemic of 1919 when Alice was only 12. While her widowed mother kept the household together, the young girl applied herself to her studies, entering the University of Utah at age 16.
During her junior year, Alice - or Allie - caught the eye of tall, tow-headed J. Willard Marriott, a graduating senior. "There's the kind of a girl I'd like to marry," confided Marriott to a fellow classmate as Alice strolled by on her way to classes. After a date arranged by a mutual friend, the pair courted steadily for more than a year, but delayed marrying until the day following Alice's graduation with honors at age 19 in June 1927. Immediately following the ceremony, the newlyweds loaded up the groom's Model T Ford with their belongings and set off for Washington, D.C., where two weeks earlier J. Willard had opened a tiny A&W Root Beer stand.
Alice initially expected to have little to do with her husband's new business. But the bride soon found herself pulled into almost every aspect of the fledgling company. Her roles ranged from keeping the books, to gathering recipes for the "Hot Shoppe" menu, to picking out the decor for the company's growing roster of locations. As the Hot Shoppes expanded, she joined J. Willard on his daily round of site visits: "I used to go with him, sit in the car at night, and wait for him. I would be out on the walk and would watch the curb service to see what they were doing."
Although the birth of her two sons, J. Willard, Jr. (1932) and Richard (1939) took Alice away from the day-to-day operations of the company, she remained a vital force behind major decisions and events. A knack for sizing up people and analyzing business concepts proved invaluable as the company grew and diversified. Her long tenure on the board of directors also gave Alice a perspective on the business that only J. Willard himself could match. When her older son Bill, Jr., steered the company toward the hotel business in the 1960s, he had her full support. In 1972, when J. Willard was struggling with the decision to hand off his role as CEO to his son, Alice's soft-spoken but no-nonsense style helped her husband come to terms with passing the baton to the next generation.
In addition to her corporate and family responsibilities, Alice devoted time to a number of civic, charitable and cultural institutions, and causes. She held several high-ranking roles in the Republican party, including treasurer of the national conventions in 1964, 1968, and 1972. Alice was also a trustee of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and served two ten-year terms on its board and its executive and finance committees. She served as a member of the National Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases Advisory Council, as well as on the board of the Metropolitan Washington chapter of the Arthritis Foundation, winning the latter's first Lifetime Achievement Award. Other organizations to which she gave time and talent include the National Symphony Orchestra, National Ballet Society and Goodwill Industries Guild, among others. Her personal philosophy of volunteerism is remembered in the Alice S. Marriott Award for Community Service, an honor bestowed annually on a Marriott business unit that exemplifies the volunteer spirit.
Widowed by J. Willard Marriott's death in August 1985, Alice died on April 17, 2000, at the age of 92, the mother of two, grandmother of eight, and great-grandmother of twenty-three.