Denney Rutherford
Denney Rutherford

Fond remembrances of Denney Rutherford, Ivar Haglund Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the WSU School of Hospitality Business Management, illustrate the impact of his teaching and professionalism upon students and colleagues.

Rutherford passed away unexpectedly Feb. 11, but his legacy continues through the work he established and the people he touched while at WSU.

“He was indeed an industry icon,” said David Evans, hospitality business management national advisory board member, “and a marvelous human being and educator.”

Mark Beattie, former student and WSU assistant clinical professor of hospitality business management, said he spent the evening reminiscing about Rutherford’s influence over the years.

“I was in Denney’s first class as a full-time assistant professor with WSU,” Beattie said. “He has been a mentor ever since. Every career move I made was vetted through him. I was not even thinking of tackling a PhD program until he prodded me. I owe so much to Denney.”

“Professor Rutherford was one of the preeminent scholars in the hospitality field and was well respected by his peers for his research and service contributions,” said Terry Umbreit, former school director. “Over a significant period of time, his efforts resulted in our program gaining national stature, and he helped shape the hospitality education profession.”

Lisa Bliss (’80 hotel and restaurant administration) said she only met Rutherford a couple of times but was impressed by his warm and caring personality.

“It was very obvious that he was a people person,” she said. “He will be greatly missed by his family and friends.”

Rutherford received his PhD and M.Ed. degrees from the University of Washington and his bachelor’s in hotel administration and liberal arts from WSU (’66). Before entering academia, he spent several years gaining firsthand experience in hotel, beverage, lodging, group sales and restaurant management.

In September 1970, he began his academic career as an instructor at Seattle Central Community College. He taught at the WSU Seattle Center for Hotel and Restaurant Administration from 1978 until 1993, when he returned to the Pullman campus. He became a full professor in the School of Hospitality Business Management in 1992.

Rutherford was awarded the WSU Ivar Haglund Distinguished Professor of Hotel and Restaurant Administration in 1997. He was the hotel and restaurant administration program’s lead scholar, providing research and service to the hospitality academic and industry communities. He participated in national and international conferences to help shape the future of research to benefit industry practices, and he assisted in the development of effective teaching methodologies.

Rutherford’s research and teaching interests were in the legal aspects of hospitality operations as well as understanding the management characteristics of major hotel departments including housekeeping, engineering and front office. He was ranked the 10th most prolific author of research in the mainstream hospitality research journals. His article, “Managing Guest Intoxication: A Policy to Limit Third Party Liability,” was voted Article-of-the-Year for Volume 26 by the Cornell Quarterly.

He also was editor of three editions of “Hotel Department Operations: A Book of Readings” and was devoted to more than 30 service commitments involving WSU and the hospitality industry. He and his wife, Sandy, also established, supported and worked to endow a fund in hospitality created to honor Jerry and Kristi Schei, friends killed in a small-plane crash while enroute to an Apple Cup game in Pullman.

In 2000, Rutherford was chosen by his colleagues in the International Council on Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Education as recipient of the John Wiley Lifetime Achievement Research Award. In 2003 he received the WSU Carson College of Business Dean’s Fellowship award. In 2007, he received the WSU School of Hospitality Business Management’s 75th Anniversary award.

After retiring from WSU in 2004, he and his wife moved to Port Townsend, Wash., where he founded Rutherford & Associates LLC. He is survived by his wife, Sandy, at their home in Port Townsend.

Memorial donations may be made in Denney’s name to the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery, 1004 E. 8th Ave., Spokane, WA 99202, or to the WSU-Carson College of Business School of Hospitality Business Management Scholarship Fund. Checks can be made payable to WSU-Carson College of Business and mailed to PO Box 644750, Pullman, WA 99164, Attn: Raegan Harvey, or contact Raegan at or 509-335-9448 for alternative ways to give.