“Danny’’ Alsamadi earned two degrees at Southeastern in the 1980s before embarking on a career in the field of hotel administration.
It’s approximately 6,500 miles from Kuwait to Durant, Oklahoma. In flight time, that translates into about 19 hours.
But for at least one young man from that part of the world in the late 1970s, the journey was well worth it.
Mohsen “Danny’’ Alsamadi found a home at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, earning a bachelor’s degree (’81) in business administration and a master’s in administrative studies (’83).
Alsamadi recently retired after a successful career of 40 years in the hospitality industry, spanning from Texas to Maryland; among his notable employers were Hyatt, Four Seasons, and Marriott Hotels and Resorts. He recently visited Durant and Southeastern for the first time since graduating.
“Southeastern really gave me a good foundation in terms of my education and the classes I took, and how to communicate with other people and learning about American culture,” the affable Alsamadi said recently.
He arrived in America as an international student in the fall of 1978 to attend Southeastern, a school he was familiar with because of a brother who was a student at SE at the time.
And his first job in the hospitality industry was actually at Southeastern, where he washed dishes in the university cafeteria for $1.62 an hour.
He recalls that Dr. Larry Minks, who was a business professor and advisor at the time and who later was president, had a very big influence on him, along with the late Spanish professor Dr. Jorge Morales.
While at Southeastern, Alsmadi and other students organized a soccer club team, and also engaged in other activities within the community to learn more about American culture and better communicate with people.
Growing up in the Middle Eastern country of Kuwait, Alsamadi saw America as the land of opportunity.
“We adore America,’’ he said. “When you come here, you’re able to be free and independent. I knew I could make it here because I had heard the phrase, ‘if you work hard, it pays off.’ ‘’
Pay off, it did, as after graduating, he began a career in the hospitality industry – specifically in hotel administration. He spent most of that time working for Marriott and advanced to the position of director of hotel operations at a location in Baltimore, Maryland, until his retirement earlier this year.
Alsamadi and his wife now reside in a small town in Pennsylvania, about an hour from Baltimore. He says that his experiences in Durant left him with the desire to live in a similar sized town instead of a big city.
He’s looking forward to retirement and spending more time with his family, including his three daughters, who have all earned college degrees and begun careers of their own.
When asked during his recent visit about changes in Durant since 1983, he laughed and said, “Oh my gosh, have they changed,” referencing the growth of the city and the Choctaw Casino & Resort, as well as north Texas.
“There’s a lot more people (than me) that have left this school that have success stories because of what they are doing today and it’s because of the degree they got from here,” Alsamadi said.
That being said, Southeastern is continuing its rich tradition of serving international students. This weekend, students from 20 countries will be graduating at Southeastern’s Spring Commencement.