John Russell

Senior Vice President, Development and Guest Experience, Georgia Aquarium

John Russell is the senior vice president of development and guest experience at Georgia Aquarium. He oversees the development, guest programs, education and security departments at Georgia Aquarium. Prior to Georgia Aquarium, Russell was president and partner of Sentry Hospitality and Sentry Companies where he was responsible for hospitality business development for existing and new hospitality verticals.

Russell has over four decades of experience in the hospitality industry. Known as a successful brand builder and innovator of new brands in the hospitality industry, he has served as chairman and chief executive officer or senior executive for companies including ITT Sheraton, Days Inn of America, Carlson Companies, Benchmark Hospitality, HFS, Cendant, RCI, Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown and Russell, NYLO Hotels, MODO Hotels, and CampusBrands. Russell played a role in helping to accelerate growth of brands including Days Inn, Ramada, Howard Johnson and Super 8. He also served as chief executive officer for three management companies, Days Inn Management Company, Colony Hotels and Resorts, and NYLO Hotels, and launched three hospitality companies.

In addition to holding several leadership positions throughout his career, Russell has served in a leadership capacity with various professional associations and received multiple awards. He served two terms as president of the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) and was inducted into the HSMAI Hall of Fame in 1998. He served as the Chairman on the American Hotel and Lodging Association in 2001 and continues to hold multiple board seats.

Russell attended West Point United States Military Academy where he received a bachelor of science in general engineering, and went on to serve as a captain in the United States Army and served in Vietnam.  He is married with two children and five grandchildren. John enjoys golf, tennis and movies. He is passionate about preparing the youth of today to be leaders for tomorrow.