Each month, Fighter Country Partnership features an Honorary Commander – both alumni and current members. This month’s feature is on J. Bruce Lange, Managing Director, The Westin Kierland Resort, Spa & Villas, located at 6902 East Greenway Parkway, Scottsdale, AZ 85254
J. Bruce Lange is one of the senior operating executives for Starwood Hotels & Resorts, one of the world’s largest owner/operators of hotels and resorts worldwide. As Managing Director of The Westin Kierland Resort, Spa & Villas, Scottsdale, Arizona, Mr. Lange is directly responsible for all aspects of what is Arizona’s second largest resort. The Westin Kierland Resort, Spa & Villas is a “mixed use” destination featuring 27 holes of golf, a 15,000 sq. ft. spa and over 1,000 traditional hotel rooms and timeshare / villa accommodations. Mr. Lange is directly responsible for revenues well in excess of $100 million and the nearly 1,000 associates with a payroll of $40 million. Mr. Lange can also be proudly described as follows:
- A Midwesterner by birth
- A Michigan State University Hospitality Business School Graduate (1978)
- A Lifelong hospitality career member with coast to coast work experience in all types of properties (Downtown, Convention, Suburban, All Suite, Mixed Use Resort, etc.) with an emphasis on resort operations
- Married and the father of two college graduates (Arizona State University, University of Arizona), one pursuing a law degree and the other a PhD in Psychology.
His professional background information is as follows:
Senior Leadership Positions most recently held
- Starwood Hotels and Resorts – Area Managing Director – Colorado and Missouri
- Promus Hotels – Regional Manager – Michigan
- Doubletree Hotels and Resorts – City Manager – Metropolitan Detroit
Presently: Managing Director, The Westin Kierland Resort, Spa & Villas (2002 – Present)
Professional Organizations (current)
- Chairman Elect – Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association / AzLTA
- Chairman (Ex-Officio) – Valley Hotel and Resort Association / VH&RA
- Resort Committee Member – American Hotel & Lodging Association / AH&LA
- Vice Chair – Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau / GPCVB (current)
- Board Member – Governor’s Tourism Advisory Council / TAC (current)
- Board Member and Honorary Faculty Member, Guest Lecturer – The School of Hospitality Business, Michigan State University (current)
Personal / Recent Awards
- Awarded as “Best Employer” in the hospitality segment by Phoenix Business Journal
- Awarded as one of Arizona’s “Most Admired Companies in 2010”, by CBIZ MHM, LLC
- Honorary Faculty Member – The School of Hospitality Business, Michigan State University (current)
- Honorary Commander – USAF (active alumni)
- 2009 – Entrepreneurial Spirit Award, Host Hotels & Resorts
- 2008 General Manager of the Year Award, Host Hotels & Resorts
- 2007 Arizona Hotelier of the Year
- 2007 Arizona Tourism Champion of the Year
Mr. Lange was inducted as a Luke Air Force Base Honorary Commander in 2004 assigned to the 62nd Fighter Squadron – the “Spikes.” When asked what it’s like being an Honorary Commander he stated, “Being an Honorary Commander provides you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the Air Force experience, to understand the contributions and sacrifices that our nations’ airmen make on a daily basis and share in their enormous pride in being a member of the United States Air Force.”
“I grew up in the Midwest and the closest encounter I had to the Air Force was a trip to Wright Patterson AFB after which I became a complete aircraft geek,” he said. “It wasn’t again until I took an assignment in Albuquerque did I get the chance to rekindle that aircraft itch while watching the New Mexico Air National Guard routinely launch sorties from the airport there. When I learned of my Honorary Commander invitation and assignment to the 62nd Fighter Squadron, I read just about everything I could get my hands on about the F-16 and Spike tradition and history. I could not be more proud to be a Spike, 357 and counting… (referring to a sign painted on the wall at the squadron proudly claiming 357 “enemy kills” in their squadron history.)
Mr. Lange explained that the Honorary Commanders program gave him opportunities to learn a great deal about the mission of the base and the Air Force in general.
“An Air Force Base is far more complex than just simply a place where aircraft are maintained between flights,” he said. “Luke is, instead, a large community and the livelihoods of thousands are inextricably connected to how well that community works. Luke has both an extraordinary history and a significant economic impact within The Valley – something I take great pride in promoting.”
Mr. Lange talked about his most memorable event as an Honorary Commander.
“My most memorable and arguably my saddest moment as an Honorary Commander was when I got the call that one of our past squadron pilots was killed in Iraq (Major Troy Gilbert). The news of his death crystallized why I was selected as an Honorary Commander – because I had both the means and ability to immediately organize and execute a fundraising memorial event for Troy’s surviving wife and family. Despite the sadness of the occasion, bringing the community together for such an important cause was one of my proudest moments as an Honorary Commander and an American.
The Honorary Commanders program is designed to promote mutual partnerships with the community and to promote a better understanding of the important Air Force mission. Its goal is to gain positive public opinion. The program also is designed to help integrate the assigned squadron and base personnel to learn more about the community in which they live outside the base. When asked if he felt this program is meeting that goal, Mr. Lange explained:
“I have and continue to hold tourism industry leadership positions in our community and soon, across the State. Consistent with these assignments, I often promote Luke and the Air Force mission by bringing fellow community leaders to the base or speak to its importance and benefits. In January, I will assume the leadership of the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association and our first board meeting will be held at Luke. The meeting and tour at Luke will likely be the board members first Air Force experience – one I’m sure that will impact all concerned and provide that positive public opinion and influence that the Honorary Commander program was designed for.”
Mr. Lange said, “The integration of my Honorary Commander responsibilities and leading The Westin Kierland Resort, Spa and Villas has been a great match as I have had ample opportunity to get my squadron and others to hold their “off-site” gatherings at Kierland and give them and their families a tourist experience that is so centric to our Arizona economy and what so many from outside our State come to Arizona for. We host two to three of these events annually along with warrior reunions and related gatherings.”
Among the activities Mr. Lange participates in are change of command ceremonies, the Luke Days open house air show, fighter squadron graduation ceremonies and base ceremonies such as the Troy Gilbert Bridge dedication.
“It is wonderful to participate in these Air Force traditions and, as a citizen, one can’t help but get caught up in the pride and emotion that is stirred in these events,” he said.
Mr. Lange is a great supporter of the base and its Airmen. Over and above the Troy Gilbert Memorial Golf Tournament fundraiser, he tries to be a regular at any number of golf tournament fundraisers organized by both Luke and Fighter Country Partnership.
“FCP and I created a “Returning Warrior” offer for Luke Airmen returning from harm’s way to help them re-integrate into the community and give them family time within the confines of some very pleasant resort surroundings, Mr. Lange said. “Additionally, we annually host a weekend contest on our golf course from which the proceeds all go to FCP to support the men and women of Luke Air Force Base.”
Mr. Ron Sites, President of Fighter Country Partnership, had this to say about Mr. Lange’s support to the military and to Fighter Country Partnership.
“I can’t say that there is one person who is more supportive than anybody else when it comes to Luke AFB and their families because everybody provides support in different ways. What I can say though is that anytime we have asked Mr. Lange for anything, there has never been a hesitation…it has always been a very quick yes. If every military installation in the country had an individual like Bruce ready and willing to support, the quality of life for our military personnel would improve that much more.”
Mr. Lange adds, “If I could say one thing to all our readers is that it has been an enormous privilege to be an Honorary Commander and to be associated with Luke and our nation’s finest airmen. With such privilege, however, comes the responsibility of giving back. Whether it is your time, your influence, your dollars or your ableness to make Luke a priority, please accept that responsibility with the same zeal and enthusiasm that our pilots, maintainers and airmen bring to their work and to their responsibilities of defending our nation and freedom every day.”
Mr. Lange reflects on his participation in the Honorary Commanders program and a member of Fighter Country Partnership by saying,
“In life, we’re all thrown together in different communities and groups for a variety of reasons. Our neighborhoods, our kids, their schools, our industry / associations, etc., are all catalysts to gather. Unique to FCP is a collection of people dedicated to supporting and serving the needs of Luke and those who serve there. That singular purpose brings an outstanding group of people together that defies zip codes, demographics, gender and skill sets. Their enthusiasm and mission-focused engagement in the needs of Luke is contagious and inspiring to be around.”