Steve Litvin, professor of hospitality and tourism management at the College of Charleston, is thrilled to be giving his first commencement address, which will be to the graduates of the School of Business and the School of Education, Health, and Human Performance at 10 a.m. on May 7, 2022.
Few things give him greater joy than having a positive influence on the minds of young adults. Teaching might be his third career, but it was always first in his heart.
“My professors had such a big impact on me in college that I knew I would be teaching someday,” he says of his days at Bentley College in Waltham, Massachusetts, where he majored in accounting. “Several of them just captivated me sharing their stories and experiences, especially philosophy professor Bernie Alderman. I just thought, there’s nothing I’d rather do than be him someday, but life took me elsewhere.”
Boy, did it. He started out working as an auditor for Arthur Andersen & Company in Boston until his favorite client, Crimson Travel, the largest travel company in New England, offered him a job in 1975. He also earned an MBA at Babson College during that time before he and his wife, Allegra, moved to Phoenix a few years later looking to escape the New England winters. He reentered the world of accounting with Coopers & Lybrand before he and a colleague started their own travel company in 1980. Freedom Travel became the largest independent travel agency in the state before a large national agency, USTravel, acquired it with Litvin staying on to manage the company’s Arizona operations.
Working in the travel business has afforded Litvin the opportunity to visit 94 countries, all but one with his wife. They have also been to all 50 states.
“Our travels have allowed me to experience other destinations and cultures and observe their issues, strengths and challenges,” says Litvin, who is celebrating his 21st year teaching hospitality and tourism at the College. “The learning from my explorations often find their way into my lectures, allowing me to keep my lessons current and topical, and teaching is just a lot of fun!”
His first teaching experience came in Phoenix teaching business to inner-city students, as well as a few junior college accounting classes. After a few years working for USTravel, Litvin decided it was time to pursue teaching full time and accepted a position at Ngee Ann Polytechnic University in Singapore in 1993 teaching travel and tourism management.
“Allegra agreed to two years, but two turned into eight,” he says. “I loved teaching, and we loved Singapore. Culturally, it was fantastic, and from a travel perspective, it was spectacular.”
While there, he also earned a doctorate of business administration, completing his studies at age 50 from the University of South Australia. When the opportunity to become part of the then nascent hospitality and tourism management program at the College arose in 2001, he and Allegra packed their bags for the Holy City. His students love the passion, humor and stories he brings to the classroom, along with a lot of career guidance outside of it.
“There is really no better place to teach hospitality than Charleston,” says Litvin, whose main research areas relate to tourism issues affecting communities and tourism consumer behavior. He has been ranked the seventh most productive tourism researcher in the world for the decade 2000–2010 and has received the award as Outstanding Researcher in the School of Business four times. He has published more than 100 research articles in academic journals.
As rewarding as his travels have been over the years, nothing beats the feedback he gets from former students on how much he impacted their lives.
“I am so gratified each time I receive one,” he says. “It’s why I so treasure this job.”