Sue Brush’s journey to Seattle and her career with Westin Hotels & Resorts began in Toledo, OH, where she was born. She attended Napoleon High School (inducted into its Hall of Fame) and Bowling Green State University (Outstanding Greek Woman and Outstanding Senior Woman, 1971), where she met her future husband, Ken.
After moving to Seattle in 1972, she launched what would become a 30-year hotel career at The Olympic in 1975 as public relations manager. She moved to the then Washington Plaza Hotel, now the Westin Seattle, in 1980 as director of advertising and public relations. While working and attending night classes, she received an MBA from the University of Puget Sound in 1981,
She left the hotel business for four years, shortly after her son was born in 1982. With partner Lynn Berry, she formed Berry & Brush Public Relations and landed the Washington State Centennial Celebration, chaired by former Secretary of State Ralph Munro and former First Lady Jean Gardner.
In 1989, she became director of corporate communications at Westin Hotels & Resorts, based in Seattle since 1930. Sue and a team of 10 managed the corporate advertising, public relations, sales collateral, photography and internal communications. In 1991, she was promoted to vice president. Westin was sold in 1995 to Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. When the Seattle office closed in 1999, Sue moved to the new corporate office in White Plains, NY, as VP/marketing, Westin.
Sue was promoted to SVP, global brand leader in 2002. Responsibilities included quality and brand standards, marketing and strategic direction of the brand. Under Brush’s leadership, Westin became widely recognized as an industry innovator and lifestyle leader, focused on guest wellness and renewal. She was instrumental in the launch of the game-changing “Heavenly Bed” ® and numerous other industry “firsts,” including “Breathe by Westin” (the industry’s first smoke-free program), “Heavenly Bath,” “Westin WORKOUT”®, “SuperFoods RX” breakfast menu and “Heavenly Spa” by Westin, as well as a unique partnership with United Airlines to bring Westin’s Heavenly experience to the Friendly Skies.
Brush also is credited with being at the forefront of the hotel retail trend that began in earnest in 1999, when the hotel giant began selling its Heavenly Beds. And in 2004, Westin became the first hotel chain to sell its signature line of luxury bedding at a leading national retailer when it introduced the Heavenly Collection in Nordstrom stores throughout the United States.
During her career, Brush visited more than 300 hotels, 25 countries and 50 hotel openings and was an active partner with hotel developers and owners. During her tenure, the Westin brand grew from just over 50 hotels to nearly 170 properties around the world. Westin, considered in the hotel-development community as a “category killer,” even inspired a brand extension. Element Hotels by Westin is an extended-stay lifestyle brand that drew from Westin’s positioning to help smart, health-conscious travelers maintain balance away from home. The first Element hotel opened in 2008 and the brand has captured headlines with its eco-chic proposition, sustainable design and LEED-certified mandate for every hotel.
Brush often drew ideas from her own travel and life experiences. An avid runner and frequent business traveler, she discovered that running was an extraordinary way to explore an unfamiliar city. Fittingly, Brush and her team developed “runWESTIN,” a program that enables guests to learn about a destination while participating in three-mile morning runs, led by a Running Concierge.
Another Brush innovation: all Westin employees wear “passion” nametags, displaying their personal passion next to their name—which encourages personalized interaction. She also is known as an enthusiastic listener, who frequently gleans ideas from employees and guests. The Heavenly Bath, for example, was born after an employee mailed her a photo of a curved shower rod torn from a trade magazine.
Brush has been recognized by the Advertising Women of New York with a “Changing the Game Award,” been listed among Travel Agent magazines “Most Powerful Women in Travel” several times and named a leading innovator by Lodging Magazine.
She retired from Westin/Starwood in 2009 and returned home to Seattle. Husband Ken died in 2011 from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) Son Kevin lives in Brooklyn, NY.