Arne Sorenson '80

Note: Arne Sorenson '80, Luther Regent Emeritus, passed away on February 15, 2021.

How He Arrived at Marriott International

After graduating from Luther, Arne decided to attend the University of Minnesota Law School since he felt a law degree would provide him with a variety of career options. He later moved to Washington, D.C., where he began a career with Lathan & Watkins, a law firm that specializes in mergers and acquisitions.

“I earned a partnership at the firm, and during my time in that role, I worked on a securities case for Marriott International,” he says. “This is how I first met Bill Marriott. I was recruited by Mr. Marriott to join his company in 1996 as a senior vice president to guide business development. I went on to assume a variety of leadership roles, including chief financial officer and president and chief operating officer, before being appointed CEO in 2012.”

Gaining a Perspective of a Multicultural World

“The intellectual rigor of the religion courses at Luther challenged me to think, debate, and write, all of which have been of great value in my job,” he says. “I also gained a deep perspective of the multicultural world in which Marriott operates. Marriott has hundreds of thousands of associates around the world, representing different cultures and backgrounds.”

A Transformative Experience in Beirut

As a Luther student, Arne served as a guest of the World Council of Churches in Beirut, Lebanon. “This was one of the greatest experiences of my life,” he says. “I traveled with another Luther student, Erik Weiberg ’81, for 14 weeks. We were mostly in Lebanon but also visited Syria, Jordan, and Israel.”

At the meetings arranged by the World Council of Churches, they met Lebanese and Palestinian leaders—Muslim and Christian—as well as historians and theologians. “We learned a great deal about the complexity of the country, then in civil war,” he says. “I would encourage students today to take part in a similar type of trip during their time at Luther. There is nothing more extraordinary than gaining a deeper knowledge of global issues through firsthand exposure to other cultures.”

Skills for Life

Arne says that the liberal arts education he received from Luther started a process of lifelong learning, which continues to this day. “It includes habits of listening, inquiry, and collaboration, all of which are essential real-world skills for the workplace and home,” he says. “My professors at Luther were some of the most influential figures in my life who taught me about the power of inquiry.”

Why Study Religion at Luther?

“The religion program offers students an incredible breadth of interdisciplinary courses, including history, philosophy, and biblical studies, that ignite a passion for curiosity and learning. The major provides a strong foundation of important concepts like human understanding, cultural influence, and global insight.”

—Arne Sorenson