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Dear President:

Even as our thoughts are with the people of Florida who are coping with Hurricane Irma, I have urgent news about the 2018 Presidents Institute that I believe is important to share with you now. In a move that is unprecedented in the history of CIC, it has become necessary to relocate the 2018 Presidents Institute to a new venue. We will now meet at the Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, Florida, instead of the JW Marriott Marco Island Hotel in Marco Island, Florida. The reason for this extraordinary move is not, however, predicated on the impact of Hurricane Irma. Rather, the extensive renovations being undertaken at the JW Marriott Marco Island will not be completed as promised. Let me assure you that the CIC staff has made alternate arrangements that should ensure a successful Institute and minimize the disruption and expense you might encounter as a result of this change.

When CIC contracted with the JW Marriott Marco Island to host the 2018 Presidents Institute, we were assured that the major renovation and expansion would be completed by January 2017, a full year in advance of our Institute. The hotel experienced numerous delays but repeatedly assured CIC that the work would be completed in time for the 2018 Presidents Institute. Only a few days ago, we were informed that the hotel could no longer guarantee that the work would be completed in time to host the Institute, and we were advised to find a new hotel. Rick Medwedeff, the hotel’s general manager, is as dismayed by this development as we are and has pledged to do everything that he and his staff can to make the transition smooth and to “work tirelessly to regain the confidence of both the Council of Independent Colleges and attendees of the Presidents Institute, as we very much want to welcome your group back to Marco Island in the future.” View the text of his notice to me.

Finding a new location for a meeting of our size on such short notice and in an attractive location has been a 24/7 focus for the CIC staff. Happily, we can report success. We have been fortunate to find a new home at the Diplomat Hotel. This top-rated Hilton Atlantic Ocean beachfront resort has recently undergone a $100 million makeover and now offers ten restaurants, a spa, two pools, and many other amenities. The hotel is situated adjacent to the Intracoastal Waterway, just south of Fort Lauderdale and north of Miami. It should be a delightful setting for the Institute. I am pleased to report that the CIC special room rate at the Diplomat is $239, which is lower than the Marriott’s rate. Moreover, we have received assurances that the Diplomat has been spared the destruction of Hurricane Irma and is ready to welcome us in January. Please wait to contact the Diplomat Hotel until we advise you to do so. Additional information about the Diplomat Hotel is available online.

Our primary goal is to make your rearrangement of plans easy and burden-free. CIC is committed to making the transition to the Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood as smooth as possible for you and all other participants in the Institute.

Transfer existing hotel reservations. CIC will transfer your existing hotel room reservation directly to the Diplomat Hotel from the JW Marriott Marco Island, for the same dates.

Reimburse airline change fees. For individuals who have already purchased a plane ticket and now need to change to a flight to the Fort Lauderdale or Miami airports, CIC will reimburse you for reasonable fees to rebook your airline ticket. This applies to airline tickets for spouses and partners as well. The Fort Lauderdale airport is only eight miles from the Diplomat Hotel, and Miami International Airport is just 22 miles away. You may find that flights to Fort Lauderdale and Miami are more plentiful and less expensive than flights to Fort Myers.

Reimburse other event cancellation fees. If you have arranged to host an event, such as an alumni gathering, in the Marco Island area at the time of the Institute and have paid a nonrefundable deposit to a restaurant or other venue and now need to relocate or cancel the event, CIC will compensate you. If you have arranged an event at the JW Marriott Marco Island, the CIC staff will soon be in touch with you to secure a comparable location at the Diplomat Hotel.

Next steps. In about a week, I will write to you again with the specific procedures for changing or making new hotel reservations and for documentation and reimbursement of extra expenses that this change of venue may entail for you. Until then, please note that online registration and hotel reservations for the Presidents Institute have been temporarily suspended so that we can be sure the necessary procedures have been put in place.

Questions? I will send you updated information as soon as we receive it. If you have questions about items not covered above, please feel free to call the CIC office at (202) 466-7230. Sherita Ashmon, conference manager (, is the main contact for Institute registration; Allison Blackburn (, director of conferences, for hotel reservation questions; Hal Hartley, senior vice president (, for Presidents Institute program questions; and Kathy Whatley, senior vice president (, for questions about the Spouses and Partners Program.

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we work through this process. All of us at CIC will do everything possible to make this transition as smooth as possible.

CIC’s unprecedented efforts to change the venue of the 2018 Presidents Institute are small in comparison with the massive challenge ahead for many Florida residents. We hope our presence in January will provide a helpful economic boost. I look forward to seeing you in Hollywood, Florida, in early January.


Richard Ekman
Council of Independent Colleges​