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UCF alumnus named Walt Disney World Resort president

Contributing Writer

Published: Sunday, January 20, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 12:01

disney president

Courtesy of George Kalogridis

George Kalogridis, a UCF alumnus who graduated in 1976, will be the new president of Walt Disney World Resort, effective Feb. 1. Kalogridis started working part-time at Disney in 1971 and worked his way up the ranks throughout the years.

UCF alumnus George Kalogridis has been named president of the Walt Disney World Resort amid a shake-up in leadership at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

The Winter Haven native, who graduated from UCF in 1976 with a degree in sociology, began his Disney career as a busboy at the Contemporary Resort in 1971 — the year Walt Disney World opened. Kalogridis remained an hourly employee until 1975 and was named general manager of the property’s flagship hotel, the Grand Floridian Resort, in 1989. In his more than four decades of experience with the company, Kalogridis has served as vice president of EPCOT, chief operating officer for Disneyland Resort Paris, and most recently, as president of the original Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Calif.

Kalogridis will oversee the 47-square-mile resort’s 66,000 employees, six parks and 24 hotels effective Feb. 1. He will take over for Meg Crofton, a member of the UCF Board of Trustees, who continued to oversee day-to-day operations in Orlando despite a July 2011 promotion to president of operations for all of the company’s parks and resorts in the United States and France.

Michael Colglazier, president of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, will head west to take over Kalogridis’ duties at the Disneyland Resort, where he had been at the helm since 2009. Both Kalogridis’ and Colglazier’s roles also are effective Feb. 1.

“With all that we currently have in flight across our resort destinations in the U.S. and France, the time is right to move forward with this leadership transition,” Tom Staggs, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts chairman, said in a press release. “I would like to thank Meg for her tireless devotion and the extraordinary contributions serving in both positions, and wish George and Michael the best of luck in their new roles.”

The company said the transition in leadership is designed to better position the organization for growth by providing seasoned executives with new opportunities and challenges.

Crofton will not be able to serve the remainder of her term on the Board of Trustees because of her move to California, said Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala, UCF News and Information senior communications coordinator.

Kotala said it is unknown whether Kalogridis will replace Crofton because he would have to first be appointed by the Florida Board of Governors and confirmed by the Florida Senate.

John Sprouls, executive vice president and chief administrative officer for Universal Parks and Resorts, and Jim Atchison, president and CEO of SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, also sit on the Board.

Marina Reasoner, who studies hospitality management at UCF’s Rosen campus and works for Universal Orlando, said she draws inspiration from Kalogridis’ appointment.

“That is literally the American dream — starting from the bottom and moving your way up to the top,” she said. “He is somebody who has reached for the stars and shown that it’s possible that I can do it, too.”

The 20-year-old sophomore said she is passionate about all things Disney. She credits her fervor for the company to the numerous trips she took with her family to Disneyland during her childhood in California.

“At home, my room looks like it belongs to a 5-year-old. It’s ridiculous,” she said. “I figured when I came to college I had to step things up, make my room look a little bit more adult-like, but I still have Disney things all over it.”

Reasoner said she hopes to eventually work at Walt Disney World.

“I love Universal; they do things well, but nobody does it quite like Disney,” she said. “You say the name Disney and each person comes up with an image in their head of a magical moment they hold on to. No matter how high the ticket prices go, people will still come to their parks because of that.”

She said knowing Kalogridis was also once a UCF student working at a theme park reassures her that she, too, has the potential to achieve her career dreams.

“I have to congratulate him," she said. "That takes a lot of hard work and he definitely deserves it. He had to start off somewhere. He was once in my position, so that means I can one day be in his position as well.”

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