27 years of patience, kindness and personalized hospitality

Esther Rubio, UCLA Guest House

Patience. Listening. Problem-solving. Kindness. Esther Rubio says these skills are key to her success at the UCLA Guest House, where she has worked for nearly 27 years. Esther, a front desk attendant, is one of the first people guests encounter upon entering the boutique hotel, which offers 61 guest rooms in the northeast area of the UCLA campus.

During her time at the Guest House, Rubio has witnessed a lot of changes, including various renovations and aesthetic upgrades, personnel changes, the elimination of standard keys for tappable key cards, the move to a computer-based reservation booking system (no more handwritten index cards to be filed in slots!), to name a few.

One thing that hasn’t changed? Unlike other hotels, the Guest House does not use automated wake-up calls. When the phone rings at the guest’s requested time, there is a real person on the line – and it is often Rubio. 

It’s that personal touch and the way that the team brings guests a feeling that the Guest House is their home away from home, that keeps them coming back. The complimentary continental breakfast each morning is another big draw, she said.

Rubio’s career in hospitality started with food service jobs beginning at 16. Before long, she discovered an interest in the hotel industry and worked at various locations in El Segundo, Culver City and Inglewood — doing everything from waitressing, bartending and shuttle driving to working in the laundry room, serving as a front desk attendant and a temporary resident manager and working as a PBX operator — before learning of an incredible opportunity in Westwood at the Guest House.

She was unaware that UCLA had a small hotel on campus and was intrigued by the opportunity to work there. She was hired a day after her interview and joined the team on June 17, 1997. June 17 turned out to be a special day for another important reason, she shared.

“It is also my grandson’s birthday.”

Rubio and her husband Luis, whom she has been married to for 47 years, raised three children of their own and have 12 grandchildren ranging in age from 3 to 27. Their son Robert works as a foreman for a large commercial construction company and their son Ismael, an Army veteran, is an electrician with the City of Los Angeles. One of their granddaughters is graduating from high school in June and will become a UCLA Bruin this fall. Rubio is already looking forward to her visits between classes.

In addition, the couple raised three of their grandchildren after their daughter Maria passed away 16 years ago. Today, one works for a local school district and one is employed by a major airline. The youngest, now 20, is currently attending a four-year college in nearby Fullerton on a full scholarship.

“My husband and I always told our kids [and grandkids] to work hard and take any classes that can help them better themselves and have a good career, which I am proud to say they have done.” 

Rubio recognizes that same sense of pride in guests who are staying on campus to help their students move to their residence halls or nearby apartments, as well as those who come to UCLA in June to watch their children graduate. These are her two favorite times of the year at the Guest House.

Commencement 2024, which will see close to 70 graduation events, celebrations and ceremonies spring up across the UCLA campus, runs June 14 through 16 — an ideal way to precede the start of another great year for Rubio at the Guest House.