"It's a sort of Mecca," said Prof. Paul Gaurnier with a modest shrug. He was being quizzed about Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration. "We were always No. 1," he continued, "but now we've expanded (around the world) as a leadership symbol."

There were evidence to support this claim. Half of the 16 graduate students he led here from the Ithaca, N.Y., campus at the end of last week came from abroad. The Ivory Coast, Germany, Austria and France were among the countries represented. The students were here for an inside view of how the management staff of the Hyatt Regency Hotal functions.

"We hope it's an open relationship," said Kalus Reincke, general manager of the hotel. "We want to make an impression."

"The competition is high for good management people," interpolated Gaurnier. "It's very smart of a corporation to expose students to a hotel staff of this caliber. The word goes back and circulates around. But the students aren't dumb. They talk to the supervisory personnel. If they [the personnel] aren't happy, it will come out. Once we had a disaster. That got back too and it hurt the company.

Cornell was the first U.S. university - before World War II - to form a school of hotel administration. It now has 625 students in the four-year undergraduate program and another 100 two-year graduate students.

In additional to providing an on-campus hotel in an isolated setting (at the southern end of Lake Cayuga in New York state's Finger Lake region), the school has put Cornell's imprint on almost every major hotel and food dervice chain. The alumni-relations program is a top priority and so wide-ranging is the network of graduates that three of the 10 members of Reinchke's executive committee at the Hyatt Regency have degrees from Cornell. Eleven others from the school work in subordinate management posts. Reincke, who trained abroad, attended a special summer session for promising professionals in 1970 and was deeply impressed.

Not only is administering hotels a world-wide concern these days, it is increasingly technical in nature. Cornell has economists and computer specialist as well as hotel men on its "self-sufficient" faculty and claims to be the only hotel school with divisions devoted to computer science and "properties management," which teaches planning and construction of facilities.

What brought the graduate students here is "Staff Planning and construction of facilities.

What brought the graduate students here is "Staff Planning and Operations." According to Gaurnier, it is "an overview vocational course," one of the few the students encounter.

The Hyatt-Regency is the third hotel to participate in the semester-long course on a rotating basis, the others being the New York Hilton and the Sheraton-Boston. A different department head from the hotel commutes to Cornell each week during the semester to lecture. In additional to the practical information, Gaurnier said, the course "reveals difference between corporations and their philosophies of management." During the class visit to the hotel, each student trials a department head through his daily duties, then writes a report on what has been observed.

"It is encouraging for them," Gaurnier said, "to see what they've been hearing and reading about. But it's a real hotel and what they see can be discouraging, too. With the problem here (the threat of a strike,) management personnel had been working 14-to 15-hour days just before the students came down. We want the students to realize that side, too.