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  Robb Knuepfer
  © Nathan Mandell
Robb Knuepfer '78

KAAB president makes world, and Kellogg, a better place

by Rebecca Lindell

Robb Knuepfer '78 has consulted on multibillion-dollar projects around the world and helped lead an international effort to eradicate polio.

But the work he's found most rewarding takes place inside a Kellogg School classroom, where he strives to impart the wisdom

he's gained during the 27 years since his graduation.

"I love teaching; I love being with bright young minds," says Knuepfer, whose course on managing and financing major projects in emerging markets is offered each winter quarter. "I learn more from them than I'm sure I teach them. It's the single most rewarding experience I can think of."

Knuepfer, a partner with the international law firm of Baker & McKenzie, is an expert on mergers and acquisitions. He has handled many deals involving privatization and foreign investment, including several in Eastern Europe, where he served as managing partner of Baker & McKenzie's Central Europe and CIS practice while living in Budapest from 1992 to 1995.

He is also a tireless advocate for institutions that he believes make the world a better place. That includes ROTARY/One, the Chicago chapter of Rotary International, which Knuepfer leads as president. It also includes Metropolitan Family Services, the oldest and largest social services agency in Chicago, where Knuepfer serves as chairman of the board of directors.

In addition, he serves on at least a dozen other civic and community boards, including the Kellogg Alumni Advisory Board (KAAB). He credits Kellogg for laying the groundwork for his later success.

"If you believe in something, in this case Kellogg, and you understand the value of what it gave you, you are required to give back," Knuepfer says.

"It's important that those of us blessed with great educations work to provide those same advantages to others who might not be so lucky. I feel the need to give back immediately, because the children to whom my organization is trying to bring education do not get a second chance. That challenge fuels my passion." John Wood '89, founder and president of Room to Read, San Francisco  

He has done that in spades. As a member and now chairman of the alumni advisory board, he has been a liaison for students, faculty and alumni in many areas, including admissions, curriculum review and recruiting. He played a key role in developing the Kellogg Global Initiatives in Management program, contributing course material and putting Baker & McKenzie's 70 worldwide offices at the disposal of students studying business issues overseas.

Knuepfer has also shared his knowledge freely with Kellogg students, serving frequently over the years as a guest lecturer

in various classes. In 1997, Dean Donald P. Jacobs invited Knuepfer to join the Kellogg School faculty as an adjunct professor in finance, where he teaches courses on major infrastructure projects in emerging markets.

The dearth of written material on the topic spurred Knuepfer to author many of the case studies he uses in class. "I probably spend more time preparing for my class than I do for client work," he says. "Obviously Kellogg students are world-class and I have too much pride not to be as prepared as I possibly can be when they ask those hard questions."

Knuepfer, who earned his MBA concurrent with his law degree at Northwestern University's Law School, teaches a similar version of the class to NU law students as well as a course on international business transactions. "It's a significant time commitment, but very rewarding," he says. "The subject is always evolving. I'm always reading and trying to keep current."

Even so, Knuepfer manages to find time for other service. As president of ROTARY/One, he leads a weekly meeting during which 250 members discuss how to improve society. Projects range from local concerns, such as finding summer jobs for high-school students, to international efforts, such as immunizing all of the world's children against polio.

Rotary has raised about $500 million and mobilized hundreds of thousands of volunteers to immunize nearly 2 billion children worldwide. This June, Knuepfer will help more than 50,000 Rotarians celebrate that accomplishment when he hosts the organization's Centennial Convention in Chicago.

"Rotary has made an impact around the world, as Kellogg has," Knuepfer says.

That seems to be a value Knuepfer holds dear. In March, he joined other KAAB members and Dean Dipak C. Jain on a mission to Chile to strengthen Kellogg's relationships with educators and business leaders in South America.

"It's no longer acceptable to be isolationist," the Kellogg grad says. "One thing Kellogg has done through its thought leadership is to promote global executive education as a solution to advance world peace and harmony. If we export the Kellogg experience to places like Asia and South America, we're doing our part to establish a framework for teamwork and understanding. We're making a difference."

Continue to Phil Marineau '70

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©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University