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News & Events

Gordon Gund delivers Distinguished Entrepreneur speech


10/18/2005 - The Larry and Carol Levy Institute for Entrepreneurial Practice at Northwestern University 's Kellogg School of Management launched the second year of its Distinguished Entrepreneur Speaker Series with special guest speaker Gordon Gund, founder of Gund Investment Corp., co-founder of the Foundation Fighting Blindness, and owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA basketball team.

An audience of 275 gathered in the Owen L. Coon Forum in the Kellogg School 's Donald P. Jacobs Center for the speech.

Mr. Gund recounted his years growing up in the outskirts of Cleveland as one of five children with an entrepreneurial father. He graduated from Harvard University and entered the Navy, serving on a destroyer in the South Pacific. After returning to the United States, he entered a training program at JP Morgan. At age 25, as his career was getting started, he was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, and by age 30 Mr. Gund was blind. Throughout his speech, Mr. Gund conveyed a spirit of overcoming adversity no matter the challenge, such as when he flew to Russia upon news of a promising treatment for his condition, only to find himself alone for five weeks, with no one that spoke English, and with a treatment that offered no results.

The story of Mr. Gund's young adulthood served to show how he began to address those aspects of his life that were most important to him. He spoke of “limiting the limitations” and enhancing what strengths he had. He shared how his memory skills improved dramatically, and he learned to ask for help from others. Being an avid skier, he joked about how trusting people is very important, especially when they are taking him down the moguls! And in business, he said, finding good people to work with, people who have integrity, is the most important pursuit.

Mr. Gund took questions from the audience about his life, businesses and philosophies. Mr. Gund answered many questions, including how to overcome fear, and he shared anecdotes of his ownership of the Cleveland Cavaliers and his experiences with their star basketball player, LeBron James. He spoke about starting the Foundation Fighting Blindness with his wife, Llura, and another couple who were experiencing a similar disability, and he discussed founding Gund Investment Co. with capital from his father.

As part of the event, Kellogg students raised money for the Foundation Fighting Blindness by selling glow-in-the-dark wristbands imprinted in Braille that say, “Our Vision is Clear.” All proceeds were given to the foundation in hopes that one day there will be a cure for diseases of the eye.

Gordon and Llura Gund established the Gordon and Llura Gund Family Chair in Entrepreneurship with a multimillion-dollar gift to the Kellogg School in 2002. Professor and Levy Institute Director Steve Rogers holds that chair.

Preceding Mr. Gund's speech, Rogers, the Kellogg School Professor of the Year for full-time and part-time MBA programs, introduced Al Grace, president of Loop Capital Markets, who expressed thanks on behalf of Loop Capital CEO Jim Reynolds '82 for the opportunity to sponsor the outstanding 2005-2006 series of distinguished speakers.