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Kellogg thanked some of its top advocates at a May 1 Alumni Awards dinner. From left: J. David Nelson '66, Christopher Tomseth '98, John W. McCarter, Dean Dipak C. Jain, Jeffrey Ubben '87 and Pedro Pizarro '94. Not pictured: Gordon Gund and Adam Usdan '87.

Kellogg 'leading lights' celebrated at Alumni Awards

Graduates and friends honored for their support to school's leadership mission

By Matt Golosinski

5/5/2008 - “How good can it get,” asked J. David Nelson, “when a revered institution like this recognizes you?”

The 1966 Kellogg graduate was among seven people honored by the school May 1 at the annual Alumni Awards, which recognizes the service of the most exemplary Kellogg supporters. The dinner event was held at the James L. Allen Center in Evanston.

Nelson, chief operating officer for the nonprofit National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), earned an Alumni Service Award for his efforts to promote the Kellogg School, including through building a partnership between Kellogg and NFTE, which teaches business fundamentals to high-school students. He expressed his pleasure at “applying Kellogg lessons to urban schools to get kids engaged with learning.” Since 2005, some 100 Kellogg MBAs have been part of the NFTE program, said Assistant Dean Roxanne Hori, who introduced Nelson by saying he had “united two great organizations.”

Also receiving alumni awards were: Jeffrey Ubben ’87, founder, CEO and chief investment officer of ValueActCapital; Pedro Pizarro ’94, president and CEO of eLandia International Inc.; Christopher Tomseth ’98, head of strategy and business development for Dnata Travel Services; and Adam Usdan ’87, general partner of Trellus Management Co. Kellogg also recognized two friends of the school, bestowing awards on Gordon Gund, chairman and CEO of Gund Investment Corp. and Gund Enterprises, and John McCarter Jr., president and CEO of Chicago’s Field Museum.

“Kellogg is the real deal and we’re all part of that,” Gerron Vartan ’67 said. In his introductory remarks for the evening, the chair of the Kellogg Alumni Council (formerly the Kellogg Alumni Advisory Board), praised attendees. “In this room are some of the finest examples of the Kellogg family … lifelong friends and dedicated faculty and staff. Tonight, we celebrate the leading lights, but every person here is dedicated to the health of this school.”

Explaining the importance of the award-winners, Associate Dean Ed Wilson ’84 noted their “emotional engagement that is critical to the school” and said that their talents and their willingness to remain connected with Kellogg has played a significant part in advancing the school’s objectives to create global leaders who are successful and significant. In introducing Tomseth, another Service Award winner, Wilson referred to him as “one of our most fervent volunteers.”

Tomseth, who is responsible for developing and implementing new strategies at Dnata, part of the Dubai-based Emirates Group, has built a career in the travel industry. He has helped enhance an important experiential learning course at Kellogg — Global Initiatives in Management (GIM) — and also helped revitalize the Kellogg Alumni Club of Atlanta.

“I’ve been very fortunate in my life,” Tomseth said, “and one of the best opportunities was the chance to come to Kellogg. It was an absolutely fantastic two years of my life … so I have tried to nurture this relationship.” He emphasized the ongoing value of lifelong learning and networking that his Kellogg relationship has made possible.

Earning Schaffner Awards from Kellogg were Ubben and Pizarro. Established in 1984 and named after Joseph Schaffner, co-founder of the Chicago men’s clothier Hart, Schaffner & Marx, the award honors Kellogg graduates who are preeminent in their fields and who also have provided outstanding service to the school.

Ubben recalled his tenure at Kellogg, reflecting that “there were two great teams in Chicago” the year he began his MBA studies. One was in the National Football League: the Bears, who went on to win the 1985 Super Bowl. But the other team, Ubben said, consisted of several top Kellogg professors, including Finance Professor Robert Korajczyk, who introduced the graduate, and the late Lawrence Revsine, a longtime accounting professor at the school. Today Ubben heads a San Francisco-based investment partnership with more than $6 billion in assets under management, and he said the Kellogg team proved enormously important to his career. Korajczyk noted that his former student has given back to the school, in particular by supporting its Asset Management Practicum, an experiential learning initiative that lets students gain hands-on investment insights. “Jeff’s been very generous to the school with his support, creating very tangible benefits in the practicum,” Korajczyk said, adding that the course also has proven an effective recruitment tool to attract top MBA candidates.

Pizarro was rewarded with a Schaffner Award for his efforts to help expand the Kellogg global brand through integrating the school’s Miami-based executive MBA program into the Miami/Dade County business community. The Miami EMBA program was launched in January 2006 and Pizarro worked to design a plan promoting the program, arranging events and welcoming key local executives to the campus. “Miami is the international gateway and hub of the Americas,” Pizarro said in accepting his award. “It’s one of the most dynamic areas I can imagine.” He praised Kellogg for building the Miami campus and said the initiative would pay significant dividends both for the school “and the entire Latin American marketplace.”

Kellogg also honored McCarter, a longtime friend of the school who was influential in working with senior administrators of Northwestern University in the 1960s. One result of that interaction was a dramatic shift in the business school’s focus: It turned away from delivering an undergraduate program in favor of an exclusive graduate curriculum, a risky move but one that seemed in tune with coming market demands. In accepting his award, McCarter recalled working with Booz Allen Hamilton co-founder Jim Allen, noting the extensive research conducted to make the final recommendations to the university leadership.

Scheduling conflicts prevented Gund and Usdan from attending the awards dinner. Each has made important contributions to Kellogg. For Gund, the connection to the school is a family one: both of his sons, Grant and Zachary, are Kellogg graduates, as is Grant’s wife, Lara. Gordon Gund and his wife, Llura, have supported the school’s entrepreneurship program, including by establishing a chaired professorship in entrepreneurship, currently held by Steven Rogers. Usdan has lent his support to bolstering the Kellogg School’s finance offerings, including its Asset Management Practicum.

Dean Dipak C. Jain offered his thanks to the award winners and said 2008 — which marks the Kellogg centennial — would be a significant year for the school and its alumni. “I truly believe that the best years are ahead of us,” Jain told the audience. He also outlined his views on how top business schools would increasingly become “entrepreneurial hubs” within their universities. He said the Kellogg-Northwestern relationship would only grow stronger, “bringing the best minds from all over the world to pursue impactful research” in Evanston.

“The power of diversity, and of all of you, has really placed Kellogg on the top track,” Jain said. “Now, it is time for us to take our success and move toward cultivating greater significance, as we pursue our goal of being both the best business school in the world and the best school for the world.”