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Bill Wernecke '79 and his family have ties to Kellogg that span three generations. His parents both attended Northwestern — his father was a graduate of the undergraduate business program. His wife, Susan Graham Wernecke ’80, is a Kellogg alumna, and his son and daughter-in-law are graduates as well.
“It’s interesting when you’re from a multigenerational family. My mom had such a positive experience at Northwestern, and my dad had such a positive experience at the business school, that I already started out with a great feeling about Northwestern and about Kellogg,” Wernecke said. “I actually even ending up having one professor that my dad did when he was there.”
While at Kellogg, Wernecke received an F.C. Austin Scholarship for students with exceptional leadership in academic and professional endeavors and took classes to prepare him for his first job working at his family’s business, a building materials company. But two major career changes later, he says the skills he learned at Kellogg proved to be transferrable to his roles as senior vice president at The Onion and now as founder and director of wealth management services at Pegasus Partners.
“I found that in each of the careers that I’ve been in that there are things that I learned at Kellogg that are extremely helpful, and of course, the networking and the people you meet at Kellogg, along with the things that you learn from your fellow students,” he said.
For example, in his current role at Pegasus Partners, Wernecke was tasked with starting a new independent company spun off from the larger company where he worked. This came with a variety of challenges characteristic of starting a new business, requiring utilization of the problem solving and teamwork skills he honed at Kellogg to be put into practice.
While navigating challenges and career changes, Wernecke called on mentors from his time at Kellogg, former faculty members Pete Henderson and Lou Stern, for advice.
“One thing that really stood out for me at Kellogg was I had some tremendous relationships with mentors,” Wernecke said. “I asked them a lot of questions, and I still stay in close contact with them. When I was making those career transitions, I talked to both of them because I value their background, experience and knowledge so much.”
Wernecke’s continued positive experiences at Kellogg have inspired him to join the Kellogg Leadership Circle, a group of donors who fund the school’s top priorities by contributing to the Annual Fund.
“If you really believe in the school and all that it does, not just training people to be in business, but also the leadership, the networking, I think you should feel good about supporting that mission,” he said. “I think Kellogg does a lot to raise great leaders and people who give back to their communities.”
Wernecke has pledged to support both the Lakeside Scholars Program, a pooled fund providing scholarship support with maximum flexibility to reach as many students as possible, and the Dean’s Discretionary Fund, which supports the dean in acting on pressing priorities for Kellogg, including thought leadership initiatives, faculty recruitment and student programming.
“Dean Cornelli is very smart, very driven and has a vision for the school,” he said. “She has some important things that she thinks the school has to work on and emphasize, and I really want to support her in her mission to do that. When you give some financial support, you’re really showing that you’re behind what she’s doing and that you want this to be successful.”