Owen’s Impact Lasts a Lifetime

2014 Owen Commencement Speaker Eric Noll (MBA ’90) with his daughter Allie (MBA ’14).

2014 Owen Commencement Speaker Eric Noll (MBA ’90) with his daughter Allie (MBA ’14).

May has been a month of exciting celebrations. Commencement is always one of my favorite events as we launch a new class into the business world to go do great things. We were lucky to have Eric Noll (MBA ’90) as this year’s speaker, made all the more meaningful by getting to see his daughter Allie graduate. (More on that later.)

Also this month, just as the school year ended, alumni and scholars from all over the world, including two Nobel laureates, descended on Vanderbilt to celebrate Professor Hans Stoll and the impact he had had on them, their careers, and modern finance.

And on a personal note, it was just about a year ago that I announced my return to Owen and came to campus to meet with Nashville alumni, new students and many of the faculty and staff here. Reflecting on my first year, I go back to one of the things I said then: What I treasure most about Owen is our small size, which in turn enables us to have a lasting, personal impact on all of our students. We have the great and increasingly rare luxury for a business school of working at a personal scale. It’s what defines us as a school and is a highly prized quality among our applicants.

It’s one thing to talk about a personal scale; it’s quite another to live it, which I have done in spades through my first year as Dean.

I saw the personal scale at work during orientation when David Hornsby (MBA ’86) told of the lifelong friendships he had built with classmates and faculty. That same day, Tom Barr (MBA ’98) and Maria Renz (MBA ’96) told of how they met through their Owen connection, fell in love, and ultimately built spectacular careers and a lifetime relationship fueled by the Owen community.

I saw it again later in the fall when alumni from over three decades turned up in mass to celebrate Professor Germain Boer at his annual Ragtime Party for Entrepreneurs at the Nashville Entrepreneur Center. Sure, there was good music and food, but the alumni came to see Germain and honor the impact he had on their lives.

I watched it at numerous events like Brand Week, the Human and Organizational Development case competition, and the Vanderbilt Healthcare Conference where alumni sought me out to share stories about Professors Dick Daft, Steve Hoeffler, Nancy Hyer, Gary Scudder, and Larry Van Horn. I felt it again in November, when Owen Board members traveled back to campus from far and wide for my first meetings as Dean. Many were students of mine from the 1990s who had stayed connected for nearly two decades. Throughout the winter, I saw it every week at lunches hosted by Professor Dewey Daane for speakers visiting his seminar. Visitors and lunch participants alike had stories about Dewey and how he had impacted their life. Traveling through Asia in March, I heard stories from alumni in Japan, Korea, and China – stories of careers and lives impacted by huge range of faculty and staff from Professors Ray Friedman and Mark Cohen to staff members like Christie St-John and Tami Fassinger who helped these international students come to Owen and have the experience of a lifetime in Nashville.

Working this spring with Project Pyramid in Nepal, I heard how alumni were inspired by Professor Bart Victor to literally change the world. And I saw it again last week, when a Brazilian alumnus Josué Gomes made a special trip to celebrate operations achievements at his company enabled by his relationship with Professor Joe Blackburn.

Perhaps the best example of the power and impact of Owen relationships came in a story Eric Noll told during his Commencement address about then Placement Director, Peter Veruki. A late-breaking job interview opportunity arose during a day when Eric was caring for his young daughter while his wife was at work. “I had no idea how I could get ready, get prepared, get to school, interview and take care of my daughter,” Eric told the crowd. “Peter Veruki had the solution – ‘bring her (Allie) here to school, and I’ll watch her while you get ready’. Luckily, he had toys in his office from all of the companies who came to Owen to recruit–and she happily played with them while I tried to find a job and Peter watched her. I believe that only in a school like Owen could such an event like that happen.”

Speaking about his career, Eric summarized his remarks saying:

“Through my relationship with Peter and through the relationship I had forged over two years with Hans Stoll, I discovered a career I had never known existed prior to coming to Owen and would not have known if I had not come to Owen. Through them, I received an offer to go work at the CBOE in strategic planning and new product development. Through the strength of my education here, the knowledge I gained with the accessibility and friendship of faculty members like Hans Stoll, Craig Lewis, Bob Whaley and others I was able to carve out a valuable, rewarding and ultimately successful career in market microstructure and the financial markets.”

That is what I love about Owen. Yes, we are a learning community, pushing the frontiers of business and building the next generation of leaders. But more importantly we are family that cares and supports each other — both here in Nashville and for lifetime around the world.

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