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Distinguished Alumni Award Winners 2014

January 02, 2014

Since 1972, the Chicago Booth Distinguished Alumni Awards have recognized and celebrated outstanding alumni achievements. The 2014 DAA recipients embody the school’s dedication to limitless inquiry and courageous leadership. The Corporate Award, Entrepreneurial Award, Public Service/Public Sector Award, and Young Alumni Award honor four alumni who have made an impact across industries and the world. 

We look forward to exploring their remarkable accomplishments in the spring 2014 issue of the Chicago Booth Magazine and honoring them at the awards ceremony during RECONNECT weekend, May 16-17.  

Distinguished Corporate Award 

George Conrades, ’71 (XP-28), has taken technology firms to new heights over the past 40 years. After 30 years at IBM, where he ran the company’s US and Asia/Pacific operations and founded the firm’s first headquarters in Japan, Conrades joined technology and research firm BBN Corp. as CEO and president. 

Conrades built on BBN’s reputation—the firm developed ARPANET, the predecessor of today’s internet—to become one of the leading internet service providers with a focus on business-to-business applications.When BBN was acquired by GTE in 1997, the firm’s stock had more than doubled to $29 a share from when Conrades joined the company three years earlier. 

In 1999, Conrades joined tech start-up Akamai Technologies Inc. In his first six months as CEO and chairman of Akamai, Conrades led the cloud platform provider’s successful IPO. Today Akamai has annual revenues of $1.37 billion, runs 137,000 servers in 87 countries, and is considered the leader in content and application delivery. 

In a 2005 interview with the Harvard Business Review, Conrades shared his enthusiasm for the high-speed tech world. “For me, the pace of Akamai—and of the internet business in general—is exhilarating. I’m having the time of my life.” 

Distinguished Entrepreneurial Award 

Dhiraj Rajaram, '03, recognized early the strategic importance of big data. Rajaram's data-analytics firm, Mu Sigma, was founded in 2004 with funds from savings and the sale of his house. 

For the first nine months, the firm had no clients, and Rajaram was the only employee. Mu Sigma’s trajectory changed when Rajaram convinced Microsoft Inc. to initiate a pilot project that analyzed consumer behavior. 

Today, the company is valued at $1.5 billion, has a staff of close to 3,500 and a client roster that includes 125 Fortune 500 companies, including American International Group Inc. (AIG), Caesars Entertainment Corp., Dell Inc., Microsoft, and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. In 2011, Microsoft named Mu Sigma its preferred vendor for analytics. The company is based in Northbrook, Illinois, with major operations in Bangalore, India. Mu Sigma also has a growing number of US offices.   

The caliber of Mu Sigma's roster of industry heavyweights more than validated Rajaram’s early insight. Consulting giant McKinsey & Company forecast in 2011 that by 2020, the demand for data analysts will be 50 to 60 percent greater than the supply. Mu Sigma itself has benefitted from the industry’s meteoric growth, owing to its early and innovative take on the market. Said Rajaram in a 2011 Wall Street Journal story, "there cannot be any business that will not be impacted by analytics and decision science, and there's a lot more to be done." 

Distinguished Public Service/Public Sector Award 

Alfredo Moreno, '82, has expanded economic opportunities for Chile through savvy diplomacy. The Chilean minister of foreign affairs since 2010, Moreno brought a solid foundation in economics to the position.

At 31, he was elected a board member of Banco de Chile, the largest Chilean bank. He went on to manage the country’s largest media company, its major chain of do-it-yourself stores, and the largest Chilean airline. In each instance, he helped guide the organization through a merger or sale and he gained a reputation for his sharp negotiating skills.

As minister, Moreno expanded a 2005 free trade agreement with China. The 2012 pact paved the way for a $1 billion investment in the first year. Moreno also negotiated free trade agreements with a number of other nations. He spearheaded the Pacific Alliance, an open trade agreement among four Latin American nations bordering the Pacific.

Moreno also is known for his calm in the face of crisis. After the 2010 earthquake, Moreno engineered the Rebuild Chile Expo, a forum that connected companies with opportunities to help in post-disaster reconstruction. 

He also is an active alumnus who serves on the Americas Cabinet of the Booth Global Advisory Board. 

During the four years of his service in the administration of Sebastián Piñera, average income grew to $20,000 from $15,000 a year, outpacing the rest of Latin America as a whole. “We’re very close to what international organizations call a developed country,” Moreno said in an interview with Chicago Booth Magazine. 

Distinguished Young Alumni Award 

Amy Lehman, AB '96, MBA '05, MD '05, is leading an initiative to bring medical care to the remote communities surrounding central Africa's Lake Tanganyika. 

Lehman in 2007 left a burgeoning career in surgery to address the public-health crisis. To date, Lehman and her team estimate they have helped around 300,000 people in the area, either through direct medical intervention or by providing supplies such as mosquito nets.   

But Lehman believes the most effective way to expand access to health care for the remote communities on the lake is through a floating clinic. She is raising funds to build the Lake Tanganyika Floating Health Clinic, a hospital ship which will travel to villages on the lake and spend several weeks in each location treating patients.   

Lehman has spent the last five years working with local officials, residents, and other aid organizations to hone in on best practices and make sure the clinic addresses long-term community needs. Training local doctors and medical staff is a priority, so the clinic also will function as a teaching hospital.   

In discussing the project with the London Telegraph, Lehman’s entrepreneurial spirit becomes clear. “Having a big idea is the first part of a very long path. You need the passion and inspiration to get people to believe in you. But you have be ready for a slog.”—Alexandra Batty