Meet the Distinguished Alumni Awards Committee
Each year the winners of the Chicago Booth Distinguished Alumni Awards are chosen by a group of fellow alumni convened at sites all over the world and connected via video-conferencing. They collectively discuss the peer-submitted nominations, sifting through a group of deserving alumni to highlight the truly extraordinary. Here are the perspectives of five members of the selection committee.
Eric Weinheimer, '94, (pictured) chairman of this year's committee and last year's winner in the public service/public sector category, has been president and CEO of The Cara Program since 1996. Since its inception in 1991, The Cara Program has placed more than 4,000 homeless and low-income people in jobs with a one-year job retention rate of 77 percent. Weinheimer said he was "pleased that the selection process was so thorough, collective, and efficient - although I should not have been surprised given that this is Booth. Everyone was engaged, the discussion was substantive, and the reasoning was solid." Weinheimer also serves on Booth's Social Enterprise Initiative Advisory Council and is a judge for the Social New Venture Challenge and the LEADership Challenge.
Robert Nagel, '63, is chairman and a partner at CEO Partners, Inc., a Chicago-based food industry consulting firm, and the former president and chief operating officer of Peapod, LLC. Nagel served on the committee several times, once even as chairman, and likes the consistency that has developed in the process and criteria. He was especially impressed with the public service candidates this year. Nagel said committee members gain an "awareness of the accomplishments of many alums" and renew friendships with other judges. Read more about Robert Nagel »
Blair Jacobson, '99, is a managing director in the London office of Ares Management, LLC, a global alternative investment firm, and was the London committee host for this year's awards. London has been a perennial location for committee deliberations, but Jacobson noted that, ""This year, it was great to see participating from Mumbai and Seattle, in addition to the stalwarts of London, New York, and Chicago." Each time he participates on the committee he is reminded of the global talent pool produced by Booth. "Chicago Booth has a highly accomplished set of alumni, and it is good to recognize those who demonstrate particular excellence in their field," Jacobson said. "These alumni have very interesting stories and serve as role models for us all."
Steven Georgeou, '70, the New York committee host for this year's awards, is the founder and president of Geocom, Inc., a marketing management company specializing in strategy and program development for financial services, travel, and telecommunications clients. Georgeou has become more involved with alumni events in New York as Booth ramps up its presence there. "It's all about helping the school and being more engaged in a unique global venue," he said. "It also makes one more aware of the global reach of the school and the successes of its alumni."
Udai Kumar, '06, is a group strategy manager with Microsoft in its Server and Tools Division, and also serves on the board of directors of Bike Works, a Seattle-based nonprofit that empowers youth through bicycling. He was the Seattle committee host for this year's awards. This was his first year on the committee and he saw it as "an embodiment of the Booth ethos of collegial discussion and rigor." Kumar said he hopes that adding Seattle to the network of cities where committee members meet will "increase awareness of Booth within the technology industry." - Rebecca Rolfes
Photo by Matthew Gilson
All it took was delivering a single guest lecture at Chicago Booth in the 1970s, and Robert Nagel, '63, was hooked. Since then, his enthusiasm has been contagious and he's been getting other alumni in on the volunteer action. "I hardly would call it volunteer work. It's more fun than work," Nagel said.
That first guest lecture, which gave Nagel the opportunity to share career experiences and interact with students, fueled his passion to do more. He has helped raise funds for the Annual Fund, served on the Council on Chicago Booth since 2002, and pioneered the popular Executive-in-Residence program. His years of service demonstrate the different ways that volunteer work can benefit the school and reward alumni as well.
"I consider him a strong advocate for the school and one of our most dedicated volunteers," said Caroline Karr, '88, executive director for strategic initiatives, who has worked with Nagel.
Nagel, chairman and a partner at Chicago food industry consulting firm CEO Partners, Inc., draws on an accomplished career. He has served as president and chief operating officer of the grocery delivery service Peapod, LLC, principal at consultancy A.T. Kearney, Inc., vice president and general manager at Kraft Foodservice now part of US Foods, Inc.), and vice president of marketing and research and development at Lily-Tulip Cup Corp.
After years of speaking informally to students, Nagel was recruited to serve as a volunteer for the Annual Fund. He recognized the importance of raising funds for important school initiatives, and pushed to secure more research dollars for faculty. "What they needed was more access to computers to conduct research," he said, referring to the time before PCs were ubiquitous. "That's what unrestricted funds can do," Nagel said in a recent interview.
As a member of the Council on Chicago Booth, he headed a task force on alumni engagement that was active from spring 2003 to fall 2004. The council was startled to learn the results of a focus group that showed many graduates didn't think about the school regularly, if at all.
"We were blown away," Nagel said. He worked with staff and other volunteers to find ways to reengage alumni and developed the Executive-in-Residence program to bring alumni executives to campus. The program, which quickly surpassed the council's original expectations for alumni interest, is now a popular career resource for students in all programs. Career Services regularly brings executives to the Chicago, London, and Singapore campuses for small group meetings between students and executives, and also brings more than 20 executives to each of the global campuses for an annual large-scale event.
"The program wouldn't be where it is today without Bob's passion and commitment," said Julie Morton, associate dean for Career Services and Corporate Relations. - Chelsea Vail
Legacy Luncheon Celebrates Family ties
Dean Sunil Kumar addressed generations of Booth families at the second annual Legacy Luncheon in Hyde Park on June 9. “In a changing world, the school’s standards, values, and ideals are constants,” he said.
Jim Hickey Jr., ’12 - whose father Jim Hickey, ’82, grandfather Jack Hickey, ’52 (XP-8), and uncle Roger Hickey, ’88, are all longtime Chicagoans who attended Booth - was drawn to that constant.
“I wanted to get an academically rigorous understand.ing of business. So while I didn’t concentrate in the same subjects as my father and grandfather, I wanted the same analytical training,” said Jim Hickey Jr., who attended the lunch with his family. Jim Hickey, principal at private equity firm Vista Equity Partners in Chicago, said he was impressed by the energy of the Hyde Park campus and enjoyed the opportunity to reconnect with the school, adding: “The Legacy Luncheon is a great example of Dean Kumar’s initiatives to make alumni engagement a priority.”
Thomas Watkins, ’79, president and CEO of Human Genome Sciences, Inc., in Rockville, Maryland, said he has enjoyed sharing the Booth experience with his daughter Caroline Watkins, ’12 (pictured).
“When Caroline was younger, we would occasionally drive by campus and point out buildings,” he said, referring to their earlier time living in Chicago. Caroline attended the Road to CEO talk that her father gave in April, one of the many Booth activities they share. “The numbers and names have changed, but we love to talk about classes,” she said.
The annual luncheon, which was conceived by Stacey Kole, AM ’86, PhD ’92, deputy dean for the Full-Time MBA Program, celebrates familial commitment to Booth’s rigorous academic approach. “These students grew up in homes where lively debate at the dinner table is the norm,” she said. “They are quite comfortable with a Chicago-style conversation.” - Chelsea Vail