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Distinguished Alumni Award Winners 2014

Jan 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 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, which created a market capitalization of 30 billion. 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 2005 with $450,000 in 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 more than $1 billion, has a staff of 2,500 and a client roster that includes 75 Fortune 500 companies, including Dell Inc., Pfizer Inc., MasterCard Inc., and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. In 2011, Microsoft named Mu Sigma its preferred vendor for analytics. The company is based in Northbrook, Illinois and has a major operation in Bangalore, India. Mu Sigma also has a growing number of U.S. 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 Award 

Alfredo Moreno Charme, '82, has expanded economic opportunities for Chile through savvy diplomacy. The Chilean minister of foreign affairs since 2010, Moreno brought a career’s worth of experience in banking to his country’s public sector. Beginning in 1987, Moreno served as vice president of Banco Penta, which later became Banco de Chile. Moreno in 2000 negotiated the $12 million sale of the bank to Chile’s leading business conglomerate Luksic Group. 

As minister, Moreno capitalized on a 2005 free trade agreement with China to ramp up Chinese imports of Chilean goods. In 2010, China was the single largest importer of Chilean copper, which accounts for 60 percent of the value of Chile’s exports. 

In keeping with his private sector background, Moreno has been quick to look for opportunities where public and private initiatives can align. After the 2010 earthquake, Moreno engineered the “Rebuild Chile Expo,” a forum that brought companies together with government representatives to help direct reconstruction efforts.  

Moreno also has strived to make government more transparent. In encouraging other Latin America countries to take a similar course, he has helped bolster foreign investor confidence in the region. Thanks to Moreno’s efforts, Chile increasingly has assumed a leadership role in Latin America, often guiding the conversation on contentious issues, such as expansion of nuclear energy. He also is an active alumnus who serves on the Americas Cabinet of the Booth Global Advisory Board. 

Moreno aims to enhance Chile’s stature in in Latin America. "Chile has been pursuing the principles of democracy, human rights, and free trade. These are principles that are not going to change," said Moreno in 2010 interview with China.org. 

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 Lake Tanganyika in central Africa. A lack of health care has led to infant mortality rates surpassing 25 percent and frequent malaria outbreaks in the region.   

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 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 three 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