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Distinguished Alumni Award Winners Named By University of Chicago Booth School of Business

October 26, 2009

Paul Purcell, chairman, president and chief executive of Robert W. Baird & Co., a financial services firm, was named the distinguished corporate alumnus of 2009 by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Ron Huberman, chief executive of Chicago Public Schools was named distinguished alumnus in the public sector, while online education entrepreneur Ronald Packard was chosen as distinguished entrepreneurial alumnus and Matthew Li, founder and chief executive of Fore Research & Management, a global investment management firm, was named distinguished young alumnus of the year.

They will receive their awards at the school’s annual alumni celebration dinner Friday, November 6, 2009 at the Navy Pier Grand Ballroom in Chicago.

The winners were selected by groups of alumni in Chicago, New York, Hong Kong and London. Nominations were sought from the school’s 43,000 alumni.

Purcell was chosen as the distinguished corporate alumnus for professional achievement of the highest caliber in the management of a for-profit organization, according to Edward A. Snyder, dean of Chicago Booth. Rather than recognizing one noteworthy achievement, these four awards recognize a series of outstanding accomplishments, Snyder said.

Purcell’s father hoped he would take over the family insurance-brokerage firm, but Purcell’s interests lay in finance. In 1971, after receiving his MBA from Chicago Booth, he joined Kidder, Peabody in Chicago as an associate in investment banking. Over the next two decades, he rose through the ranks becoming managing director, a post he held from 1980 to 1994.

When the firm took a different turn after its sale to General Electric and underwent several management changes, he moved to Robert W. Baird & Co. in Milwaukee.

Purcell served in a variety of positions at Baird, including chief operating officer, before becoming president and chief executive in 2000. He added the title of chairman in 2006. In 2004, Baird made Fortune magazine’s list of the 100 best companies to work for, its first of six consecutive years on the list. Also in 2004, Baird employees bought back the firm through a leveraged buyout, the culmination of a project Purcell began when he joined in 1994.

Huberman, a 2000 graduate of Chicago Booth and the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, was named distinguished alumnus in the public sector or public service.

He began his career in 1995 as a Chicago police officer, but he moved quickly up the ranks of police administration. After an educational leave of absence to attend the University of Chicago, Huberman was named assistant deputy superintendent in 2000. In 2004, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley named him head of the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, where he launched the first network that integrated surveillance camera capability with police and emergency response operations.

In 2005, Daley appointed Huberman his chief of staff. With federal guidance, Huberman helped stamp out patronage hiring in city ranks. Soon after the mayor appointed him head of the financially troubled Chicago Transit Authority in 2007, Huberman convinced politicians to agree on funding changes that kept trains and buses running.

In January 2009, Daley named Huberman chief executive of Chicago Public Schools, a nearly $5 billion bureaucracy that employs more than 40,000 adults and teaches more than 400,000 students.

Packard, winner of the distinguished entrepreneurial alumnus award, began his career at Goldman Sachs, but after earning his MBA from Chicago Booth in 1989, he switched to consulting giant McKinsey & Company. His work drew the attention of financier Michael Milken, who was launching an education investment fund and offered Packard the post of senior vice president for the Knowledge Universe Learning Group. Milken then named him chief executive of Knowledge Schools, a chain of pre-schools.

After searching for high-quality math supplements for his own daughter, Packard wrote a business plan to create an entire school online. He began securing capital, including $10 million from Milken and Larry Ellison, chief executive of Oracle. By 2001, Packard had raised $41 million from individual investors and began serving children in Pennsylvania and Colorado through K12, a virtual public school.

Since its founding, K12 has expanded and now provides materials and tutoring, a private online academy, and programs for individual public school districts. K12, which went public in December 2007, has 900 employees serving more than 50,000 students in 21 states.

Li, a 1991 graduate of Chicago Booth, will receive the distinguished young alumnus award for his accomplishments in finance.

He began his career at Merrill Lynch, where he made the transition from analyst to trader. Li carefully packaged a master plan – buying warrants, shorting stocks, and purchasing bonds – to profit from Viacom’s 1994 bid to merge with Paramount communications, part of a three-way transaction with Blockbuster. Credit Suisse, which competed against Li in the deal, hired him afterward.

After a year, he left Credit Suisse to run a proprietary convertible trading desk at Toronto Dominion Bank in 1996. Li assembled a team of traders and analysts that generated almost $1 billion in trading profits.

In 2003, the group left with Li when he founded Fore Research and Management, a global investment management firm. Fore has carefully managed investments in convertible bonds, leveraged loans and high yield securities. Fore’s multistrategy funds have achieved over 15 percent annualized returns for five years through July 2009, beating the vast majority of its peers. In 2008, Fore reported fourth-quarter holdings of $3.4 billion.

Previous winners of the distinguished alumni awards include Joseph Neubauer, chairman and chief executive of ARAMARK, Joanne Smith, M.D., president and chief executive of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, and James Kilts, founding partner of Centerview Partners and former chairman and chief executive of The Gillette Company.

The University of Chicago Booth School of Business is one of the leading business schools in the world. The school’s faculty includes many renowned scholars and its graduates include many business leaders across the U.S. and worldwide.

The Chicago Approach to Management Education is distinguished by how it leverages fundamental knowledge, its rigor, and its practical application to business challenges.

Chicago Booth offers a full-time MBA program, an evening MBA program, a weekend MBA program, and an executive MBA program in Chicago, London and Singapore. The school also offers a Ph.D. program, open enrollment executive education, and custom corporate education.