Alumni Connections - No. 90 - January 2012

Alumni Connections is a sampling of alumni news. Alumni on the Move, Alumni to Know, CEO Watch: Taking the Lead, and CEO Watch: Making Headlines share news gleaned from media online and in print, including news submitted to Chicago Booth Magazine. Submit information about yourself or fellow alumni to

Alumni on the Move

American Land Title Association:
Christopher Abbinante, ’85 (XP-54),
has been named president for 2011-12. Based in Washington DC, the national trade association represents members of the title insurance industry.

The Aricent Group:
Mick Lopez,’84,
has been appointed CFO. A global technology and innovation services provider, the company is headquartered in East Brunswick, New Jersey.

Augme Technologies, Inc.:
Sandy Purcell, ’89,
has been appointed to the board of directors. The technology and interactive media marketing company is headquartered in New York. Purcell is a senior managing director in Houlihan Lokey’s London office and also is head of international financial advisory services.

Catalyst Pharmaceutical Partners, Inc.:
Richard Rieger, ’91,
has been appointed vice president, commercial operations. Based in Coral Gables, Florida, the biopharmaceutical company develops drugs to treat such central nervous system diseases as addictions and epilepsy.

Dyax Corp.:
Paolo Pucci, ’90,
has been appointed to the board of directors. The biotechnology company is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Pucci is CEO and a board member of the biotechnology company ArQule Inc.

Hearst Corporation:
Carlton Charles, ’86,
has joined as vice president, treasurer. Based in New York, the media company owns 15 daily and 38 weekly newspapers, hundreds of magazines, and 29 television stations.

Kapsch TrafficCom IVHS Inc.:
Joseph Averkamp, ’92 (XP-61),
has been appointed senior vice president, sales and business development. Headquartered in Vienna, Austria, the firm is a subsidiary of Kapsch TrafficCom AG, which makes electronic toll collection systems.

Legg Mason Capital Management:
Sam Peters, ’99,
has been named chief investment officer and sole portfolio manager of LMCM Value Trust. The investment firm is based in Baltimore, Maryland.

Thomas Lesch, ’10,
has joined as vice president in the debt capital markets practice. The investment bank is based in Chicago.

Louisiana-Pacific Corporation:
Sallie Bailey, ’84,
has joined as executive vice president and CFO. Headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, the company makes engineered wood building products.

Margaritas Mexican Restaurant:
Bonnie Monahan, ’89,
has been named CFO. The restaurant chain has 23 locations throughout Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Connecticut. It is headquartered in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Material ConneXion, Inc.:
Tiffany Vasilchik, ’91,
has been appointed vice president, business development. The consultancy firm advises businesses about materials. It has US offices in New York and international offices in China, Germany, Italy, Korea, Thailand, and Turkey. The company is part of Sandow Media Corporation.

Robert Moon, ’90,
has joined as a managed services expert in the central region. Headquartered in Eagan, Minnesota, the company offers business communications systems and support.

OfficeMax Incorporated:
Jim Barr, ’90,
has been appointed executive vice president and chief digital officer. The office products company is headquartered in Naperville, Illinois.

Trevena, Inc.:
Lonnie Moulder, ’97 (XP-66),
has joined the board of directors. The pharmaceutical company is headquartered in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. Moulder is the former president and CEO of Abraxis BioScience.

UBS Wealth Management Americas:
the Desai Group, led by managing director and private wealth advisor Ajay Desai, ’98, has joined the firm's private wealth management office in Chicago. The financial services company is headquartered in Zurich and Basel, Switzerland. has been named CFO. The restaurant chain has 23 locations throughout Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Connecticut. It is headquartered in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Valentine Capital Asset Management:
Reynold Samoranos, ’86,
has joined as chief compliance officer. The money management firm is based in San Ramon, California.

Alumni to Know

Amy Barrett, ’89, has been named one of the 2011 Best Financial Advisors for Doctors by Medical Economics. Barrett is principal, chief investment officer and financial advisor for Voyager Capital Management, LLC.

Chief information officers and CFOs need transparency and clear communication with each other in order to take advantage of approaching IT opportunities, said Mike Blake, ’94. “Tell your CIO you’re not looking for year-over-year cost reductions; you’re looking for the enhancement of opportunities with the use of technology,” Blake said in a December 1 CFO article. “That’s sacrilege in the CFO ranks; CFOs are geared to drive down costs. But you can increase the line in technology and decrease other costs. Below a certain level of investment, don’t push so hard on ROI for fear of killing opportunity.” Blake, who is CIO for Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, started in finance and got into IT when he was working for Sears and his boss asked him to see what he could find out about managing IT costs. Blake discovered a $300,000 system that put out a report read by only three people. “We were able to get rid of it. It was eye-opening. Creating that kind of transparency got me excited about IT. Finance is a way of seeing how the business operates through language and numbers. IT is a way of seeing it through transactions. In IT, you can see what’s happening in the business, [and] what will happen, before dollar one hits.”

Have a budding professional athlete in your family? CaptainU to the rescue! Athletes and their families can use the online platform to post stats and highlights in order to capture the attention of colleges they may be interested in attending. Also, the site will offer advice on goals and next steps. CaptainU shared the New Venture Challenge prize for $25,000 in seed money in 2008. Today its founders are going after an A round of funding, said a November 20 article in All Things Once they decide they want to play at the college level, “students really need a road map for what they should do to develop athletically and academically,” said cofounder Mike Farb, ’09. “Today, most families just rely on high school coaches and other parents.” CaptainU analyzes data added to an athlete’s profile to determine a set of goals, the article said.

Cheryl Francis,’78, recently headed the selection committee that determined the Chicago chapter of Financial Executive awards for CFO of the Year. Sitting on the committee was Abbie Smith, Boris and Irene Stern Distinguished Service Professor of Accounting.

Scott Freedman, ’11, was still a Booth student when he helped Scott Stern, assistant dean of technology at the Pritzker School of Medicine, develop a computer-based simulator, or avatar, to teach medical students how to diagnose patients. Now Freedman is vice president of development at Agile, the company that makes the simulator. The firm won the $25,000 first-place prize in the 2011 New Venture Challenge sponsored by the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and a $50,000 grant from the Innovation Fund.

Ayelet Gneezy, PhD ’07, a professor at the UC San Diego Rady School of Management, has won the Robert B. Cialdini Award for excellence in a published field study. The award honors Gneezy’s paper, “Shared Social Responsibility: A Field Experiment in Pay-What-You-Want Pricing and Charitable Giving.”
“I am especially honored to receive this award because it recognizes the important role that field experiments have in behavioral research,” Gneezy said in a November 14 Targeted News Service article. “More often than not, it is important that researchers also test their predictions in the field in order to verify that results obtained by laboratory experiments survive reality.”

Margaret Hardin, ’96, has been inducted into the New Mexico State University College of Business Hall of Fame. Hardin is president of Munchkin, Inc., a company that makes infant clothing and toddler products. In a November 12 Marketing Weekly News article, the CEO of the company credited Hardin with building the firm into a trusted, leading national brand.

Power2Switch LLC, an online tool to help residential customers compare energy-service providers, has raised $1.3 million, exceeding a $950,000 target for its first round of fundraising, according to a December 1 article in the Chicago Tribune. The company was cofounded by Philip Nevels, ’10, and Seyi Fabode, ’10, who had entered the idea in the New Venture Challenge. “I learned that I’m passionate about startups in general,” Nevels said in a November 28 Crain’s Chicago Business article. “I always knew I liked good ideas and that I liked commercializing and creating business around them. It just took a while to learn it didn't matter whose ideas they were.”

Dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon Melanie Palm, MBA ’04, MD ’04, a 2011 Elite Speaker for Scripps Memorial Hospital - Encinitas, gave a women’s health lecture at the Head to Toe Women’s Expo on November 12. The expo took place at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in Encinitas, California.

BenchPrep, an online education technology company, has announced the launch of OpenPrep, a new feature that integrates thousands of open educational resources with BenchPrep courses. BenchPrep was founded by Ashish Rangnekar, ’11. Open resources include Wikipedia articles, Khan Academy Tutorials, and You Tube videos, said a November 29 PRWeb article. Students and teachers also can add their own resources. BenchPrep won the 2010 New Venture Challenge.

Many of the issues raised by Occupy Wall Street supporters continue to gain traction with the average American, writes Adam Rodnitzky, ’08, in a November 18 article on “In particular, the erosion of the middle class due to job losses and the increasingly large income gap have become key issues in the 2012 presidential elections,” he wrote. The tech industry, too, hasn’t been immune to job killing in the name of bigger profits, he said. But the other side of the coin is: “Professionals whose jobs were eliminated due to automation and outsourcing can now outsource themselves on automated marketplaces. Many of these skilled professionals are finding new homes as independent knowledge workers connected to a broad base of smaller organizations via evolved crowdsourcing marketplaces like oDesk and Trada. Once again, this is creating employment and redistributing wealth back into more hands.”

Behavioral economists have a lot to say about how consumers make decisions. In a November 17 article in Prospect Magazine, written by Emmanuel Roman, ’87, Roman discusses a new book written by one of the founders of the field back in the 1970s, Daniel Kahneman. Roman also credits Richard Thaler, Ralph and Dorothy Keller Distinguished Service Professor of Behavioral Science and Economics, with arriving at fascinating applications of Kahneman’s theories. “In his excellent book Nudge (co-written with Cass Sunstein), Thaler explains that a framework in which consent is the default option for organ donation would save many lives,” Roman wrote. Another example: programs that pay teenage girls $1 a day for each day they are not pregnant have reduced the number of unwanted pregnancies “with very favorable ratios of cost to benefit,” Roman wrote recounting Thaler’s research. One of Thaler’s conclusions is that “a society can preserve freedom of choice while nudging people in various directions that will improve their lives.” Roman is chief operating officer of the hedge fund the Man Group.

Konstantin Tryapitsyn, ’11 (EXP-16), has been named one of the “Top 1000 Managers in Russia,” an annual ranking of the Russian Managers Association and the national business newspaper Kommersant. Tryapitsyn is executive vice president at FinEx Financial Group in Russia.

CEO Watch: Taking the Lead

Czcibor Dawid ’08 (EXP-13)
Noble Securities

Based in Krakow, Poland, the firm is the brokerage arm of Getin Noble Bank. It is the top retail corporate bonds and energy broker in Poland, expanding this year into the Forex market. It has 20 branches across the country and plans further expansion within Poland and to neighboring countries.

Gail Luxenberg, AB ’79, MBA’00
Executive Director and CEO
The Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta

Based in Atlanta, Georgia, the community center offers a variety of programs and services for children and adults.

Vijay Talwar, ’99
Interim CEO
Blue Nile, Inc.

The online retailer of diamonds and fine jewelry is based in Seattle, Washington. Talwar previously served as the company’s senior vice president and general manager of international.

Doug Schaedler, ’99
inno360 Inc.

The management software company is based in Cincinnati, Ohio.

CEO Watch: Making Headlines

Jason Blumberg, ’05
Cofounder and CEO
Energy Results

Blumberg’s Chicago-based company offers an online energy assessment platform that is being used in experimental learning centers at three Best Buy stores in Chicago; Houston, Texas; and San Francisco, California, said a November 4 article. The article said the learning centers “will allow customers to learn more about energy efficiency upgrades, from Energy Star appliances to monitoring devices, that could help them save energy.”

Richard Gengler, ’09
Cofounder and CEO
Prevail Health Solutions LLC

Gengler is a former Navy fighter pilot who is running a website offering free online help for war veterans in need of stress management and relief of depression symptoms. Roger Sweis, ’09, is cofounder and president. Gengler said the majority of vets “don’t seek any care.” The driving motivation for founding the company, he said in a November 3 Crain’s Chicago Business article, is “to do something that's going to help a lot of people who need it.” Gengler compared running a start-up to training as a fighter pilot: “You have to be able to maneuver quickly, change course fast, think quickly.”

Robertson Hilton, ’74
President and CEO
The A.M. McGregor Group of Cleveland

Hilton has been elected the 2012 - 14 Chair of the International Association of Homes and Services for the Ageing. Based in Washington DC, the association represents more than 20,000 aging services providers worldwide. “The world is facing an aging crisis,” Hilton said in a November 14 PRNewswire article. “In 1950, eight of every 100 people were over 60. By 2050, 22 of every 100 will be over 60. Moreover, some 100 million elderly today live on less than a dollar a day.”

Philip Leslie, ’09
Founder and CEO

The company recently released its Receipt Reader service for the Blackberry Storm, according to a November 10 article on The Receipt Reader gives mobile users the opportunity to snap a photo of their receipts that automatically translates into details in their expense list moments later, the article said. The program previously had been available only on Windows Mobile.

Matt Maloney, SM ’00, MBA ’10

GrubHub, an online food ordering service, recently acquired FanGo, an app that lets Smartphone users order food from stadiums and airports, said a November 8 article in Crain’s Chicago Business. “Mobile is a key part of the company’s growth strategy—mobile ordering grew 300 percent last year and should account for more than half of GrubHub's orders within two years,” the article said. GrubHub also was the presenting sponsor of the Illinois Technology Association 2011 Fall Challenge winners. Louis Wasserman from the University of Chicago earned the top undergraduate prize of $5,000.

Dhiraj Rajaram, ’03
Founder and CEO
Mu Sigma

Seven years ago when Rajaram started his data analytics business, he didn’t hear or receive support from any potential client for eight months. “It was a very lonely time for me,” he said in a November 23 profile about him in The Times of India. Rajaram had moved with his wife from a nice house in Chicago to a small, one-bedroom apartment and set up the front end of his business in the United States and back-end delivery in Bangalore, India. Today his business has boomed into what may be “the world's largest pure-play analytics company,” the article said. “All business is about understanding how their customers and others are making decisions,” Rajaram said. “And if I can understand that about people, I can influence their decision-making process.” Rajaram had the foresight to recognize that decision analytics would boom and that the talent for it didn’t exist—that is, of course, until he developed the talent pool in India, the article said.

Submit information about yourself or fellow alumni to