Alumni Connections - No. 27 - October 2006

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

Adnexus Therapeutics:
Charles Carter, MS ’94, MBA ’96, has been named vice president, finance, in a management team expansion at the drug development company, which is based in Waltham, Massachusetts.

Air Canada:
Daniel Shurz, ’04
, has been appointed vice president, network planning. Shurz was director, Air Canada–Airports, responsible for airport operations. Air Canada is headquartered in Montreal.

American Capital Strategies Ltd.:
Greg Smitherman, ’88
, has been named managing director. The buyout and mezzanine fund is based in Bethesda, Maryland. Smitherman is working in the fund’s technology group in Palo Alto, California.

Behringer Harvard:
Andrew Bruce, ’02
, has been named vice president, finance for the Dallas-based real estate investment company.

Gray Benoist, ’78
, has been appointed CFO and vice president, finance. Based in St. Louis, the firm designs and makes signal transmission products for data networking and specialty electronics markets.

Builders Finance Corporation:
Earl Jacobson, ’63
, has founded the company, which arranges land acquisition, development, and construction financing, on a senior and mezzanine loan basis, for real estate developers in Arizona and Illinois. Jacobson has relocated to Tucson from Chicago, where he founded and directed the corporate finance department of American Financial, which is partially sponsoring Builders Finance.

The Cannery:
Mike Wokosin, ’96
, has been promoted to vice president, marketing and technology, of the advanced media and creative services agency. Wokosin joined the Los Angeles–based firm in 2005 as director, technology.

Columbus Economic Development Board:
Courtney Carr, ’94 (XP-63)
, has been named executive director. The Columbus, Indiana, organization of member firms works to create and sustain economic growth. Carr will start his new position December 1. He currently is chief of staff, deputy commissioner highway operations, for the Indiana Department of Transportation. He also is a member of the Columbus Redevelopment Commission.

Conseco, Inc.:
James Hohmann, ’92 (XP-61)
, has been appointed president and chief operating officer. Previously, he was interim CEO of the insurance company, which is based in Carmel, Indiana.

Credit Suisse Asset Management:
Christian Ralf Mittelhaeuser, ’02 (EXP-6)
, has joined as a vice president. He is working in the qualitative portfolio strategy group within the CIO office in Zurich, which is developing investment strategies for high net worth individuals.

Deutsche Bank:
Mark Chiappara, ’96
, has joined in its U.S. private wealth management business in New York as a managing director and senior private banker.

Doral Financial Corporation:
Glen Wakeman, ’93 (XP-62)
, has been appointed CEO and a member of the board of directors. Wakeman had been president and chief operating officer of the diversified financial services company since May 30. The company is headquartered in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Dresner Partners:
Michael McCoy, ’98
, has joined as managing director. Dresner is a middle-market investment bank based in Chicago.

Grégoire Olivier, ’98
, has been appointed president and chairman of the board. Based in Nanterre, France, the company manufactures such automobile parts as exhaust systems and vehicle interiors.

Bryan Hunter, ’88
, has been named COO. A joint venture between Reuters, a global information company, and CME, the largest financial exchange, it is the world’s first centrally cleared global foreign exchange marketplace and is expected to launch in early 2007.

Guidance Capital LLC:
Peter Carl, ’95
, has been hired as senior research associate. The firm, with offices in Chicago and Delaware, manages hedge fund products. Carl will focus on hedge fund manager research and risk management.

Homeland Integrated Security Systems, Inc.:
Michael Roy, ’81 (XP-46)
, has been appointed executive vice president of marketing and sales. Headquartered in Asheville, North Carolina, the company sells global positioning hardware and software for personal and commercial use.

InSync Software:
Yashpaul Dogra, ’99
, has joined the management team as vice president of product marketing and strategy. The firm is based in the Silicon Valley.

La-Z-Boy Residential:
Tom Zwolan, ’90
, has been appointed to the newly created position of director of consumer research. Headquartered in Monroe, Michigan, the firm is North America’s largest manufacturer of upholstered furniture.

McNeil Nutritionals:
Janis Smith-Gomez, AB ’89, MBA ’90
, has joined as vice president, marketing, of the firm, which makes such dietary and nutritional supplements as Splenda, Viactiv, Lactaid, and Benecol. Smith-Gomez also will join the company’s global management board.

New York Society of Security Analysts:
Alvin Kressler, ’96
, has been chosen as executive director. The nonprofit educational forum is based in New York City.

ORFID Corporation:
Winn Hong, ’05
, has been promoted to vice president, corporate development. The Los Angeles–based company develops electronic devices. Previously, Hong was senior director for business development at the company.

PSP Swiss Property:
Giacomo Balzarini, ’02 (EXP-7)
, has been named CFO. The real estate company has six offices in Switzerland. Balzarini previously was managing director.

RELM Wireless Corporation:
John Wellhausen, ’93
, has been appointed to the board of directors. Based in West Melbourne, Florida, RELM makes and markets two-way communications equipment. Wellhausen is CEO of United Medical Imaging, LLC, which runs outpatient imaging centers in 10 locations.

RenaissanceRe Holdings Ltd.:
Todd Fonner, ’93
, has been promoted to chief risk officer and chief investment officer. He had been senior vice president and treasurer of the reinsurance and insurance company, which is based in Pembroke, Bermuda.

Vincent Mercurio, ’01
, has been named general manager of the Ritz-Carlton Beijing, Financial Street. The new 253-room hotel was set to open this year. Mercurio previously was hotel manager at the award-winning Ritz-Carlton Shanghai.

Rotonda West Association:
Thomas Madsen, ’85 (XP-54)
, has been hired as manager. He had been serving as interim manager of the 8,000-member association for residents who live in the deed-restricted community in Englewood, Florida.

State Bar of Arizona:
Scott DeWald, MBA ’81, JD ’81
, has been elected secretary of the executive council of the business section. He focuses on corporate, securities, mergers and acquisitions, lending and other commercial transactions, with an emphasis on high-tech, e-commerce, and emerging companies.

Tribune Interactive:
Dana Hayes Jr., ’96
, has been appointed senior vice president, sales. A Chicago-based division of Tribune Company, Tribune Interactive comprises 15 news sites including,,, and; 25 television stations; and entertainment and shopping sites. Hayes previously was senior vice president of sales and marketing for Tribune Media Net.

Vita Food Products, Inc.:
Clifford Bolen, ’98 (XP-67)
, has been promoted to president and CEO. Bolen had been CFO since 2000. The Chicago-based company sells specialty foods, seafood, and kosher foods.

West Monroe Partners:
Kevin Downs, ’79
, has joined the consulting firm’s Seattle office and is responsible for developing and executing its financial services strategy.

Alumni to Know

Gene Brown, ’95, vice president of marketing and public relations at Suzuki was interviewed by BusinessWeek. Suzuki Motor Corporation has seen a 30% increase in sales growth—a huge gain in an industry that Brown discussed the brand’s new advertising and marketing campaign that harnesses Suzuki motorcycles to sell autos. In addition to the efforts described in the BusinessWeek interview, Brown also has arranged a sponsorship agreement with Kutless, a Christian rock group. Commenting on the relationship, Brown said “…we're not aligning with their faith. ..this was really more about the attitude of living life to its fullest and bringing excitement to your day that fit so well with the positioning of our brand."
More on the Business Week interview >

Colin Camerer, MBA ’79, PhD ’81, helped found the field of neuroeconomics, which examines what happens in the brain when economic decisions are made. A Caltech behavioral economist, Camerer and others are examining such behaviors as loss aversion, said an article in the September 18 issue of The New Yorker. Using imaging technology, researchers have found that when people are confronted with ambiguity, such as unknown risk, their emotions can overpower their reasoning. “The brain doesn’t like ambiguous situations,” Camerer said. The research is leading to the premise that less fearful people might make better investors. Neuroeconomists “are going to point to a whole range of biological variables that traditionally have not been included in the analysis. In economics, that’s a big change,” he said.

William Michael Cunningham, AM ’82, MBA ’83, CEO and social investment adviser at Creative Investment Research, Inc., said he thinks Carver Federal Savings Bank in Harlem is a solid pick for bankers and investors. The bank is one of the few owned by African Americans and serves a predominantly minority base. “The company continues to do well,” Cunningham told The New York Sun in an August 16 article. He said the bank has “a solid management team, is well capitalized, and has assets based in the strong—if recently less active—Harlem real estate market.” Cunningham said he thinks minority banks are undervalued. He noted the recent purchase of MetroBank in Florida by Bob Johnson, the African American owner of the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets professional basketball team.

Robert Gecht, MBA ’77, JD ’77, president of Albany Bank on Chicago’s northwest side, aims for old school approach with his customers. The bank gives away toasters with new mortgages. “I tell people we are the modern, high-tech, commercial version of the Bailey Building & Loan in It’s a Wonderful Life,” Gecht said in an August 21 Chicago Sun-Times article. “We know our customers. They know us. And it’s very hard to maintain that if you’re some giant publicly held bank where you have branch managers with little or no equity stake in the operation.” Gecht wants to remain an independent bank for his customers, mainly small businesses and real estate developers. “The difference we sell is attention to our customers and service in getting to know them and their businesses.”

Ruth Ann Gillis McGuinnis, ’80, president of Exelon Business Services Co., which is the parent company of Commonwealth Edison, said she was inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s adage to ask not what your country can do for you at his swearing-in ceremony when she was 6. Later, when taking an economics class as a college elective, the emphasis on the sociology and human nature side of it resonated with her and changed her life course, Gillis said in an August 7 article about her career path in The Chicago Tribune. She said when she was business manager for First Chicago’s global corporate banking unit, its chief, Leo Mullin, “taught me the importance of strategy, particularly comprehensively including social issues. ” McGuinnis is active at the University of Chicago. She serves as president of The University of Chicago Cancer Research Fund.

Scott Griffith, ’90, chief executive of Zipcar, a car-sharing service for public transportation users, considers “rent” a four-letter word. “We prefer ‘use’ or ‘reserve,’ Griffith said in an August 13 article in the Boston Globe. “It helps to reinforce we are a new category. Our typical $8.75 [hourly] rate includes gas and insurance. All inclusive pricing is a unique aspect of our business model, and it’s a wow factor.” Zipcar is averaging about 3,000 new members a month, about half of whom mention high gas prices as a reason for joining. Hybrid cars make up about 10 percent of the fleet and demand is growing. “Everyone wants to test-drive one,” Griffith said. “It would be higher if we could get them. They’re just difficult to get still.”

Don Hamer, ’58, a longtime Nature Conservancy member, recently donated $2.5 million to the preservation organization. The donation will be used for the Donald Hamer Pennsylvania Forest Conservation and Restoration Fund. It will protect West Branch Wilderness Preserve habitat and also will support the conservancy’s international world parks program. West Branch is located in Pennsylvania’s north central highlands, the most contiguously forested area between New York City and Chicago. Hamer founded State of the Art Inc., a manufacturer of microelectronics components, based in State College, Pennsylvania.

Leo Higdon, Jr., ’72, president of Connecticut College in New London, learned the value of rolling up his sleeves from doing weekend chores as a boy with his brother and father while living in a rural area outside of Chicago. He said in a New York Times profile August 27 that a mid-school year move in seventh grade taught him the value of relationships and getting to know people, when he was thrust into a situation of knowing nobody. And from a Peace Corps experience with his wife, Ann, in a Malawi school district, he gained a bankable “sensitivity” to people and situations. “We had no running water, no car, and no phone. We were the only foreigners in the district, and we only had each other.” After earning his MBA, Higdon was admitted to Harvard for a doctorate in international business. But with two children he thought it best to earn a living for a while. “I always planned to go back,” he said. “I spent 21 years on Wall Street instead.” He worked his way up to vice chairman at Salomon Brothers. He said he learned another lesson at his first job at a pricing meeting for a securities offering, when, while looking at a spreadsheet, someone pointed out in front of everyone an error his colleague had made. “It was one of Wall Street’s important lessons about paying attention to details when you’re working on a client business,” Higdon said. Eventually, Higdon returned to college life: to run universities. “Being able to understand different cultures, including that of Wall Street, along with the people skills I gained throughout my career, transferred well to academia,” Higdon said. Along the way, he established the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at the University of Virginia. “I’ve always felt that entrepreneurship is as critical to large businesses as to small.”

Rattan Khosa, ’79, founder and CEO of Amsysco Inc., launched his business in his basement while living in Downers Grove, a suburb of Chicago, with his wife and two year old, after having been laid off from his corporate job with a major steel company. To keep his business booming, he uses technology innovations to keep costs down on his product, specialty steel cables used in high rises, airport terminals, and parking garages. “Our product costs the same today as when I started 25 years ago,” Khosa said in an August 21 Chicago Sun-Times article. “Unless you spend money on technology, you can’t achieve efficiency.”

Joseph Neubauer, ’65, CEO of ARAMARK Corp., is part of an investor group of high-profile private equity firms that is acquiring ARAMARK. A committee of independent directors approved the buyout and is recommending that ARAMARK stockholders approve the deal, according to an August 8 article in The Wall Street Journal Online. “We are proud to partner with this distinguished group of private equity firms, all of which have outstanding reputations and proven records of success,” Neubauer said. The investor group includes investment funds managed by GS Capital Partners, CCMP Capital Advisors and J.P. Morgan Partners, Thomas H. Lee Partners, and Warburg Pincus LLC. Based in Philadelphia, ARAMARK is the world’s third-largest food service provider and a leader in such managed services as building maintenance and housekeeping. To read a profile of Neubauer that appeared in Chicago GSB magazine, click here.

Dan Seals, ’01, a Democrat, is running for Congress against 10th Congressional District incumbent Mark Kirk, Republican. The race is starting to draw national attention, “with the D.C. pundits moving it up a notch closer to competitive,” said an August 18 article in the Arlington Heights, Illinois, Daily Herald. The district includes eastern Lake and northwest Cook counties, and was carried by Democrats Al Gore and John Kerry. The article called Seals “good-looking, intelligent, and engaging” and said Democrats are calling him “the next Barack Obama” since both identify themselves as African American but hail from diverse families. Seals said his speaking style isn’t as “flashy” as that of Obama, Democratic U.S. Senator from Illinois. Seals has raised a campaign chest of $770,000, the Daily Herald said.

Robert K Steel, ’84, has been nominated by President George W. Bush to replace retiring Randal Quarles, undersecretary for domestic finance. Steel is a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. vice chairman and an adviser at the bank since January 2004. In making the appointment, U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson returned to the Wall Street firm where he was CEO and where he had worked for more than 30 years, said a September 6 article in Steel’s appointment requires Senate confirmation. Steel, who also co-headed the Goldman Sachs equities division, would be “Treasury’s point man on the potential regulatory reform of government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” said a September 5 DowJones Newswires report.

Robert Westrick, ’90, has been named one of the top 100 wealth advisors in Worth magazine’s annual survey. Westrick is president and one of the founding principals of WNA Investment Programs, Inc. in Hinsdale, Illinois. Nominations for the award are made by the magazines readers. The company has assets of $120 million under management as of June 30, 2006. The survey was published in the October issue.

Karl White, ’95, is in line to become the first African American head of the University of Massachusetts board of trustees, but may “miss his chance at the history books” because of political maneuvering, said a September 11 Boston Globe column from White is vice chairman of the board, and Mitt Romney, Massachusetts governor, declined to reappoint the elected chairman. “Word has it that Stephen Tocco, chairman of the state’s Board of Higher Education and a newly appointed UMass trustee, is maneuvering, with Romney’s blessing, to wrest leadership of the board away from White,” the column said. Tocco is an “old hand in state Republican politics.” White, a university board member since 1999, is an “investment whiz” who was placed there “for his financial acumen,” the column said.

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