Alumni to Know
A year after launching an experiment to buy only from black-owned businesses, Maggie Anderson, JD ’98, MBA ’01, and her husband told the Chicago Tribune they have learned a number of lessons. “It was difficult, to be honest,” she told the paper in a Januarhy 11 story. “We went out all starry-eyed.” Among the challenges they faced? The full-service grocer they patronized closed his doors in August. Also, when the Oak Park, Illinois–based couple took the “Empowerment Experiment” on the road, speaking to groups in Atlanta, Dallas, Washington DC, Detroit, and Cincinnati, reactions were sometimes surprising. “The couple also had to face jaded perspectives from other African Americans who told the Andersons that black-owned businesses were inferior to white-owned enterprises, and that the couple’s overarching goal of creating robust black business would never work,” the Tribune reported. But the overall response was encouraging, said John Anderson, who estimated that about 75 percent of the people they spoke to supported their effort.
AQR Capital Management was prepared to launch its seventh mutual fund in January, according to a January 6 entry in on DealBook blog on the New York Times’ website, which referenced a Wall Street Journal article. Cliff Asness, MBA ’91, PhD ’94, the firm’s managing and founding principal, “led a new wave of hedge funds marketing to the masses” when it launched the AQR Diversified Arbitrage Fund in January 2009, the blog said. Now the hedge fund mutual fund arena “poses a potential challenge to the traditional mutual-fund industry, which is struggling,” the blog said.
With technologically improved home meters, individual consumers can make a big difference in the collective use of energy, said Helen Bremner, ’92, executive vice president of smart grid technologies for Enmax, a Calgary-based power plant builder. “I see the individual has a great opportunity here to take a leadership position in Canada,” Bremner said in a profile in the January 2 Calgary Herald. “Each individual customer has a small footprint, but can make a reasonable impression on reducing energy use and carbon emissions.”
Technological improvements allow a two-way conversation between consumers and utilities and suppliers about prices and incentives. Consumers can choose the type of power they use when conditions are optimal (such as solar or wind) or can respond to price changes by avoiding peak periods, the article said.
Bremner advocates a step-by-step plan for bringing such smart meters to Alberta. “There’s a path that needs to be gone through,” she said. “And my goal is to see small pilot projects implemented within the next 10 months to two years.”
An accountant is challenging the notion that universities are in dire economic straits by auditing them. At the University of Maine, Howard Bunsis, MBA ’87, PhD ’93, chair of the Collective Bargaining Congress for the American Association of University Professors, issued a student- and faculty-commissioned report that contradicted administrators’ assertions that positions would need to be cut back. Bunsis has conducted numerous such audits.
“I think administrators simply are not telling the truth. It’s that simple,” Bunsis said in a December 23 article in Inside Higher Ed. “They are grossly overestimating the financial problems of their universities, and what’s most harmful is that they are claiming these institutions are in financial trouble when they are not. I think students and faculty all over the country should be rising up against administrators who are using the economic crisis to make cuts.”
Noted libertarian Joe Cobb, AB ’66, MBA ’77, recalled his experiences at University of Chicago in a Q&A in the December 2 edition of the San Francisco Examiner. The retired economics professor and congressional worker specialized in economics and philosophy as a student. “I want to understand how the world works. Economics and philosophy are the gates to practical wisdom and human flourishing, not only for me but for all of us,” Cobb said. He said he met Milton Friedman at the university in 1963. Cobb characterized Friedman as a “very kind and gentle man.”
Investment plans for private equity firm Carlyle Group in 2010 involve carving up the world like a pie, with Asia getting the biggest slice, said William Conway, ’74, founding partner and chief investment officer, in a December 19 article in The Times of London. The next biggest slice will be America, which Conway called “resilient.” Then follows Europe, where unwinding from the economic crisis is taking longer, the article said. While the worst is over, Conway said, his prediction for the immediate future economic climate remains grim: “Rates of return are going to come down on all asset classes, including private equity.”
Arnold Donald, '80, has been elected the first African American chairman of the Missouri Botanical Garden's board of trustees. The botanical garden's 2009 operating budget is $35.3 million and its endowment as of October 31 stood at $64 million, said a December 21 article in the St. Louis American. Donald is former president and CEO of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
To better handicap energy stocks, Timothy Flannery, '96, went to Washington to measure enthusiasm for cap-and-trade legislation that would limit greenhouse gases, said a December 28 story in Forbes. Flannery is managing partner at Chicago-based Copia Capital, a hedge fund focusing on energy stocks. If his assessment is correct, it means nuclear, geothermal, and natural gas company stocks have been excessively bid up, while traditional utilities may now be trading at discounts, the article said. "Everything has to be seen through the prism of uncertain legislative and regulatory action, "Flannery said. "We have to handicap that with a great deal of care."
Judson Green, ’76, and his wife, Joyce, have funded the Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant position at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma was named to fill the inaugural three-year term, according to a December 14 Chicago Tribune article. The creative consultant is charged with developing a bridge between the orchestra and the Chicago community, particularly incarcerated and at-risk youth, the article said.
As an interim CFO for various companies, Cynthia Jamison, ’85, has found a job where she feels at home. Since joining Tatum, an Atlanta-based executive services firm that places interim CFOs in companies, Jamison has worked for seven firms and has become Tatum’s national CFO practice director, according to a December 14 career path column in the Chicago Tribune. Once she’s on the job, Jamison said, she first builds relationships.
“Never try to scare people or create an aura of power or mystique. Many people are scared of CFOs. My technique is to explain who I am, what I do, what I’m worried about, and ask them what they’re worried about. Help me understand how things work. First impressions are everything. Then, figure out a few things you can fix quickly and fix them. You’re looking for base hits at first, not a home run. People want to see action and see you’re getting things done.”
Despite the global economic slowdown and the personal effect on his company, one financier remains charged about possibilities offered in India. Sameer Nath, ’01, head of mergers and acquisitions for Citi in India, has been involved in numerous transactions, said a December 11 story in The Economic Times. “What has been exciting about India is the unlimited scope of growth that it offers from an investment banking perspective. Citi will continue to be aggressive,” Nath said in the article.
Jerry Rao, ’81, founder and former CEO of Mphasis software company, discussed his decision to sell the company in a December 22 article in Indian Express. “The company stock prices shot 3.5 times following the sale. By adding the right value and getting the right kind of investors, we have done the right thing,” he said.
A new seminar in Chicago Booth’s Executive Education program will allow business students to go from white collar to white coat to better understand the decisions of medical professionals who are their customers. Designed to help professionals in such areas as pharmaceutical and medical device sales better understand the daily challenges of doctors, nurses, and clinicians, the class is a collaboration between David Song, ’09 (XP-78), and Sanjay Dhar, James H. Lorie Professor of Marketing. “Why not help reveal how things run and how we make decisions, particularly in this time of immense overhaul to the system?” said Song, chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery, vice chairman of the Department of Surgery, and residency program director of plastic surgery at University of Chicago Hospitals, in a December 17 Wall Street Journal article. The five-day program, anticipated to start in May, will feature seminars on “how doctors and hospitals define value, how reimbursement strategies work, and how supply chain, purchasing decisions, patient flow, and operations are managed,” the article said. As a special bonus, “students will change into scrubs and observe a surgery, make rounds with doctors, and see how patients are prioritized in the emergency room,” the article said.
Diane Swonk, ’89, chief economist with Mesirow Financial, forecasts economic growth of 3 percent on average for 2010. Swonk was one of three economists asked by Treasury and Risk to make predictions for the year ahead in a January 5 article. Although such growth would mark a turnaround, Swonk said “the risk of double-dip recession remains high. The primary risk is a secondary tightening of the credit markets as banks scramble to deal with a surge in commercial real estate write-offs and a cyclical increase in defaults.” Credit remains tight for consumers and small businesses, a situation that suppresses job creation, she said. Swonk also cited “considerable risk of a collapse in asset prices.”