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John Mazarakis, ’17, Tony Cappell, ’17, and Andreas Bodmeier, MBA ’17, PhD ’17, met in the Executive MBA Program at Chicago Booth, and in 2019, they founded the investment firm Chicago Atlantic Group. This past year, the three alumni gave a gift to create the first ever endowed clinical professorship at Booth. Their commitment will help ensure that the school can attract and retain the world-class faculty members who educate and inspire Booth’s next generation of business leaders.

“We value education. We would like the school to continue to value education and educators above everything else. That’s the culture of Booth,” Mazarakis says.

Founding Chicago Atlantic Group

Mazarakis and Cappell had already worked together before they graduated from Booth, acquiring and selling a food distribution business while they were still pursuing their MBAs. After they met Andreas Bodmeier, who was a TA in their statistics course, they decided to start their own investment firm, and Chicago Atlantic Group was born.

“Chicago Atlantic was created out of a desire to start a business partnership that mirrors and continues the Booth experience: a dynamic environment where everyone’s unique insights are cherished as essential to the collective growth of the organization,” Mazarakis says.

To date, the firm has deployed over $2 billion, with a focus on cannabis companies, and has a broad investment mandate, including impact investing, private credit, and private equity funds.

"We value education. We would like the school to continue to value education and educators above everything else. That's the culture of Booth."

— John Mazarakis, '17

“We get to invest in a lot of great companies, so it is fun to be a part of those growth stories,” says Cappell.

Inspired by Booth Faculty

Mazarakis attributes a lot of the growth of Chicago Atlantic Group to what he learned at Booth, and he wanted to find a way to express his gratitude.

"I'm a big believer in responsibility and giving back. I would never have been able to start Chicago Atlantic with Tony and Andreas had I not gone through the MBA program at Booth,” Mazarakis says.

“The program’s most precious endowment to its students is the faculty’s commitment to cultivating trust in constructive discourse,” Mazarakis says. “Professors teach you the art and science of evidence-based reasoning as a collaborative, rather than solitary, practice. This can help you get faster to safer conclusions, and it is critical to building effective teams.”

In addition to being grateful, the three alumni wanted to make a gift that would have a lasting impact and help strengthen the school’s legacy of academic excellence. They decided that supporting Booth faculty would help them accomplish these goals, remembering the profound impact their professors had on them.

For Mazarakis, an especially important teacher was Michael Gibbs, clinical professor of economics.

“He is inspirational, and he cares,” Mazarakis says. “I walked into class one day, and there was an old economics exam on the projector. I still get goosebumps talking about this. It had been corrected by Gary Becker (former Booth professor and Nobel laureate). The score was low, in the 70s. Becker was tough. Mike Gibbs told us it was his own microeconomics exam from a PhD course he took as an undergraduate student. ‘I guess I won’t be getting a Nobel in economics anytime soon,’ he joked. Chicago Booth humbled him, and his love of economics grew from that.”

In addition to Gibbs’s humility, it was his emphasis on being kind over being successful that made an impression on Mazarakis.

“Mike Gibbs said that in life, there’s Nobel Prizes, and that’s great and we should aspire to that, but then there’s kindness, generosity, and passion, and that stuck with me,” Mazarakis says.

The Impact of Endowing a Professorship

Mazarakis and his partners are displaying that kindness and generosity with their gift, which will ensure that future Booth students also have the opportunity to be inspired by the school’s remarkable faculty. The first recipient of the named professorship is Joseph L. Pagliari, clinical professor of real estate. This is a fitting accolade for Pagliari, as it was in his class that Mazarakis and his partners were inspired to start Chicago Atlantic Group, and in which Andreas Bodmeier still serves as a TA.

"Mike Gibbs said that in life, there's Nobel Prizes, and that's great and we should aspire to that, but then there's kindness, generosity, and passion, and that stuck with me."

— John Mazarakis, '17

On receiving the professorship, Pagliari remarks, “I am humbled and deeply honored to be the inaugural holder of the John Mazarakis and Chicago Atlantic Clinical Professorship. As a clinical professor, I see myself as a ‘tweener’—bringing both cutting-edge research and a practitioner’s view of real-world issues and opportunities to the classroom. I hope that this generous gift will become a propelling force for future endowed clinical chairs.”

Endowing a clinical professorship gave these three alumni partners a meaningful way to honor the exceptional faculty who played a pivotal role in shaping their trajectory, while also making a generous investment in the future of others.

“I am proud to give back to a school that has given me so much, and I want to play a part in ensuring its continued success,” Mazarakis says. “Outstanding faculty members are the heartbeat of any academic institution, so this is a strategic investment in the intellectual capital of the institution. It is also a heartfelt choice, which I hope will benefit the next generation of business leaders while also helping sustain the culture of excellence that defines Booth’s academic legacy.”