“To be honest, it is one of the bigger gifts I have given to a single organization,” Sugerman said of his gift to the school. “But it was the right thing at the right time—and the right angle, from a marketing standpoint—to engage a broader audience. I was challenged!”
As Disney’s executive vice president of publishing and digital media, Sugerman has faced many challenges—including developing a successful career that combines business and art, an unlikely mix.
“I’ve always enjoyed math and the creative process, and majored in fine arts and accounting at the College of William & Mary,” he said. “But when I graduated and was looking to start my career, I couldn’t find a job that blended the two. I ended up going down the accounting path and quickly decided that did not bring the right level of creativity to my working life.”
After a couple of years working at Arthur Andersen, Sugerman decided to pursue an MBA. As he looked into various schools, Chicago Booth emerged as the leader.
“I chose Booth because I’ve always loved data-driven decision making, which might sound at odds with the creative process, but I feel it’s the marriage of art and science,” he said. “I was comfortable with where I was regarding art and thought Booth could really help me with the science. So I enrolled for the quantitative aspects of the school, which was rooted in economics, since I thought that would be the right counterbalance for my creative side.”
Sugerman had taken many courses in finance and accounting as an undergraduate, so at Booth, he focused on classes involving organizational behavior and leadership. Three of his favorite teachers were Austin Goolsbee, Marvin Zonis, and Merton Miller.
“The degree helped my skill development, which ranged from what I learned in the classroom to just being part of the program,” he said. “The confidence you get from being around amazingly smart people raises your game. And I think who you are when you leave Booth, compared with who you are when you arrive at Booth, is definitely a transformational journey.”
Upon receiving his MBA, Sugerman went into consulting for a couple of years. He focused on smaller consulting firms because he was seeking a broader, well-rounded experience. During that time, he was exposed to early internet publishing and said that is when the creative and business aspects of his career started coming together.
He then worked for EF Education First’s start-up, English Live, where he built a global online distance learning subscription service which led to “click-and-mortar” schools which combined online learning with local learning centers in mainland China and Eastern Europe.