alumni news

Harvesting a Second Career

wineFollowing a successful career in Silicon Valley, Kathryn Gould, '78, traded high-pressure finance meetings for battles with bears when she bought a vineyard on a 400-acre ranch in the foothills of California's Sierra mountain range.

The first harvest after she purchased the property in 2009 was eaten by bears, so a fence was in order. Then she had to prune years of growth to retrain the long-neglected vines. Four years later, Gould and her husband, Allen Stewart, are ready to sell their boutique cabernet sauvignon under the name Battle Mountain Vineyard.

"We went into it a little bit naïve, but that's the fun of it, too - to be a beginner again and reinvent yourself in middle age," Gould said. It's a dramatic change of pace from her longtime role as general partner of Menlo Park, California-based Foundation Capital, a venture capital firm Gould founded with two partners in 1995. The firm was an early funder of Netflix Inc., but most of its investments were in under-the-radar companies later sold to Silicon Valley tech giants such as Cisco Systems Inc. and Hewlett-Packard.

One constant in Gould's life has been to forge her own path in businesses dominated by men. "I still think it's hard for men to hang out with women - it changes the dynamics - but I never acted like they were any different from me," she said. "Some women have a style of being self-effacing, but I was always really direct."

Gould, who has an undergraduate degree in physics from the University of Toronto and began her career as an engineer, graduated from Booth's Evening MBA Program. She served as the first vice president of marketing at computer giant Oracle Corp., when it was a small company in the 1980s.

When she officially retired from Foundation Capital eight years ago, Gould had trouble letting go at first. "I've started more than 25 companies, and there are great days that make it all worthwhile," she said. "But start-up companies have big, intense problems that require late nights and emergency meetings. I can't commit to doing that anymore."

The vineyard, which is about three hours north of Los Angeles, gave Gould a new project, yet she knew some expert help was needed. The couple hired viticulturist Steve Amaya as a consultant and reached out to John Woodmansee, who owns nearby La Belle Winery with his wife, Marti. Woodmansee was eager to help, in part because he shares Gould's background in technology.

"We both came from a very dynamic industry where everything is changing quickly," Woodmansee said. "Winemaking teaches you patience - that's very, very hard in the beginning. The thing you'll fix today, you're not going to see the benefits of until you taste the wine three or four years down the road."

He was impressed by Gould's willingness to get her hands dirty. Most days, she's out in the vineyard, pruning or doing other chores. "For me, it's a huge gardening project," she said.

Later this year, Gould plans to begin marketing the 2010 vintage - about 350 cases to be sold for about $70 a bottle - through a local wine club and online. That represents thousands of hours of labor, but she and her husband also make time for fun. She flies small planes, paints oil canvases of the ranch, and plays classical violin.

Gould also stays involved with Booth and the University of Chicago community. She has served on the Council for Chicago Booth since 1998 and was named a University of Chicago trustee in 2002. In 2005, she received the Chicago Booth Distinguished Entrepreneurial Alumni Award.

She'd like to see more women move into venture capital, and she encourages women to take operational roles in fields such as engineering, sales, and general management. "You have to be at the center of the action if you ever want to run it," she said. - Amy Merrick

Photo by Matthew Gilson


Making Kids Better Problem Solvers

Alumni Venture Puts Kids in the Science Labs

Kids Science Labs, the science-learning centers launched by Shegan Campbell, '05, and Keith Norsym, '05, is gaining traction. The two-year-old Chicago company runs classes, camps, and events that enable children to explore their world through hands-on experiments.

Campbell and Norsym, who are both married and have two children each, began their "labor of love," as Norsym puts it, in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood. The pair introduced a second location in the city's South Loop this summer.

At Booth, Campbell and Norsym met as LEAD facilitators. Both worked as engineers prior to attending Booth, and following successful careers after graduation, decided to form a partnership to solve a problem that frustrated them: kids are natural innovators, but traditional science education often doesn't venture beyond facts and principles.

"We're trying to help kids be better problem solvers, better thinkers," Norsym said. "Children love exploring the world around them. Our objective is to use hands-on science to answer questions kids have and inspire their boundless creativity and innovation." As they discover how a bicycle works, why a car slides on ice, why fruits have different types of skin, and how our skyscrapers stay up, "the kids practice courageous, unassuming critical thinking," he added.

Norsym credits his Booth education with giving him the tools to analyze his venture objectively and learn from his achievements. He credits science with teaching him that problems can have many solutions.

KSL has received positive feedback from parents and attention from the Chicago Tribune and Chicago magazine, including a ranking in the magazine's 2012 Best of Chicago feature. Parents may bring their children through the door, but "there is one true measure of success for our classes," he said. "Our students demand to come back."

The success of the Lincoln Park location is only a first step - the pair set out with a goal to create more than 300 centers. "Kids nationwide are desperate for what we do, and we want to ensure they have the opportunity," Norsym said.  - Sophie Kennedy and Ben Pokross


Electronic Databases Available to Alumni

Chicago Booth alumni now can use five research databases through a collaboration between the University of Chicago Alumni Association and the UChicago Library.

Alumni can access these databases through the "Electronic Resources for Alumni" page at alumni. A CNetID is necessary in order to log in but can be created through the same page.

Offerings include Project MUSE, which specializes in humanities, social sciences, and mathematics journals, and EBSCO Business Source - Alumni Edition, which links to business journals.

These new resources complement Booth's commitment to providing alumni with cutting-edge business ideas. Through the Lifelong Learning portal, alumni can keep up with Booth research through conference videos, online seminars, and papers on selected business topics. - Ben Pokross


Alumni RECONNECT at Inaugural May Weekend

More than 1,800 alumni, students, and guests returned to Chicago Booth from all parts of the United States and the world to celebrate their successes and catch up with friends at RECONNECT 2013. The May event combined for the first time Management Conference, Alumni Celebration, and reunion year class activities, creating a new blueprint for bringing together alumni in future years.

Alumni reconnected with the intellectual rigor of the school at Management Conference, where panelists at the keynote discussion debated financial regulation and monetary policy. Then, alumni headed to Gleacher Center classrooms for thought-provoking breakout sessions with faculty moderators and alumni panelists on topics such as health care, private equity, and digital marketing.

"You learn a lot at Booth and then you go out in the workplace and you apply and practice what you learned. It's good to come back and rejuvenate," said Amy Hamilton, '98, who was attending her 15-year reunion. "Not only does RECONNECT allow you to see people you haven't seen in a long time, but you also get to reconnect with the school and be reminded of why you went here."

More than 800 attended Alumni Celebration at the 1916 Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier, with a highlight being the first-ever trivia contest. Members of reunion classes from 1988, 1993, 1998, 2003, 2008, and 2012 caught up with classmates and shared stories at their class dinners. Members of the Class of 1963, many of whom lived in the Laughlin Hall dorm, celebrated their 50-year reunion. Alumni enjoyed a golf outing, a Cubs baseball game, and a rousing House of Blues after-party. - Sophie Kennedy

Watch for news about RECONNECT 2014 »

Last Updated 1/16/14