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2007 Distinguished Alumni Awards Celebration

More than 750 alumni and friends of the GSB filled the Imperial Ballroom at the Fairmont Chicago for a spectacular evening of dinner, dancing, and the Distinguished Alumni Awards at Alumni Celebration 2007 November 2. Dean Edward Snyder presented awards to distinguished graduates of the Classes of 1974, 1994, and 1997.

Amid a shower of 2,500 gray and maroon balloons, guests were escorted to the ballroom by the drum line from the professional marching band the Cavaliers. University President Robert Zimmer opened the evening with praise for the GSB’s “remarkable and bold strategic leadership,” in particular the “startling effect” of establishing campuses in Singapore and London.

“It’s really an exemplar of the way the university should be thinking and acting in ways that enhance and certainly comport the underlying principles and culture of the University of Chicago,” Zimmer said. “The Graduate School of Business is really flourishing right now. When one travels around the world, one really sees the GSB as one of the key signatures of the University of Chicago.”

Robert Lane, ’74, chairman and CEO of Deere & Company, received the 2007 Distinguished Corporate Alumni Award. Lane said the distinct philosophy learned and shared by GSB alumni are “changing the way the world works.”

“One of the very best pieces of news I can bring you is that the concepts of free enterprise and business have allowed the possibility of billions of people to improve their lives,” he said. “It was quite an epiphany to travel to Eastern Europe, Russia, and China and see the way people who didn’t have competition live. It’s not just about competition. It’s about human flourishing as a result of free enterprise.”

William Conway Jr., ’74, cofounder and managing director of the Carlyle Group, received the 2007 Distinguished Entrepreneurial Alumni Award. After reviewing his GSB transcript, Conway joked that he was certain he did not receive the award for his academic work in the Evening MBA Program.

“Seriously, though, I never thought my life would turn out like this,” he said. “I must have learned the fundamentals because now I use them almost every single day. I did not see the internet coming, nor even private equity. Even in 1987, when we started, there wasn’t really a private equity business. In summary, I was fortunate to catch the two great waves -  communications and finance - of the last three decades.”

Craig Nakagawa, ’97, acting president of VillageReach, received the 2007 Distinguished Public Service/Public Sector Alumni Award. Nakagawa, who was greeted with enthusiastic hoots and hollers from fellow alumni, said the only people probably more surprised than him that he received the reward are his former classmates.

“My being in the nonprofit world was very much an accident,” Nakagawa said. “Sometimes you can’t plan things, and opportunities arise in which you have to make a decision at that moment. For me it was the opportunity to be part of something much larger than myself. GSB and the university gave me a very good foundation for what I’m doing; that foundation was irreverence for the status quo and reverence for ideas.”

Clifford Asness, MBA ’91, PhD ’94, managing and founding partner of AQR Capital Management, received the 2007 Distinguished Young Alumni Award.

- Phil Rockrohr