August 2013 | Isenberg Alumni Newsletter
Isenberg's inaugural Business Leadership Awards Dinner on June 17th in Boston was a celebration of the School and its fast-rising reputation in Greater Boston and the nation. At the same time, it was a celebration and premier networking event for the School's increasingly influential alumni. The event's honoree and keynote speaker, Ben Cherington '97 M.S. is the high-profile general manager of the Boston Red Sox. J.P. Morgan's Alex Ambroz '05 received Isenberg's Young Alumni Award. The gathering's 280 attendees included CEOs, managing partners, and other influential managers-predominantly Isenberg alumni-from a broad cross-section of Greater Boston's business community. Alumni spanning three generations reconnected with former professors and mingled with Isenberg students at the event's elegant venue, the Colonnade Hotel in Back Bay.
Isenberg is on a "remarkable upward swing," UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy told the gathering. "It's the most selective school on campus, while also having over 70% of Isenberg students holding internships prior to graduation." In recognition of those and other Isenberg assets, the Chancellor added, "I'm accelerating the construction timetable for Isenberg's new Business Innovation Wing and I urge you to participate [in the new campaign for Isenberg]."
Isenberg's dean, Mark Fuller, offered details about those rising fortunes, notably the School's recent progress in national rankings. This year, in Business Week's survey of undergraduate business schools, Isenberg's undergraduate program cracked the nation's top fifty for the first time-at #45 (#20 among publics). Fuller noted parallel progress by the School's full-time, part-time, and online MBA programs, which rank 51st (25th among publics), 22nd (18th among publics), and 22nd (13th among publics), respectively, by U.S. News & World Report. And he emphasized the School's ranking of 23rd in the nation on BusinessWeek's Employer Survey, which measures recruiter perceptions of which programs turn out the best graduates.
With characteristic modesty, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington '97 M.S. praised his graduate program at Isenberg's Mark H. McCormack's Department of Sport Management rather than his own substantial accomplishments. In his 15-year career in the majors (14 with the Red Sox and one with the Cleveland Indians) Cherington previously excelled as assistant GM and head of the Red Sox farm system. McCormack and its culture, he emphasized, was intellectually challenging and team oriented. It imparted a sense of group purpose and commitment that is critical to organizations like the Red Sox. You were grateful to be in a program that was "bigger than yourself"-a program that was going places. Cherington also credited an exceptional network of alumni who have been assets to his career. (He regularly chats with two Major League general managers, Neal Huntington of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chris Antonetti of the Cleveland Indians-both of whom are McCormack graduates.)
For Cherington, courses with McCormack professors Lisa Pike Masteralexis and Todd Crosset were "intellectual and mind bending." Both professors handled disagreements in "exactly the right way," which yielded personal and intellectual growth. "Lisa taught me things I hadn't thought about through the prism of risk management," he observed. "Todd showed me how people relate to each other." That, he added, has proved critical in my work as GM because "my job is getting the most out of people."
For Young Alumni Award honoree Alex Ambroz '05, Isenberg opened doors of opportunity for a student, who, according to Dean Fuller, "displayed persistence, resilience, grit, and the ability to overcome obstacles." Ambroz told the gathering that he grew up in foster homes and began his career as a freshman at UMass Amherst both rudderless and financially challenged. To sort out his options and offset college costs, he joined the U.S. Army, deploying to Kosovo, Macedonia, and Bulgaria. Returning to UMass with renewed focus and commitment, he dramatically improved his academic standing and doggedly gained admission to Isenberg, where he excelled as a finance major. Losing foster support at age 21, he found himself homeless during the summer between his junior and senior years. That was the summer, he confessed, when he stayed overnight at his internship site in the biochemistry department and showered at the UMass gyms.
During his senior year, while working overtime at a Chase Career Center event, he caught the attention of Isenberg graduate Dennis Miner '87, Managing Director of Morgan Creek Capital Management, who was recruiting at Isenberg for his Chapel Hill, North Carolina firm. By the end of the evening Miner had added Ambroz to a shortlist of Isenberg students for subsequent interviews. Ambroz got the job with Morgan Creek, where he eventually became a senior analyst. He subsequently earned an MBA from Duke University and joined J.P. Morgan, where he is now Associate Investor, specializing in endowments, foundations, and charitable organizations. He is also a mentor to foster-children through his own nonprofit organization, Onward and Upward. And he has created an annual renewable Onward and Upward scholarship for UMass Amherst students from foster- home backgrounds. "I'm trying to give back in the way that I can," remarked Ambroz in urging his Isenberg audience to do the same.
"The event made me proud to be an Isenberg alum; it was exciting to sense where the School is headed," remarked Kyle Lawless '12, an Isenberg accounting graduate with Ernst & Young in Boston. "I was struck by the diversity of our alumni-alumni of all ages and from a wealth of industries. I felt a strong bond with them all; a realization that we were all cut from the same cloth-that we've all worked hard and are proud of our achievements. Social media are extremely valuable to my generation, but for me nothing resonates like the sort of face-to-face interactions at an exceptional gathering like this.
"The evening was a spectacular first opportunity for me as a new graduate to reconnect with Isenberg and its alumni," emphasized Aleksandra Sasha Kim '13. An Isenberg Hospitality & Tourism Management graduate, Kim is a management trainee in the sales department of OMNI Hotels & Resorts in Boston. "As an Isenberg alumna, I felt on the same page with a remarkable diversity of successful alumni-many of whom were more than happy to offer advice and mentor young graduates like myself," she observed. "Even though we represented different generations, everyone seemed equally driven as current and future business leaders." That ambition, she noted, encompassed giving back to Isenberg and strengthening its community. "As hospitality major, I must add that the event itself was first-rate," she continued. "The food, the setting, the flow of activities, the opportunities for networking-all were outstanding and made me proud to be an Isenberg graduate."
For Isenberg alumni, the event was a milestone. "The tremendous turnout is a testament to our graduates' numbers in Greater Boston and, of course, to their affection for the Isenberg School," observed Douglas Berthiaume '71, Chairman and CEO of Waters Corporation. "It's thrilling, even shocking-we've made a statement this evening," added Pam Selby Salkovitz '80, former president of Stride Rite Children's Group. "It's a statement-an opening statement in a new era for the School," remarked David Fubini '76, Director with McKinsey & Company. "We're no longer Amherst-centric; the event demonstrates the size and diversity of our community," noted Beth Gamel '78, Executive Vice President with Pillar Financial Advisors. "It's long overdue; I'm feeling very empowered tonight," added Vince Daboul '87 of the Daboul Group in Longmeadow. And finally, according to accounting professor/living legend Dick Simpson '58, who has taught Isenberg students since 1967: "This has been the premier event in Isenberg history; trust me, I've been here for a while."