“I was proud to make my pledge four years ago to help raise funds for this new facility,” Ed Shirley ’78 told an enthusiastic gathering at the September 2017 groundbreaking ceremony for Isenberg’s Business Innovation Hub. “Facilities absolutely make a difference,” he insisted. “And in the spring of 2019, Isenberg will have facilities that will begin to match the vision and status of an iconic business school.”
The Isenberg graduate sensed positive change in the air eight years ago when Mark Fuller became the school’s dean. “He developed a strong, aspirational team culture with the faculty that will live beyond [him],” Ed recently told an audience at the school’s annual Business Leadership Awards gathering, where he was its principal honoree. Isenberg’s rebranding as a “driven” community, he continued, has been a powerful catalyst in its rise to national prominence.
Throughout his career, Ed has thrived as a change agent himself—an Isenberg accounting graduate who avidly embraced strategic marketing and cultural transformation. After graduating from Isenberg, he joined Gillette in accounting and finance. In 1991, he transitioned to general management at Gillette’s Oral B subsidiary and never looked back. Next on his career agenda, he led a major restructuring of Gillette’s European operations, and then its international operations. When Gillette merged with Procter & Gamble, he became president of its North American operations, where he introduced a novel team culture. In spite of considerable resistance, “I wasn’t daunted; I was driven,” he says.
In a vote of confidence in his prowess and drive, his employer then entrusted him with its Global Beauty and Grooming division, which accounted for half of P&G’s revenues. And after Procter & Gamble, as President of Bacardi, he continued in his change agent role, expanding the company’s strategies and product portfolio (including the key launch of Grey Goose vodka).
Ed frequently credits Isenberg for the analytical and people skills that have fueled his success as a strategist, leader, and innovator. A valued strategic voice with Isenberg’s own leadership, Ed, in his periodic visits to the school, has plenty of advice for its students as well. Embracing change and stretching yourself can yield big dividends in your career and big-picture decisions, he told students during a classroom visit. “Be adventurous and let your curiosity be your guide. Take some risks and broaden your horizons—even if it means deferring an immediate promotion. Ultimately, those experiences will serve you and your career better in the long run.”