Third Annual Business Leadership Awards Gathering is Signature Celebration
June 22, 2015
“This evening is above all a networking and alumni celebration,” Dean Mark Fuller told his predominantly alumni audience of more than 300 at Isenberg’s third annual Business Leadership Awards gathering on June 17. The event, at the Colonnade Hotel in Boston, was proof positive of Isenberg’s increasingly influential footprint in Greater Boston and beyond.
“What a spectacular networking opportunity!” exclaimed Finance graduate Jeff Glassman ’90, who is president of Darn It! Inc. in New Bedford. “Each year, I meet new alumni and get to know graduates who have been on my periphery.”
Just as significant, the event celebrated Isenberg’s unique culture, which combines resilient leadership, hard work, and business savvy. To that end, it honored two graduates who embody those hallmarks as business leaders. The evening’s principal honoree, Denise Coll ’75 (Hospitality & Tourism Management), brought innovation to Starwood Hotels & Resorts’ North American Division as its President from 2007-2013. The event’s Recent Alumni Awardee, Bernard Lee ’11 MBA (Online MBA), is transforming the practice and business of healthcare as Chief of the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston.
Citing some of Isenberg’s recent accomplishments—14th among public programs in Businessweek’s undergraduate rankings and an Online MBA ranking of 11th in the world by the Financial Times—Dean Fuller exclaimed:
“We are here to celebrate what we are and what we can be. We are positioned to become a top-ten public business school. We are right there and we are unstoppable!”
Those sentiments gained resonance through the evening’s master of ceremonies, Beth Gamel ’78 MS, who adroitly navigated the program. UMass system trustee and Isenberg alumnus Jim Buonomo ’74, ’76 MBA also spoke, emphasizing that synergies among Isenberg, the UMass Amherst campus, and the UMass system are driving research and expanding opportunities and accessibility for students. Jim added that Martin Meehan, who succeeds Robert Caret as the University’s president in July, is a sure bet to propel the University forward. “His passion can fill this room,” Buonomo said.
“We all need to tell our [UMass and Isenberg] stories to keep Isenberg front and center at our companies,” emphasized the evening’s principal honoree, HTM graduate Denise Coll ’75 (pictured below), in her keynote remarks. Introduced by last year’s awardee, David Fubini ’76 (pictured below right), Denise, who excelled at the apex of the hotel industry as President of Starwood Hotel & Resorts’ North America, recalled how her experiences as a UMass undergraduate made a lasting, indispensable difference.
As a Physical Education major during her first semester at UMass, “I learned how to push myself beyond what thought I was capable of,” she recalled. The turning point in that quest, she noted, involved a balance beam, uneven bars, and invaluable mentorship from an instructor. “I learned to set small, achievable goals,” she told the gathering. “I gained confidence that served me well for my next 3 ½ years at UMass.”
Switching her major to Hospitality, she learned to manage risk. A summer job as kitchen manager at a girl’s riding camp compelled her to confront her own shortcomings in culinary planning, prepping, and cooking. Turning to an HTM professor/mentor, “we put a plan together to mitigate that risk. I learned to manage my way through a risky situation.”
After graduation, she secured an entry-level position at ITT Sheraton with leverage from a fellow UMass graduate. “I vowed that when I had the opportunity I would do the same,” she remarked.
Over the years, Denise has repeatedly fulfilled that pledge as an extraordinary mentor to Isenberg students. “Keeping engaged with students truly motivates me,” she told the gathering. Ditto for her alma mater: “UMass taught me to dance in the rain,” she exulted.
Remarks by Recent Alumni Awardee Bernard Lee ’11 MBA (pictured left with Dean Fuller) further demonstrated the sweep and value of Isenberg and its programs. When Dr. Lee, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, joined his present employer, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, he was charged with building the hospital’s breast reconstruction program. That, he discovered, would require organization and business skills that had eluded his med school curriculum. His years of training had failed to include “the business of medicine anywhere along the way,” he told his audience.
To acquire those skills, Dr. Lee enrolled in Isenberg’s Online MBA program, whose students number over 200 physicians—22% of its population. “The program was so well designed; it was virtually seamless,” he noted. “I was immediately able to use what I learned,” recalled Dr. Lee, who cited skills that helped him to increase productivity, reduce waste, and build more effective teams. The curriculum, he added, helped him to get a handle on changing relationships that respect clients as both patients and consumers. “The current shift,” he emphasized, “is toward education and health literacy—empowering patients through education.”
The Online MBA program, Dr. Lee concluded, was “phenomenal.” “I am proud to be an Isenberg alumnus. Think about how the school has helped you!”
“Listening to Denise and Bernard was inspirational and Isenberg’s progress has been outstanding. I usually try to bring someone to the event who will benefit. This year I brought my niece, Elizabeth Rogin, who will be a freshman this fall. She really enjoyed herself, and has a better understanding and feeling for how great the university is."
- Tom Ackermann ’76, Corporate Executive Vice President and CFO of Charles River in Wilmington
“Denise is an industry icon and has been a trend setter for women. Her remarks were moving and energizing. As a student, I remember Denise as both a role model and in a recruiting role. Friends of mine have had terrific experiences working for her over the years. And it’s been a true pleasure getting to know her as a fellow member of HTM’s Advisory Board.”
- Victoria Vega ’88, Vice President of Operations and Sales at Unidine
“The event was just awesome; it exceeded all of my expectations. The speakers reaffirmed those shared Isenberg values of hard-work, intensity, and focus. I ran into alumni from all over town. A majority of Isenberg alumni, after all, do work in Greater Boston.”
- Sam Laorenza ’10, Financial Advisor at Northwestern Mutual
“The evening was wonderful and energizing. I met people I worked for and with and had great conversations with clients and customers. Dean Fuller’s own energy is unstoppable. He and the event made me want to up my involvement with Isenberg. When I talked with a client at the Red Sox this morning, I told him that the event was as inspiring as any that I’d experienced over the last year and a half.”
- Nicole Simeral ’02, Owner of Nicole Simeral & Company Events