27th Business Leadership Celebration honors outstanding leaders, extraordinary dean

Firoz Lalji, David Selig, Dean Jim Jiambalvo, Nancy Zevenbergen, Pete Shimer and Annie Young-Scrivner.

The UW Foster School’s 27th annual Business Leadership Celebration, November 1 at the Westin Seattle, honored four versions of the American Dream, offered leadership wisdom from an American hero, and bid a fond farewell to the school’s own outstanding, outgoing leader.

The evening was co-emceed by Christina Fong, a principal lecturer of leadership and management, and recent Foster grad Jessica Raasch (MBA 2018), who recounted her hardest lesson in leadership earned during her MBA experience. The two introduced this year’s four recipients of the school’s Distinguished Leadership Award, each a giant in the region’s economy.

American doer

As a young child, Martin Selig (BA 1959) fled Nazi Germany with his family, founded Martin Selig Real Estate while studying business at the UW, and built a company that, over six decades, has played an essential role in Seattle’s emergence as a global economic and innovation capital. Today, Selig’s organization owns and manages five million square feet of office space and has another 1.75 million in development across his adoptive city.

Principal lecturer Christina Fong with David and Jordan Selig

Accepting the award on Selig’s behalf were his daughter Jordan and son David. “Our father has always said the tenant comes first,” Jordan said. “And it is because of this that so many have remained with us for decades. I don’t know of another developer who is so hands-on. And his passion for the business has completely reshaped Seattle’s skyline.”

The power of empowerment

Firoz Lalji, the co-founder, president, chairman and CEO of Zones, was born in Uganda and educated in England, launched his entrepreneurial career in Canada, but forged his greatest success with the $2.5 billion global IT solutions provider that he founded in Auburn, WA.

Firoz Lalji

“I like to say that I am living the American Dream,” Lalji said.

He emphasized that achieving this dream has been a team effort. “We’re all taught in business school that there are three stakeholders: customers, shareholders and employees… I put employees at number one. I call them team members. It takes talented engaged, empowered people with a shared vision to make your dreams come true.”

Eye for opportunity

Nancy Zevenbergen (BA 1981), the founder, president and chief investment officer of Zevenbergen Capital Investments, has created incredible success investing in growth firms with an empowered team and an uncanny eye for game-changers—ZCI got in on the ground floor of Microsoft, Starbucks, Amazon, Apple, Tesla, Facebook, Zillow, Google, Chipotle, LinkedIn, to name a few.

Nancy Zevenbergen

“We invest unapologetically in growth ventures, often against consensus,” Zevenbergen explained. “But our process has weathered three significant market corrections.”

“We believe diversification maintains wealth, and that’s fine,” she added. “But concentrated growth investments create wealth. Own businesses with great people, look to the future, know change is coming, and stay invested.”

Player’s coach

Pete Shimer (BA 1984), the CFO of Deloitte and a former Husky basketball player, has built his sterling reputation as the ultimate “player’s coach,” both professionally and in his many contributions to the community through his four pillars of education, youth, athletics and faith.

Pete Shimer

“In 1980, I came to the University of Washington as a boy, and I truly believe I left as a man,” said Shimer, co-chair of the UW Foundation’s historic “Be Boundless” campaign. “This is where I came to know and understand what true community is. I also learned what giving back and paying it forward is all about. The Foster School taught me how to think, how to connect and also how to lead. I found out the importance of the name on the front of the journey as opposed to the name on the back of the jersey.”

Leadership in plain language

Delivering the evening’s keynote was the internationally renowned leadership expert Barry McCaffrey, retired four-star general in the United States Army, former cabinet member, and current professor, commentator and business consultant.

General Barry McCaffrey

Noting the intensity of this political season—“we’re choking each other like rubber chickens”—McCaffrey lightened the tone by recalling the time he was nearly recruited by Democratic party leaders to run against Senator John Warner of Virginia. His interest piqued, McCaffrey assembled a “board of long-time Virginia voters: my wife, my sister and my dad. And I laid out the pros and cons of my running for the senate. They listened very patiently and then said, ‘Do whatever you want. But we’re voting for Warner.’ True story.”

With that, McCaffrey got down to business. Through the lens of his highly decorated 32-year career in the military (and plenty of colorful stories), he offered these blunt observations on effective business leadership in crisis:

  1. It helps to not be stupid.
  2. Not everybody likes being in charge. Don’t make them.
  3. Motivate more by reward than by punishment.
  4. Units only do well what the boss checks.
  5. Don’t think too highly of yourself.
  6. Make sure your instructions are clear.
  7. See the threats on the horizon.

McCaffrey ended with the example of General Colin Powell, as he was stepping down as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He explained that Powell was—and is still—the most approved of public servant in the history of the Gallup poll. He had a giant book deal and was likely to run for president. The last week in office, he made himself available to have his picture taken with front-line workers—not generals and admirals but secretaries, sergeants and civilian employees.

“Because Powell knew that, at the end of the day, you need two things to succeed in any enterprise,” McCaffrey said. “One is first-rate, dedicated employees with talent, and the other is luck. Good luck to all of you.”

A bon voyage

This was the final Business Leadership Celebration presided over by Jim Jiambalvo, the Orin & Janet Smith Dean of the Foster School of Business. In July, Jiambalvo will return to his faculty post in the Department of Accounting after 14 remarkable years at the helm of this fast-climbing academic organization.

These years have seen a dramatic rise private and corporate support, the construction of a world-class campus, the launch of numerous market-driven degree programs, the expansion of student-focused centers, an enhanced caliber of faculty and students, a sterling record of job placement, and an unprecedented rise in the rankings.

Dean Jim Jiambalvo

Annie Young-Scrivner (BA 1991), the CEO of Godiva Chocolatier and chair of the Foster School Advisory board, paid tribute to the outgoing dean in these words:

True leadership starts with a bold, strategic vision that inspires followers. The strategy is then translated into a detailed plan that positively impacts not only the people around us, but also society as a whole. True leaders leverage talent around them. They develop people to perform at their peak. They see the potential in people even before the people see it in themselves. They inspire teamwork and understand the strength of the collective is much greater than the individual parts. They have an undeniable passion to do the right thing and to elevate everyone to the next level.

“Dean Jiambalvo is a true leader. He cares deeply about the students, the faculty, the staff, the countless volunteers and of course all the benefactors who have so positively impacted not only this generation, but many generations to come. Under Jim’s leadership, we have all come together to realize his bold plan for the Foster School to be the number-one public business school in this country. He has transformed the experiences and business education that creates prosperity for all.

“When all is said and done, I have no doubt that Jim will be remembered as the greatest dean in Foster School history.”

Business community

Foster’s rise has been powered by many invaluable corporate and individual partnerships, many of which were on display at the Business Leadership Celebration.

The Awardees Reception was sponsored by Deloitte.

Gold Sponsors included Accenture, Alaska Airlines, Dorrit Bern, Susan Bevan & Tony Daddino, Jason & Stephanie Child, Gretchen Claflin, Kathy & John Connors, Crowley Maritime Corporation, D.A. Davidson, Neal & Jan Dempsey, Ken & Mary Denman, Bill & Sally Douglas, EY, The Foster Foundation, Dan Fulton, GM Nameplate, Charlie & Nancy Hogan, Iron Mountain Quarry/Washington Rock Quarries, Kemper Development Company, KPMG, Eileen O’Neill Odum, Premera Blue Cross, Providence St. Joseph Health, PwC, Shelley Reynolds, Bruce & Gail Richards, Saltchuk, Martin Selig Real Estate, Wells Fargo, Windermere Real Estate, Gary & Barbara Wipfler, Annie Young-Scrivner, Zevenbergen Capital Investments and Zones, Inc.

Student Tables were sponsored by Chuck & Linda Barbo, Ed & Karen Fritzky and Lee & Darlene Nutter.

The Dessert Reception was sponsored by Holland America Line.