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Business Leadership Celebration honors remarkable alumni, sings a Disney tune

The University of Washington Foster School of Business welcomed the CEO of Disney and honored three remarkable leaders—a healthcare entrepreneur, a pioneering academic and a city-defining developer—at its 23rd annual Business Leadership Celebration at Bellevue’s Meydenbauer Center last night.

Business Leadership Celebration 2014
Dan Baty, Dean Jim Jiambalvo, Nancy Jacob, and Kemper Freeman at the 2014 UW Foster School Business Leadership Celebration.

The evening’s hosts were UW Regents Marnie Brown (BA 2014), a student in the Foster School’s Master of Professional Accounting Program, and Orin Smith (BA 1965), retired president and CEO of Starbucks.

In his keynote conversation, Robert A. Iger, chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Company, shared his essential traits of a great leader: curious, optimistic, focused, fair, thoughtful, decisive, risk-taking, courageous, innovative, and a perfectionist to boot.

In Q&A with ABC News correspondent Cecilia Vega, Iger embarked on an entertaining meander of topics, ranging from his humble start at ABC four decades ago (when his myopic first boss declared him “not promotable”) to the great leaders who influenced him (including Roone Arledge, Tom Murphy, Michael Eisner and Steve Jobs). He recalled the risk he took to bring “Twin Peaks” to the small screen and the even larger risk that Walt Disney took to bring “Snow White” to the big screen. He noted successful Disney acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm (for a total price tag of more than $15 billion), and shared a laugh at his folly in greenlighting “Cop Rock,” a short-lived TV police musical in the early ’90s. And he celebrated the Disney’s historically successful first animated feature directed by a woman—Jennifer Lee’s “Frozen”—and historic construction of the company’s largest castle ever for Disneyland Shanghai.

“I’m often asked what I think Walt Disney would think of the company today,” Iger said. “I think he’d be unbelievably proud. We’ve managed, after 91 years, to continue to be relevant to a world that doesn’t look anything like the world that existed either when Walt founded the company in 1923 or when he died in 1966. And we’ve done so without compromising the values that Walt put into everything that was Disney: notions of optimism and inclusiveness, universally appealing stories that touch people’s hearts.”

Distinguished Leaders
Walt Disney famously said that “if you can dream it, you can do it.” No one embodies this notion better than the three recipients of the Foster School’s 2014 Distinguished Leadership Awards.

Dan Baty (BA 1965) is a life-long entrepreneur who has catalyzed successful ventures in international healthcare, wine and wealth management. After growing a small chain of nursing homes in his early career, Baty co-founded Emeritus Senior Living, a network of assisted living and retirement communities in 45 states. Today he’s principal of Columbia Pacific Group, a private equity and wealth management company he founded more than 30 years ago.

“Suggested speaking topics tonight were impact of the business school, and lessons learned in 43 years of business.” Baty said. “My immediate response to both of these was: relationships. And many started as an undergrad at the University of Washington.”

Nancy Jacob (BA 1967) became the first female dean of a major American business school when she was appointed to lead the Foster School in 1981. The school’s Executive MBA Program launched during her tenure. After retirement from the UW—where she was the first female full professor of finance—Jacob founded NLJ Advisors and Windermere Investment Associates and established a successful second career in the financial services industry.

Jacob remarked on the dearth of women in finance at the beginning of her pioneering career and the ongoing challenges for women in traditionally male fields. “We make a big deal of the glass ceiling for women executives in their careers,” she said. “But that’s misleading because life is not a vertical climb. It’s a multidimensional trip. It doesn’t come with an easy button or a fair button. It is what it is. But when one door closes, another opens. You have to be flexible and you have to be willing to deal with adversity.”

Kemper Freeman, Jr., (UW 1963) is the chairman and CEO of Kemper Development Company, the driving force behind Bellevue Square, Bellevue Place and Lincoln Square—four million square feet of award-winning mixed-use real estate. Freeman studied economics and political science at the UW and pursued careers in farming, radio, banking, real estate, and even a stint in the state legislature before joining the family business that has reshaped the city of Bellevue.

Freeman shared his family’s philosophy of devoting 30 percent of waking hours to the community, saying that the “absence or presence of private-sector leadership within a community makes or breaks that community.”

He also credited the amazing diversity of successful local companies—Boeing, Microsoft, Costco, Amazon, Nordstrom, PACCAR, to name a few—as well as the Foster School with making this a golden age for the region’s economy. “There’s so much bad news going around,” Freeman said. “But if this isn’t Seattle and Bellevue and the Northwest’s best time of all, I don’t know what it is.”

More than $100,000 in net proceeds from the UW Foster School Business Leadership Celebration will support scholarships and help create futures at the University of Washington.

Foster School of Business honors transformational leaders

At the 2008 University of Washington Business Leadership Banquet, October 30 at the Sheraton Seattle, the Michael G. Foster School of Business recognized the paramount importance of transformational leadership during the current global economic crisis. On that note, the school honored a trio of long-time advisors, stalwart supporters and exceptional leaders — Gerald Grinstein, Mark C. Pigott and Eileen O’Neill Odum – with its 2008 Distinguished Leadership Award.

“Our nation’s sixth president, John Quincy Adams, said, ‘If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.’ And each of the people we’re recognizing tonight is just that,” said Foster School Dean James Jiambalvo. “They serve as an inspiration to all of us.”

Gerald Grinstein is a strategic director at Madrona Ventures Group and CEO emeritus of Delta Airlines. He has served as non-executive chairman of Agilent Technologies and chairman and CEO of Burlington Northern, Inc. He was a partner in the law firm of Preston, Thorgrimson, Ellis & Holman, chief counsel to the US Senate Commerce Committee and assistant to US Senator Warren G. Magnuson. A native of Seattle and graduate of Yale College and Harvard Law School, Mr. Grinstein is currently the trustee of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation and a board member of Long Live the Kings, The Seattle Foundation, the Foster School of Business, the University of Washington Foundation, and the William D. Ruckelshaus Center.

Eileen O’Neill Odum, a 1977 graduate of the Foster School and member of its Advisory Board, is executive vice president and group CEO at NiSource, a natural gas and electric company. She has served in a variety of senior leadership roles with GTE Corp., Verizon Communications and Commonwealth Telephone Enterprises. Ms. Odum is also an active member of the Committee of 200, an invitation only membership organization of the world’s most successful female entrepreneurs and corporate leaders which helps to equip the next generation of women with scholarships, education and mentoring that will foster their rise to the top

Mark Pigott, a major benefactor of the Foster School, is chairman and CEO of PACCAR Inc, a Fortune 150 technology company. PACCAR has received the National Medal of Technology, the nation’s highest science award. Mr. Pigott has been honored with the prestigious Officer of the British Empire (UK), the Commander of the Order of the Crown (Belgium), and the Officer of the Orange-Nassau (Netherlands) for his efforts in strengthening international business relations. A passionate philanthropist, Mr. Pigott and PACCAR have made numerous contributions to the Foster School, including the lead gift to construct PACCAR Hall and the PACCAR Award for Teaching Excellence.

In his keynote address, Reginald Fils-Aime, president and chief operating officer of Nintendo of America, Inc., spoke of the opportunity that exists amid every crisis – for those with vision. “Given the broader, macro-economic challenges that we are facing right now, the topic of leadership is especially timely,” he said. “At Nintendo, we believe there are opportunities right now for leaders to do what they do best, to create opportunities and to drive businesses forward.”

To illustrate, Fils-Aime offered Nintendo’s bold, innovative moves to expand a shrinking home video gaming industry through its inclusive new offerings of the hand-held Nintendo DS and family-oriented Wii console. Delivering gaming to the masses rather than only hard-core players, both products have seen blockbuster success around the world.

“Hopefully you can look at your own industry through a new set of eyes, challenging not what has been but what can be during this time of opportunity,” he said. “Challenge those paradigms and hopefully you’ll find growth in new spaces.”

Advisory Board Chair Lex Gamble (a 1959 Foster School graduate and 2006 Distinguished Leadership Award recipient) added: “Times of crisis underscore the need for a great business school like the Foster School of Business. Because it is here, in the learning laboratory, that we educate leaders who have the skills to make a difference in the challenges they confront, and who are prepared to lead their organizations – and their communities – through times like these.”

The 2008 UW Business Leadership Banquet’s Premier Sponsors included iPass Inc., Premera Blue Cross, Saltchuk Resources, Inc., Wells Fargo and Weyerhaeuser Company. Major sponsors included Alaska Air Group, The Boeing Company, Crowley Maritime Corporation, Deloitte, Neal and Jan Dempsey, Ernst & Young LLP, GM Nameplate, GVA Kidder Mathews, KPMG LLP, LMN Architects, Odum & O’Neill Family, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, RSM McGladrey, Sellen Construction, Sonosite, Inc., Sweeney Conrad, P.S., Univar and Williams Investment Company.

Proceeds from the event fund scholarships for students at the Foster School of Business. And it was to those students that Odum delivered the following advice upon receiving her award. “Keep your own scorecard – your personal performance report. This scorecard may contain traditional performance metrics but it should also include your contributions of positive energy, active support to others, giving back, making good things happen – leaving your school, your job, your company, your community better for your presence. Truly high performance is both deep and wide in its impact.”