Tag Archives: philanthropy

Artie Buerk: the networker’s effect

Artie BuerkCatalyst of ventures and connector of people, Artie Buerk has financed the future of entrepreneurship at the University of Washington.

It began with a gift. An investment, really, in an idea that had yet to be so much as scribbled on a cocktail napkin.

In 1990, Artie Buerk (BA 1958) and his wife Sue (BA 1974) pledged $100,000 to support entrepreneurship at the UW Business School. The problem? There was no entrepreneurship to support. No center, no program, no business plan competition, not even a single class.

A vigorous catalyst of new ventures, Buerk insisted that this deficiency be addressed. Immediately.

“My whole life has revolved around startups and small businesses, the engines of the Northwest economy,” he says. “I felt the UW should have a program to educate future entrepreneurs.”

Buerk found a small cabal of faculty with similar leanings. Most prominent among them was Borje “Bud” Saxberg, then chair of the Department of Management, who had noted the region’s uptick in entrepreneurial activity. “The answer was there,” recalls Saxberg, “waiting for action.”

Artie equaled action. He helped Saxberg’s task force sketch the original Program in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and taught them how to raise the capital to launch it.

That was the seed. From it has grown a veritable dynamo of entrepreneurial education and activity, centered at the Foster School of Business but increasingly reaching across the University of Washington. Now that dynamo has been renamed the Arthur W. Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, in honor of the Buerks’ recent $5.2 million gift to finance its future.

“Artie always says that there’s no shortage of ideas. But we need leaders who can take those ideas and turn them into something valuable,” says Jim Jiambalvo, dean of the Foster School. “With the Buerks’ support of our entrepreneurship center—the Buerk Center—we’ll create more entrepreneurial leaders, and we’ll extend our reach to discover those young people who don’t yet realize they have the entrepreneurial DNA.”

Startup

Buerk realized it early on. His first business was a Seattle Times paper route in his childhood neighborhood north of Matthews Beach.

He studied business at the UW, served as a supply officer on a destroyer in the US Navy, then earned an MBA at the Harvard Business School. Several years with big corporations convinced him that he was meant to build from the ground up.

One of Buerk’s first entrepreneurial challenges came, ironically, back at the UW. In 1968, he was hired to direct its fledgling alumni fund and development office. The bare-bones operation was raising a paltry $40,000 a year. “We were 25 years behind other public universities and 200 years behind the Ivy League Schools,” he says. “To me, it was a real opportunity.”

Buerk studied the field’s best practices, modernized the alumni database and department infrastructure, and increased the donor base exponentially—on his own and with a crackerjack staff. His early hires included Marilynn Dunn, the UW’s influential first vice-president of development, and Robb Weller, the legendary King of the Yell Squad, who could single-handedly light up a crowd of 70,000.

Buerk’s team of strivers got the private support flowing. By 1977, his operation was raising nearly $20 million a year (a legacy that has climbed to an annual $320 million today).

“It was entrepreneurial, something I had a real passion for,” Buerk says. “I’ve never had a job that was more fun.”

Back in business

Buerk’s expertise in raising money became a valuable asset. In the late ‘70s a couple of old friends, Chuck Barbo and Don Daniels, recruited him away to help finance their odd-lot portfolio of small businesses—among them Christmas tree farms, raw land, horse arenas, and a self-storage business.

As president—and an investor—Buerk convinced the founders to focus on the storage businesses, to be renamed Shurgard. And he helped Barbo and Daniels methodically build a nationwide brand, raising $750,000,000 for the expansion through a vast constellation of brokered deals.

Buerk spun off a successful records management company called Intermation and helped take Shurgard public in 1994 before moving on.

His investment had grown exponentially. And now the money was liquid.

So Buerk put it to new work. He founded the Seattle School Fund for Excellence (now the Alliance for Education). And, with a group of partners—“A who’s who of the Foster School’s Advisory Board”—he turned a 401K division of Washington Mutual into Northwestern Trust (acquired by Harris Trust).

In 1997, he co-founded the private equity firm of Buerk Craig Victor, now Montlake Capital. It was the heyday of the Internet boom, when capitol gushed toward anything with a .com suffix. But Buerk was a skeptic. He chose to invest in firms that demonstrated solid fundamentals—proven products/service, realistic projections, genuine leadership. Over the next decade-plus, he opened a new branch of legacy, molding growth companies and mentoring their leaders—from Door to Door Storage to Blue Dog Bakery, from HaloSource to SOG Knives.

People person

Whatever the business, Buerk’s true business has always been people. His vast personal network is legendary, and ever growing.

“Artie knows everyone, and everyone knows Artie,” says venture capitalist Neal Dempsey (BA 1964), a fellow founding champion of entrepreneurship at the UW.

It is, perhaps, because Buerk takes networking more personally than most. He had to. “My father died when I was 11, and it was just my mom and me,” he says. “If I was going to have a family, I knew I was going to have to build it out of friends and relationships.

“And that’s the way I look at it: not just a network, but my extended family.”

It’s a philosophy with a long-term perspective.

“Some people think of networking in terms of what they can get out of it,” says Kris Lindquist (MBA 2011), the director of strategic business development at Amazon.com who met Buerk through Foster’s MBA Mentorship Program. “But Artie gives twice as much as he takes. He pays it forward.”

He’s the consummate connector of people who show intelligence and initiative.

“If you want to know who to talk to in an industry or about a specific topic, Artie will typically know someone off the top of his head,” adds Sara Weaver (BA 1991, MBA 2001), a Buerk Center advisor who once worked at Buerk Craig Victor. “And he is very generous with his contacts and resources. He takes a real interest in helping people grow and succeed.”

“Building and maintaining relationships makes your life a lot more successful and valuable,” adds Buerk. “The greatest thing, to me, is to see the success of someone you’ve helped.”

Bow Down to Washington

Artie BuerkMost of Buerk’s connections seem to triangulate with the UW. He splits allegiances with the Harvard Business School (he’s been a dedicated class secretary for 50 years). “But my blood is purple and gold,” he confirms.

It’s a loyalty forged during busy, happy days as an undergrad. Bussing in to Roosevelt High School from Seattle’s northern frontier left little time for involvement. So Buerk resolved to engage in the life of the UW in every possible way. He studied business in the classroom, but learned to lead all over campus. Managing the Husky football and basketball teams. Training with Naval ROTC. Running the campaigns of the student body president and vice president. Serving as senior class officer, president of the Oval Club and member of Fir Tree.

Buerk was named “Outstanding Senior Man.”

He graduated, but never really left. After his decade as the UW’s first professional fundraiser, Buerk was a trustee of the UW Foundation and chair of the UW Development Fund. He taught personal finance through UW Extension for years. He’s a past president and board chair of the UW Alumni Association. He serves on the advisory boards of the Information School and the Foster School, having chaired the Foster board through the final years of the last capital campaign. He’s also mentored for years at Foster, and is on the board of the UW Angel Fund.

For these many decades of service—multiplied by the thousands he inspired to do the same—the UW honored Buerk with its 2007 Gates Volunteer Service Award.

The recipient claims he has got more than he’s given: “I’ve never had any association with the U that hasn’t been fun and successful,” Buerk says. “It’s hard to replicate that record in any other element of life.”

Center of attention

And few UW touchpoints have been as satisfying or successful as the mature, innovative center that has grown from Buerk’s somewhat speculative investment two decades ago.

To a brand building expert, “Buerk Center” has a nice ring to it. It certainly says something about the institution.

“There’s no one more deserving to have his name atop the center than Artie,” says Neal Dempsey, whose own name graces the building that houses it. “It’s a hugely meaningful gift, and a hugely meaningful name. Artie is the best there is.”

True to form, Buerk wants the center—already in the Entrepreneur top ten—to be the best there is. He applauds the work of director Connie Bourassa-Shaw and her staff to elevate the original vision to an incredible vibrancy of practical activity and education. And he hopes this new infusion of resources from the naming gift fuels the center’s ongoing expansion throughout the UW system.

“The UW brings 45,000 brilliant people to a 640-acre spot to work every day,” Buerk says. “Our job is to turn that brain power into businesses that will be good for their founders, good for the university, and good for the Northwest economy.

“If we can integrate entrepreneurship into the fabric of the University, engage all kinds of students and faculty in the process, get them thinking of great ideas as potential businesses, we will have something that’s very powerful.”

Power is what the Buerks have provided the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship.

“A naming gift is the best endorsement,” says Bourassa-Shaw. “It’s an amazing vote of confidence. It says, I so believe in you that I’m proud to have my name associated with you for decades to come. It says, I’m betting money on your future. It says, I trust the center to do the right thing for students, for the UW, for Seattle. This is Artie’s legacy.”

The latest and greatest of many.

Chen master

Jeff ChenFoster MBA alumnus and benefactor balances an eclectic curriculum vitae

1) Foster MBA who constructs crossword puzzles worthy of the Sunday New York Times.

Hmmm… Eight letters. Begins with J, ends with N. Let’s see. Has to be a bona fide polymath, well-read and widely experienced. Creative and analytical. A serious student of culture—both popular and passé—equally versed in history, commerce, literature, sport, art, film, science, architecture, medicine, warfare, language. A jack-of-all-topics.

Got it! Jeff Chen (MBA 2002).

And big-time crosswording is just a recent addition to the ever-expanding, endlessly fascinating curriculum vitae of this remarkable graduate of the University of Washington Foster School of Business. Chen is an entrepreneur, author, wealth manager, Big Brother, board member, game enthusiast, rock climber and world traveler.

He’s also a philanthropist who directed a major gift to the Foster School from his family foundation last year. His generosity inspired many fellow alums from his MBA class of 2002 to mark their 10th year reunion by contributing to a record-setting annual gift—a combined $468,000 to endow an MBA scholarship fund.

“I had a fantastic experience at Foster,” says Chen. “The education was great and the people were even better. I wanted to offer the same opportunity to others to experience what the MBA Program did for me.”

Gave as well as got

Chen earned two degrees in mechanical engineering from Stanford and worked at a product design firm before enrolling in the Foster School’s MBA Program, as so many, to enhance his organizational impact.

The engineer proved a quick study of management. “Simply the best of the best of our MBAs,” assesses Ed Rice, an associate professor of finance and business economics who has seen plenty in his four decades at Foster.

What really distinguished Chen, Rice adds, was his generosity of intellect. When he saw some classmates struggling in Rice’s core finance course, Chen began offering free review and tutoring sessions. Pretty soon those classmates were sharing their own particular strengths with each other, creating a peer-to-peer dynamic that has since been institutionalized in the Student Support Network.

“This ethic has become engrained in the program,” says Dan Poston, associate dean for master’s programs. “It always existed, to some extent. But after Jeff established the model, it became the way it’s done at Foster.”

Acucelerate

Poston would argue that Chen’s exhaustive job search should also stand as a model. After interning at Immunex and working in technology commercialization through the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, he targeted early stage bioscience as his chosen field.

But rather than waiting for opportunity to find him, he created it. After conducting a comprehensive audit of potential firms, he connected with Dr. Ryo Kubota, a UW professor of ophthalmology who was developing a revolutionary treatment for blinding eye disease such as glaucoma and macular degeneration. Chen helped Kubota get Acucela off the ground, then headed business operations and helped raise more than $40 million in financing. After Acucela brokered a transformational partnership with a large Japanese pharmaceutical company in 2008, it was time for a new challenge.

“After the partnership deal, I felt like Acucela had outgrown what I could bring to the company,” Chen says. “It was time to step away.”

Cross worlds

Seven breakneck years with Acucela behind him, Chen decided to seek a modicum of balance, try his hand at a range of activities and “see what sticks.”

In a word, lots.

He has served on the boards of Big Brothers & Big Sisters and Passages Northwest, and on the finance committee of Treehouse. He manages the portfolios of friends and family. He has done field work with microfinance organizations Gambia Help and Global Partnerships. Alongside his brother and father, he manages the family’s Paramitas Foundation. He travels, climbs and plays games with perhaps a bit more brio than most. He recently got married.

It was Chen’s wife, Jill, who introduced him to the joys of crossword puzzles. Working together and solo, he has published upwards of 50 in major newspapers and has become a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times. On November 25th and again on January 27th, he landed the most prestigious spot in all of puzzledom: the Times Sunday crossword.

Chen also just completed a book of 52 puzzles around a theme of bridge (the card game, another passion). “Doing crosswords about bridge is kind of the nexus of everything that’s good in the world,” he says, exaggerating just a bit.

Or, to put it another way, as he did when announcing the project on Facebook: “I’m officially 80 years old.”

The writing life (and living)

Constructing crossword puzzles is a hobby for Chen. Writing books, on the other hand, is becoming much more.

Since penning his first sentence of fiction in earnest just two years ago, he’s completed eight novels for middle-grade readers. Among them are tales of exceptional kids recruited to a remote island to construct monsters for the Greek gods, of flying pygmy elephants from Burma who plot the overthrow of Victorian-age Britain, and of an overworked Grim Reaper taking on a bumbling apprentice who screws up everything.

Fanciful plots, but will they sell? Chen has a few advantages in the notoriously difficult-to-crack publishing industry. For one, an agent as active as his imagination. For another, a preternatural ability to fuse right and left brain at once, to approach writing as both an art and a business.

Many principles of enterprise are evident in his literary method, including:

Work flow management – Chen writes 6 or 7 days a week, for 3 to 4 hours a day, aiming for 1,500 words each day, actually keeping a timecard to stay on task.

Research – He’s read, dissected and analyzed upwards of 300 middle-grade books in the past couple of years to discern what works (and what doesn’t).

Development – He wrote off his first five manuscripts as, essentially, practice.

Scaling – He’s outlining multiple book series from original tales, the overwhelming trend in kid lit today.

Outsourcing – He has assembled a network of fellow writers and truth-tellers to assess ideas and drafts.

Diversification – He keeps a running list of story ideas that currently numbers in the 300s.

And one last entrepreneurial trait: ambition.

“I don’t just want to get something published,” Chen says. “Ideally, I’d like to be one of the most successful authors of all time.”

Is he tempted to get back into business? “I get that inkling,” he admits. “But you know with the writing, it’s kind of like trying to get a startup off the ground.”

Could an entrepreneur see it any other way?

Transformational gift from JPMorgan Chase

Guest post from Michael Verchot, Director of the Business and Economic Development Center at the University of Washington Foster School of Business

On December 6 we’ll formally announce a $600,000 gift from JPMorgan Chase Foundation that will mark a turning point in the life of the Business and Economic Development Center (BEDC). This gift will enable us to fully meet our goals of making a substantial impact on growing jobs where they are needed most by engaging students in learning that matters to them and to businesses. Fundamentally, this gift will enable us to do three things:

  • Increase the number of students engaged in hands-on work with small businesses in low-and moderate-income communities in the Seattle area.
  • Grow our faculty-led small business classes offered in Seattle, Everett, Yakima, Tri-Cities, and Spokane to reach up to 200 small businesses each year.
  • Build a NW regional and national network of business schools that enhance their student learning by helping small businesses in low-and moderate-income communities to create jobs.

BEDC Celebrates JP Morgan Chase GiftWe already know that more than 94% of students who participate in BEDC programs say the experience improves their job performance after graduation and 80% of small business participants report positive financial and performance gains following their work with us. We now have the opportunity to serve more students and business owners.

This is the largest gift the BEDC has received in its 17-year history and brings Chase’s total giving to the BEDC to more than $900,000. As we’ve worked with Chase over the last year in shaping our vision for the use of these funds, they’ve also challenged us to think beyond their gift to what’s next. Chase’s gift will be spent over the next three years which will bring us to our 20th anniversary. It’s time to set our sights on the future. Our overarching goals these next three years will be to:

  • Leverage Chase’s support to secure between $1 million and $10 million in endowment support to sustain the growth in programs made possible by Chase’s gift.
  • Double the number of students who are working with small businesses.
  • Create a self-sustaining series of classes for entrepreneurs and business owners at all levels of business growth.

All of us at the BEDC, students, faculty, staff, and business volunteers, are deeply grateful to Chase for this investment and we look forward to an exciting couple of years ahead of us.

Announcing Dempsey Hall

Today the Foster School held a naming dedication for its newest facility: Dempsey Hall. The building is named after Neal and Jan Dempsey, who have been incredible supporters of the Foster School. Neal is a 1964 alumnus of the Foster School and has been engaged in myriad ways over the years. He has served on the Foster School Advisory Board for more than two decades and is a past chair. Alongside Mike Garvey and Ed Fritzky, he co-chaired the successful Foster School capital campaign that raised $181 million between 2000 and 2008. He has also given over $10M to the Foster School.

Dean Jiambalvo said at the dedication, “Neal is action oriented and unwavering in principle.” When Neal spoke, he called the next generation to action and encouraged them to give their time, energy, and money to the Foster School. He asked everyone in the crowd to raise their hand if they agreed to give back to the Foster School. Everyone’s hands were in the air. Neal took it a step further and shot of video of everyone with their hands raised–proof they would do what they said. He said it’s been a, “fantastic road to the finish line.” And he looks forward to seeing the next generation of supporters give back.

Dempsey Hall from Foster School of Business.

Hammering man: John White

Inventor of mammoth machines, reinvents himself in the Foster EMBA Program

You could call John White (EMBA 2012) many things. Inventor. Entrepreneur. Scholar. Philanthropist. Restorer of rare antiquities. Teller of rousing tales.

How about Renaissance man?

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Let’s not get carried away. We’re talking about a uniquely American icon-in-the-rough, more rock-and-roll than lute and lyre. A tall-walking bear of a man who ran off to join the carnival when he was 14, enlisted in the Marines at 17, and made his bones in the heaviest of industries.

White is the founder of American Piledriving Equipment, the world’s foremost manufacturer of vibratory hammers that drive the foundations for the massive structures of modern civilization—skyscrapers, statues, stadiums, oil rigs, wind turbines, bridges. Especially bridges.

He’s been enthralled by these abiding symbols of human ingenuity ever since he was a kid in West Seattle, when an old neighbor would regale him with tales from his days flying bombing runs in World War II. “He said he could never take out the old Roman bridges in Italy and France,” White recalls. “They were just too solidly built.”

Ground up

White’s role in the advancement of transport construction began humbly enough. After his stint in the military and a spell at community college, he was hired as a mechanic by Pacific American Commercial Company, fixing pile drivers from around the world that were surplussed after the construction of the Alaska Pipeline.

Eventually, he became a walking encyclopedia on the subject. “I didn’t realize it at the time,” he says, “but I was, perhaps, the only person on the planet who had been exposed to all of these hammers.”

North Carolina-based International Construction Equipment sought his expertise to coax its shoddy pile drivers to work on the West Seattle Bridge project in the early 1980s, then hired him to manage its west coast operations. But White eventually wearied of trekking from southern California to northern Alaska to install and service hammers that were always breaking down. “When you’re up in Prudhoe Bay, you don’t care how much you saved if the machine doesn’t work,” he says. “So I set out to make the world’s best pile driver.”

Build a better hammer…

After White left ICE, he founded APE in his White Center garage. His first creation was a small hammer that used vibration rather than concussion and heavy tungsten rather than steel to drive piles in tight spaces, a design perfectly suited for Boeing’s seismic retrofit of its facilities in the late 1980s.

White received his first patent in 1992. And the next day he was introduced to Pat Hughes (BA 1957), owner of several rock and gravel companies in the Northwest. They became partners in APE—White president and Hughes CEO.

“We were a great team,” White says. “Pat was an incredible mentor; working with him was like being enrolled in the Pat Hughes School of Business—an extraordinary learning experience in the real world. He said to keep on inventing. And 40 patents later, we were the world’s largest manufacturer of vibratory pile drivers. We revolutionized the industry.”

White designed progressively bigger and more efficient diesel impact hammers, best on land, and vibratory hammers, more effective and environmentally gentle in water. Locally, APE had a hand in constructing Safeco and Century Link Fields, the new waterfront Great Wheel, and is working on the new 520 Bridge. It helped build bridges in Iraq and Afghanistan, and repaired the Haitian port after the 2010 earthquake. APE now dominates the vibratory hammer market in North American and parts of Asia, and is a growing presence in Europe and South America.

For China, a nation setting new standards for mega construction, White designed the largest pile driver in history. Today his OctaKong, a 500,000-pound vibro hammer, is driving 72-foot diameter steel piles deep into the South China Sea to support the 31-mile Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge.

Reinventing the inventor

Despite being president of APE, White was always more comfortable in his role of inventor. In 2010 he decided it was time to learn the management and financial side of business. So he enrolled in the Foster School’s Executive MBA Program.

Three decades removed from his last classroom experience, White found he was a pretty good student. He soaked up faculty wisdom, polished his interpersonal skills, and grew into the heart-and-soul of a tight-knit class (after studying Ernest Shackleton in a leadership course, White bought his colleagues each a replica bottle of the legendary Antarctic explorer’s recently recovered stash of whiskey).

He also learned that he was ready—and able—to navigate his own future. “It didn’t matter if I was CEO of an antique store,” White says. “After 20 years as second in command, I wanted to run my own ship.”

He sold his stake in APE toward the close of the program, “the hardest decision of my life,” he admits. “But I was born in the EMBA Program. The Foster School has given me the tools and the confidence to do something new.”

Somethings new

White has wasted no time.

Since graduating in June, he has been testing the waters on an innovation that he worked on in the EMBA’s capstone project. This elegant twist on geothermal energy uses a long, hollow screw of heat-conducting steel to deliver the ambient temperature of ground water to an above-ground heat pump—enabling vastly more efficient heating and cooling, and a tidy installation.

John White Motorcycle White also launched Crazy Horse Motorcycles, manufacturing distinctive “V-Plus 100” curvilinear engines—you may have seen them powering the rides of the Discovery Channel’s “American Chopper,” in a stroke of guerilla marketing—and genuinely all-American-made retro bikes sized to fit the big-and-tall market (of which, at 6-foot-4, White is a member).

And he’s bought a house. Well, not just a house. A kind of lost museum, really. White found the historic waterfront residence of Hollister Sprague, Boeing’s first attorney, shrouded in vegetation atop a bluff in Seahurst. Inside was a veritable trove of period furniture, books and music, and a Prohibition-era hidden hooch-running tunnel. In a grand ballroom inspired by the chancel of a Scottish church, he found three grand pianos (a pair of Steinways and a Bosendorfer) and a legendary 1931 pipe organ—the console operated percussion, harp, flute, glockenspiel, voix celeste, and a veritable orchestra of other instruments.

White is sparing no expense to restore this unique, historic residence to its original splendor. “It’s going to be incredible,” he muses.

The measure of an MBA

Since departing APE, White has made one other significant investment.

Midway into a life spent building things to last, it occurred to him that he could help build the school that had unlocked his future to endless possibilities. Just before graduation, he donated $500,000 to Foster—the largest student gift in the school’s 95-year history.

When Neal Dempsey (BA 1965) spoke at this year’s EMBA commencement, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist offered three kernels of advice that struck White—transformed by his days at Foster—as both inspiration and summation. Do something that scares you. Welcome change. Give back.

“Now I’ve done them all,” White says. “But it was his last point that resonated most.”

Carnie days

John White’s father worked as an electrician for Boeing when the company lost funding for the Supersonic Transport (SST) program. “When I was 14,” White recall, “my dad lost his job.”

The power got shut off. Eventually his parents lost their home. “It was depressing,” he says. “So I decided to go get a job.”

The uncle of a friend happened to run an arcade in a traveling carnival. It turned out that White was more mechanical than his friend’s uncle, so the carnival management kept him on.

His job was to set up and service the arcade games, mostly pinball machines. In the evenings, he’d help the carnies set up and run the midway. For three itinerant years, the job led him on a grand adventure across Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Alberta.

All the while, he says, he sent back whatever he could of his $90 a week salary to help his parents. “The reason for my leaving was sad,” he says, “but the job was a lot of fun.”

Building bridges

His interest piqued by the stories of his childhood neighbor, John White has become an enthusiastic student of classic construction technique.

“I was inspired to go and see these bridges myself,” he says. “So eventually I had the chance to travel to Italy and France and see these structures that my neighbor could never take out. When you see them in person, they are absolutely amazing.”

At the Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct in southern France, White jumped the barrier to get a closer look. “It’s built with boulders bigger than Volkswagens,” White says, “all sitting on foundations of wood piles driven into the Gardon River. When they studied those piles, they were as perfect as the day they were driven. That’s why the bridge probably hasn’t dropped an inch since it was built.”

At another ancient site, the Circus Varianus in Rome, he served on a team that studied the foundations of this ancient race track built in 81 A.D. and still standing tall as the surrounding ground has sunk over the centuries.

“It’s sitting on 30,000 wood pilings,” White reports. “Each one of those was labeled with a serial number and species. They knew the center was soft, so they cut the tip off center, then burnt the tip to make it extra hard. They also cut the piles in octagonal shape to increase the surface area and create friction against underwater soil—just like you’ll see under the piers on the Seattle waterfront. And platoons of men drove them into place with giant manual drop hammers of stone or steel.

“We learned a lot from the Romans.”

Hammers of the gods

In 2004, John White was summoned to China to meet with the country’s 78-year-old master pile driver, a Mr. Wong, about an ambitious new project.

The meeting began with Mr. Wong asking Mr. White, “What’s the largest pile you’ve ever driven?”

“Now, I was feeling a little cocky,” White says today. “I told him that APE had just driven a 10-foot diameter pile in Houston—which I knew, at the time, was the biggest pile ever, at least in the western world.

“Mr. Wong looks at me and says, ‘So that’s the biggest?’

“I say, ‘Yes, sir.’

“Then he pulls out a picture and slides it to me. It’s him in 1952, three years before I was born, with four electric Russian vibro hammers hooked together, driving a 15-foot diameter concrete pile. I nearly fell out of my chair.”

When he recovered, White noted that the process must have been pretty slow. “He says, ‘Mr. White, that’s why you’re here. Because I want to drive a 40-foot diameter concrete pile.’ I thought he was crazy.”

A few years later, the request came for a hammer to drive a 40-foot pile. White connected four of APE’s “Super Kong” hammers to get the job done.

That was 2006. Then a new project arose, of almost unimaginable scale. “They asked how big a pile can we drive?” White recalls. “I said, ‘As big as you want.’ ”

This time, China wanted to hammer piles measuring 72 feet across.

White’s response was the OctaKong, his grandest invention and the largest piledriver in history. Today the 500,000-pound vibro hammer is driving steel piles the size of missile silos into the South China Sea to support the 31-mile Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge.

“And that’s not even the biggest project in the works,” White says. “Now my son David is working on a hammer to drive 105-foot diameter piles.”

Crazy… like a fox

Crazy Horse Motorcycles is a little company. If it didn’t inhabit the tough-guy world of polished chrome and roaring engines, you might even call it a boutique company. Just John White, a few machinists and an assembler, manufacturing engines modeled after the classic Indian Motorcycles and a limited line of original bikes built for tall riders.

But how to go from boutique to blockbuster? White is deploying a number of innovative marketing tactics learned in the Foster School’s Executive MBA Program.

“In the EMBA we talked about how to market a product when you’ve got no money to market, looking at cases such as DaVinci vintage clothing that built its brand by providing bowling shirts for actors Charlie Sheen and James Gandolfini.”

So he began providing Crazy Horse engines to Paul Teutul Jr. (of Paul Jr. Designs) whose award-winning custom motorcycles are featured on the Discovery Channel’s “American Chopper.”

“Every time he builds a custom bike, it has our engine in it,” White says. “We’re now very well known around the world.”

Discovering Shangri-La

As with most archaeological finds, John White discovered his grand “fixer” thanks to a heavy dose of serendipity.

White had signed up for last spring’s Executive MBA study tour of South America. As a side trip, he planned to join in the trek to Machu Picchu, the legendary lost Incan city perched high in the Andes of Peru.

John White In BallroomTo train for this grueling ascent, he often hiked the steps of Eagles Landing Park, a sliver of greenspace leading from high bluff to seashore in Seahurst, on the edge of Burien. While catching his breath on the beach one day, he looked up and caught a glimpse of a sprawling house that was covered in vegetation.

“You couldn’t even see it from Google Earth,” he says.

Beneath its botanical shroud lay the surprisingly well-preserved 7,400-square-foot residence called Forestledge, the long-vacant Sprague mansion.

And it was for sale.

Owing to its outward condition, White purchased his dream home at a remarkable discount.

Now, just as Machu Picchu was gradually reclaimed from the encroaching forest after its discovery in 1911, White has set out to restore his own lost palace—and the treasures within—to its original grandeur.

The job also serves as a diversion from his early retirement from the piledriving business. “I’m using it as my therapy,” he says.

John White APE Logo
What about that angry gorilla?

APE had been represented by a conservative corporate logo for years. But what about the other emblem, that ferocious face of the angry gorilla?

“One day we hired this kid to help us in the shop,” recounts John White. “During a break, he drew a gorilla on a napkin. Two days later he was gone and we never saw him again. I thought it would be fun to put the gorilla on a hat. And everybody wanted one. I couldn’t believe it. Now we have an entire APE clothing line featuring the gorilla logo, and we painted the logo 40-feet tall on the side of our headquarters in Kent, WA.

“It all started with some part-time kid doodling on a napkin.”

Making a difference

The Nutters, Lee and Darlene (UW BA alumni, 1967), have close ties to the Northwest and the University of Washington. Both graduated from the UW School of Business (now Foster) in 1967, and there are now three more Huskies in their immediate family. Lee also serves as a member of the Foster School Advisory Board.

“We wanted to give something back to this school and the people of this state that afforded us an education and, in doing so, led to the many opportunities we‘ve enjoyed,” Lee explained.

Born in Astoria, Oregon, Lee grew up in small towns in Western Oregon and Washington, where his father worked in the lumber business. He finished the eighth grade in a class of eight in a two-room schoolhouse and graduated from Clallam Bay High School with a class of sixteen. “It was a big change going from those small communities to the University of Washington and Seattle,” Lee said with a smile. He studied accounting and operations at the business school.  Darlene graduated with a degree in marketing.

Two days after graduation, Lee began his forty-year career as an analyst with Rayonier, a global supplier of high performance cellulose fiber and wood products. He retired in 2007, as Chairman, President and CEO. Darlene grew up in Cathlamet, WA, and initially attended WSU to study business, but finished at the University of Washington. Lee said, “She saw the light.”

Although Lee and Darlene married while in Seattle, his career eventually took them and their two children, to the East Coast and ultimately Florida. However, the Northwest and UW still hold a very special place in their hearts and lives and they often return to visit family and friends. The Nutters are also passionate about Husky athletics, managing to attend a few UW basketball and most football games.

Their giving relationship with the University of Washington started modestly and grew over decades. “I found our first check to the UW for $25!” Darlene laughed. More recently, Lee and Darlene have provided significant support to the Foster School of Business for undergraduate scholarships, MBA scholarships and a named team room in PACCAR Hall.

“We paid far less than the cost of our education and its value. The citizens of the state of Washington paid the balance…” Lee continued. “We feel obliged and honored to give back.” He and Darlene hope to inspire other Foster alumni to support scholarships that help future students achieve something that they could not have done otherwise.

“We hear from students who have received scholarships about what it meant to them, what they’re accomplishing and what they hope to achieve,” Darlene described. “It’s very satisfying to know that you have been able to make a difference.”

Giving to Foster since the 1950s never gets old

Family lore has it that Frank Dupar Sr. first arrived in Seattle broke in the early 1900s because a thief got to his money the night before while he was hitching a ride in a boxcar.

He was sitting on the sidewalk near the King Street Station with nowhere to go when a man approached him and asked, “What’s the matter, sonny?” Frank told his story, and the man gave him a dime and an upbeat prognosis: “This town is going to be good to you.”

“What an understatement,” said Adrienne Riley, Dupar’s granddaughter and president of the Dupar Foundation.

After his rough start in Seattle, Riley said in an interview at the Foster School’s 2010 Annual Scholarship Breakfast on Nov. 4, Dupar went on to own a plumbing company and then co-found what became Westin Hotels and Resorts as well as several other iconic and highly successful businesses.

The Dupars made a point of giving back to the community that played such an important role in their lives, contributing to important civic projects like the creation of the Seattle Center so the city could host the 1962 World’s Fair. They also felt strongly about contributing to education.

“Since he only went through the 8th grade, education was really important to him,” Riley said.

The Dupar Foundation was established in Frank Dupar Sr.’s name in 1958 and has been contributing to scholarships at the Foster School nearly since the foundation’s inception, Riley said. And, while she has attended the scholarship breakfast for nearly ten years, she said it never gets old.

“To me it is really meaningful to see kids who have a lot going for them and, because of the scholarship, they are able to attend college and do something with their lives,” she said.

This year the Scholarship Breakfast celebrated 338 Foster students receiving scholarships totaling more than $1.8 million.

Riley said she especially appreciates knowing more about the students who have received the Dupar Foundation’s scholarship. “It’s nice to touch your money,” she said.

“This morning I sat with a young man who, after he graduated college, went into the National Guard and went to Iraq where he was in charge of convoy security missions and now here he is in his first year of the MBA program,” she said. “It is inspiring.”

Brass Media: philanthropy before you’re wealthy

How’s this for brass? Bryan Sims has committed the majority of his future earnings to philanthropy—and he’s just 27. Ambitiously joining an A-list of multi-billionaires in their highly publicized Giving Pledge, the founder and CEO of brass|MEDIA says it’s all in keeping with his fast company’s philosophy: “Young today, rich tomorrow.”

Brass|MEDIA is dedicated to helping young people—those 15- to 25-year olds known as “millennials”—understand money and learn to handle it responsibly. That effort builds around brass|MAGAZINE, a lifestyle money magazine written by young people for young people, and cleverly distributed to nearly half a million readers in partnership with a nationwide network of credit unions that has everything to gain from a fiscally savvy generation of up-and-comers.

Sims defines himself as a “regular guy doing something worth doing.” After watching his own family struggle through adversity, he founded brass|MEDIA in his Oregon State University dorm room at age 19. He partnered with Brent Sumner, an undergraduate friend at the University of Washington, to enter the UW Business Plan Competition, and the team sailed through to the Final Round. After college, Sims quickly led brass|MEDIA to Inc. magazine’s list of the 500 fastest growing private companies. In 2007 BusinessWeek named him one of its “25 Best Entrepreneurs Under 25.”

Sims may be a bit older now, but he still wants what his own audience wants: to make money, invest wisely, give back. But he’s also a willing role model.

“I’ve always known I was going to make a major contribution to charity when got older,” Sims says of his attention-getting pledge. “But I thought that if I started to tell people about it early on, it might have a compounding effect on long-term philanthropy.”

Check it out: www.brassmedia.com

Past recipients renew a deep connection at Scholarship Breakfast

Always an occasion for inspirational stories and life-changing personal connections, the Foster School’s annual Scholarship Breakfast was the venue for an especially meaningful connection this year.

For Barbara and Walter Tomashoff, it was “exciting and thrilling, truly,” to discover that Angelo Ongpin (BA 2003), a past recipient of the scholarship named in memory of their twin son Conrad, had joined them at their table. The Conrad Tomashoff Endowed Accounting Scholarship was established to support an undergraduate accounting major and a twin when possible. Angelo and his twin brother, Victor (BA 2004), had received the scholarship in 2002.

“As we learned about what he has been doing and what he is doing and his plans for the future,” she said, “it was just wonderful. And the idea that he credits our scholarship in any way for his success was simply wonderful.”

Bringing scholarship recipients together with the families, individuals and companies dedicated to helping Foster students afford their education makes the breakfast one of the school’s premier events. This year, attendees celebrated the powerful impact of 273 Foster students receiving scholarships totaling $1.4 million.

For the Tomashoffs, the scholarship named for Conrad (BA 1986) is a constant reminder of the great impact their son was having on the world before he tragically died in 1994, just three weeks shy of his 30th birthday. Conrad, active in several non-profit organizations in addition to pursuing a successful career, had made the University of Washington the beneficiary of a life insurance policy. With counsel from Conrad’s twin brother Curtis, the Tomashoffs established the scholarship the year Conrad died.

“It’s a great feeling and comfort to know that we have been able to accomplish what we think our son Conrad had in mind,” Barbara said when reflecting on the many years Conrad’s scholarship has been improving the lives of Foster students.

Naming opportunities connect more than money to PACCAR Hall

Stepping into PACCAR Hall next fall, you will see a multitude of differences between the Foster School’s spacious, cutting-edge facility and its former primary classroom building, Balmer Hall. Most noticeable will be the feeling one has stepped into the next century where natural light bathes a sophisticated architectural mix of brick, steel, wood and glass.

Pass through the corridor of the second floor and you’ll see a two story atrium complete with a coffee shop and a fireside lounge (again, this isn’t Balmer Hall). To your right you’ll see an undergraduate commons and three of the most advanced multimedia classrooms at the University of Washington. To the left are four more classrooms ranging from 30 to 95 seats. Outside each is a cluster of student team rooms to promote collaboration and business planning… perhaps for the launch of the next Microsoft.

It took more than $80 million in private support to build PACCAR Hall, and a closer look in the new building will show significantly greater signage carrying the names of business partners and alumni who helped make the building possible. Yet, there is more than money behind each name found in PACCAR Hall.

Here’s the story of one such amazing person: Alice W. Sandstrom.

The sign adorning the last team room on the left says Ms. Sandstrom was a 1934 graduate of the business school. 1934! Unlike today’s evenly represented programs, there weren’t many women studying business back then.

In fact, Ms. Sandstrom was one of only two women in the accounting program and an exception to many social restrictions throughout her life. In the midst of the Great Depression, she realized that an accounting degree was necessary for the future she hoped to have.

Alice, who passed away in March of last year, was one of the first female CPAs in Washington and worked as an accountant through World War II. In 1948, she began a 33-year run in helping Children’s Hospital become the vital community enterprise it is today.

When Alice stepped down as CFO in 1981, she did anything but retire. She spent more than 10 years sharing her knowledge as a lecturer at the UW. She was a long-time president and board member at both the YWCA of Seattle and Senior Services. Alice also received numerous awards for volunteerism and community service.

In 2002, on the heels of receiving the Outstanding Alumna Award from Foster students in Beta Alpha Psi, Alice was given Foster’s Distinguished Leadership Award, the School’s highest non-degree honor.

For 94 years, Alice lived in Seattle and eagerly helped those around her. She enjoyed nothing more than the opportunity to share her success and passing on nuggets of wisdom, which included the five rules she lived by:

  • Be passionate about what you do
  • Be a mentor
  • Cherish your friends
  • Always be positive and enthusiastic
  • Dream big

Even in her last few years, Alice frequently attended events throughout the community.

Patricia Angell, Accounting Department Lecturer and Internship Director at Foster, accompanied Alice to many functions and was one of Alice’s many fans and friends.

“Alice was an inspiration to me and all women pursing our professional dreams.” Patricia said. “She was a trailblazer in accounting and she continues to inspire us today.”

There’s no question the Foster School and the University of Washington benefited from Alice Sandstrom’s presence, passion and persistence. The team room named for her in PACCAR Hall is but one small way she will be remembered.

And, knowing Alice, little would bring her more joy than seeing future generations of business and community leaders learning to “dream big” using the Sandstrom Team Room in PACCAR Hall. She’ll be right there with them in spirit as well as name, just like so many others who helped make Foster’s new world-class facilities a reality.