Johnson’s Seventh Annual Alumni Recognition and Celebration Awards Gala
Looking to the future and celebrating our own
At night, the Queensboro Bridge at East 59th Street in Manhattan sends its jeweled lights blazing delicately but fierily eastward, and dancing across the waters of the East River to Roosevelt Island.
That was the sight that greeted Johnson alumni gathered on January 30 to applaud the accomplishments of their peers, enjoy each other’s company, and gaze towards the site of Johnson’s bright second home on the future Cornell NYC Tech campus. More than 250 alumni met at Guastavino’s, a New York City landmark at the foot of the bridge, to hear Dean Soumitra Dutta’s vision for Johnson and celebrate the seventh annual Alumni Recognition and Celebration Dinner. The lofty but robust vaults of the facility’s ceiling, created by Gaudí contemporary Rafael Guastavino (whose tiled vaults grace Carnegie Hall, Grand Central Station, and Grant’s Tomb), were the perfect backdrop to the inspiring, and inspired, words that echoed through the hall that evening.
Guests were proud of the year’s honored alumni, particularly the recipient of the L. Joseph Thomas Leadership Award: Irene Rosenfeld ’75, MS ’77, PhD ’80, CEO of Mondelez International. “I’m so glad she is being honored tonight, as she deserves it for her career,” said Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Dean Emeritus Joe Thomas, who headed Johnson’s doctoral program when Rosenfeld was a PhD candidate. “I’ve known Irene since she was first at General Foods, and I’m here to celebrate her life,” commented Richard Powers, MBA ’73, president, North America, of Combe International. “She really stands out as a great human being who was able to achieve great things while never compromising who she was.”
Attendees buzzed with anticipation about Dutta’s talk. “There are going to be so many spokes to the business school, and it’s both exciting and a little scary to make sure that all the spokes work,” said Michael Walsh, MBA ’75. “But I’m very hopeful that the new dean will be able to pull that off.”
As always, attendees were clearly happy to see each other. “I’m here to see old classmates and friends,” said John Sullivan, MBA ’79. “The Johnson family is so wonderful — it’s really like catching up with family,” said Roderick Chu, MBA ’71, chancellor emeritus, Ohio Board of Regents, and former New York State tax commissioner under Gov. Mario Cuomo.
At the podium, Joseph Wilson, MBA ’86, introduced Jeff Parker ’65, MEng ’66, MBA ’70, Advisory Council co-chair of the NYC Steering Committee, who kicked off the program by announcing the Innovation Challenge, an invitation to all alumni to get in on the ground floor of an effort that launches the next phase of innovation for Johnson and elevates the school’s reputation on a global stage. As a catalyst, Johnson alumni who have already pledged $27 million to the school are asking fellow alumni to raise an additional $23 million to support Johnson’s programs, faculty, research, scholarships and infrastructure.
“This is a game changer for Cornell and Johnson,” said Parker. “This is a serious opportunity to make a big difference in the world of education.” His pronouncement was greeted with cheers and murmurs of “This is a game changer — it’s huge!”
Next, Dean Soumitra Dutta addressed the opportunities for growth and innovation at Johnson in the years ahead. “Johnson’s MBA in New York City will be unique, because it is integrated with a leading technology program,” he said. Graduates of the MBA program at Cornell NYC Tech will meet the needs of businesses that are driving disruptive change through the smart leverage of technology. The cadre of accepted students bring an entrepreneurial spirit and analytical approach to their work, and will graduate with an unsurpassed understanding of how technology and business intersect in the digital economy.
At the same time, he said, innovation is continuing in Ithaca, where the school has completed a major review of the MBA curriculum. These changes, driven by a comprehensive review and informed by extensive industry input, include specialized instruction in critical thinking, a targeted, customized leadership program, and an enriched and expanded focus on data analysis and modeling. Special partnerships are also being developed with sister Cornell schools to bring the richness of Cornell’s intellectual strengths to the Johnson experience.
On the global front, Dutta continued, Johnson’s Emerging Markets Institute is leading research and teaching in selected emerging markets. Johnson has partnerships with several global universities and has signed an agreement with a leading Chinese university to launch a pioneering dual-degree MBA program in Beijing. In addition, the Cornell-Queen’s Executive MBA program is growing its global reach, extending its unique boardroom MBA format to new locations in Latin America and Mexico.
Following the Dean’s remarks, Dutta welcomed each of the evening’s awardees, in turn, to the podium.
The Johnson Club of Seattle was honored with the Henry P. Renard ’54, MBA ’55 Regional Alumni Club of the Year Award. Club President Pam Spier ’05, MBA ’11, manager and marketing strategy consultant at Lenati LLC, accepted the award on behalf of club members who are credited with strengthening its alumni engagement by organizing educational programming featuring Johnson faculty and corporate speakers, and involving prospective and current students as well as alumni. Spier thanked the dean for his two recent visits to Seattle and said she was “super excited to be in New York with her beloved [Superbowl contender] Seahawks.”
Kenyattah A. Robinson, MBA ’06, who was honored as recipient of the Robert J. Swieringa Young Alumni Service Award, described his life and career success as a culmination of interactions with many great people, from his parents and childhood and school friends to Dean Emeritus Robert J. Swieringa.
Jack M. Ferraro, MBA ’70, who was honored as recipient of the Samuel C. Johnson Distinguished Service Award, noted that in recent years his former professors, Tom Dyckman and Joe Thomas, as well as the late Jerry Hass and Alan McAdams, were just as vibrant as they had been 45 years ago. He added that, in the academic world, “cost accounting is synonymous with [Professor] Hal Bierman.”
The evening ended with a poem by Bob W. Staley ’58, MBA ’59, exhorting alumni to continue supporting the school and its initiatives. Finally, led by Joe Thomas, Rich and Kim Marin, and Jeff Parker, the assembly sang Cornell’s alma mater, “Far Above Cayuga’s Waters.”