Michael David Naumes, MBA ’72
Cultivating a fruitful relationship
Michael Naumes comes from the third generation of a family of proud Oregon fruit growers, which now supplies pears, cherries, apples, and other fruit to markets across the U.S. and overseas, from orchards in Oregon, Washington, and California. Naumes has always been happy to call Oregon his home. “We live in God’s country out here; we like our open spaces and way of life, and the weather is phenomenal,” he says.
Although he is an infrequent visitor and says he doesn’t really miss the Northeast, Naumes has maintained strong ties with Cornell, due largely to Cornell’s constant nurturing of the relationship. He and his wife Laura recently made a very generous, unrestricted gift to Johnson.
“I’ve really always appreciated the fact that the alumni staff have stayed in touch with me and come out to visit me in Oregon,” says Naumes. “It’s a long ways to come, and Terry Kent [of Cornell’s Alumni Affairs and Development office ] and his predecessor have been excellent about keeping me updated about Cornell, and offering to help me in our business in any way they could. Their interest and contact over the past 40 years definitely was a factor in our gift to Johnson.”
Naumes credits Johnson with broadening his business background and knowledge, adding: “I certainly enjoyed my time while I was at Johnson. It gave me a much better understanding of business; and I always really enjoyed Joe Thomas’s and Harold Bierman’s classes in particular.”
After graduating from Santa Clara University (California) in 1968, taking one summer’s worth of MBA courses at the University of Oregon, and serving 19 months in the Army (including 14 months in Vietnam), Naumes applied to only two MBA programs: the University of Notre Dame and Cornell. “I chose Cornell because it is the [home of the] New York School of Agriculture [and Life Sciences] and has a great MBA reputation, so I could combine business and agriculture courses,” he says. “Also, although I’ve lived my whole life on the West Coast, we sell a lot of our product into the Eastern U.S. I was interested in learning more about the East; and I ended up visiting quite a few of the markets where we do business while at Cornell.”
Naumes recalls his first-year spring break at Johnson, when he talked a classmate into driving him and two other classmates to Fort Lauderdale. “I told him I’d pay for the gas if he’d stop at various markets along the way, so I could make market calls in Richmond, Virginia; Atlanta, Georgia; and Miami, Florida,” he says. “One of those calls resulted in our company having excellent connections with Publix Supermarkets in Miami. Over the past 40 years, that connection has led to hundreds of thousands of boxes of business for our company.”
Naumes and his family have a tradition of charitable giving — to schools as well as to charitable organizations and local worthy causes. For example, the company’s consumer gifts division donates a pound of fruit to food banks around the country for every pound purchased by a customer. “My wife, Laura, and I learned at an early age from our parents the importance of giving back, and we’ve always felt a sense of obligation to give back to the schools we’ve attended, knowing that whatever we paid in tuition did not cover the whole expense of educating us,” says Naumes. “When we decided to put together a planned-giving package, we included all the schools that had provided an excellent education to us and contributed to our success in business and life — and Cornell was certainly one of those.”