Author: Kurt Greenbaum


About Kurt Greenbaum

As communications director for the Olin Business School, my job is to find and share great stories about our students, faculty, staff, and alumni. I'm also on the U College faculty in the journalism sequence. My background includes a stint at the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management and as a journalist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sun-Sentinel in South Florida and the Chicago Tribune.

WashU Olin’s Executive MBA with Shanghai’s Fudan University ranked No. 6 globally in the latest ranking of EMBA programs published Monday in The Financial Times.

The news comes just days before graduation for the latest cohort of Shanghai-based EMBA students. Commencement for Shanghai Class 16 will be October 26.

“This is great news and reflects the excellent work of our faculty and staff delivering and supporting this program,” said Dean Mark Taylor. “While this is one ranking for one of our programs, it’s indicative of all of the outstanding work going on across all of our programs right now. I very much appreciate the effort that is being made to ensure that we are consistently improving the student experience and innovating our curricular offerings.”

Read more about the Financial Times ranking and see where other schools placed in the measure.

Front row from left: David Heniford, Matilda Thomas, Stefan Yu. Back row: Timothy Solberg, Lewis Luo, Dr. Lin Gu.

A team of Olin MBA and master of finance students has won a $10,000 grant toward work on a business plan for a trauma hospital in Haiti. The grant was one of 100 such gifts nationally from TIAA, which awards the grants to worthy university groups doing nonprofit work.

Led by Olin’s Timothy Solberg, professor of practice in finance and board director of Project Medishare for Haiti, the five students include Dr. Lin Gu, MBA ’19, a Chinese emergency room doctor; Nigerian architect Matilda Thomas, MBA ’19; and Davis Heniford, Stefan Yu, and team leader Lewis Luo, all MSFQ ’18.

“Being from a developing country myself, I understand the challenges that come with starting up an organization of such scale and impact in a so-often hostile environment,” Thomas said. “I am able to leverage such knowledge, and through empathy, make recommendations that, hopefully, would be to the greatest good of the Haitian people.”

The students’ practicum project in Haiti is operated under Olin’s Wells Fargo Advisors Center for Finance and Accounting Research. The TIAA grant will cover the cost of creating a business plan for a national trauma and critical care hospital and health system in Haiti, which would replace infrastructure destroyed in Haiti’s January 2010 earthquake.

“I am very excited an Olin team is working to bring the trauma hospital and health system plan over the finish line,” Solberg said. “By completing this plan, WashU Olin’s team of five students is truly going to make a difference to the healthcare of 11 million people without a trauma system.”

TIAA made the announcement on October 2 as part of its total $1 million grant to 100 individuals who are “making a difference and (to) help them continue the impactful work they’re doing.”

“I am greatly inspired by the ambition and passion of the healthcare professionals and business tycoons committed to transform the world,” Gu said.

Twelve acres of land in Port au Prince, already in the process of being cleared and prepared, was donated by the local business community, and the Haitian government has put $5 million into a building escrow account.

“Project Medishare has allowed me to use my finance background in a way that is both novel and contributes to something much larger,” Heniford said. The students’ business plan will release funding with a $7 million grant from a philanthropist who requires an economically sustainable business plan as a next step.

“Our business plan is the key to unlock millions of dollars of donor funds to rebuild the only trauma and critical care hospital in Haiti,” Yu said. “It is special to be able to apply financial knowledge with such a clear humanitarian focus, and it has inspired me to seek other career opportunities in promoting social welfare through finance.”

The student team is working closely with Dr. Barth A. Green, Project Medishare president and founder; Harold Marzouka Jr., chairman of its Haitian board; Dr. Elizabeth Greig, executive committee member; Renee Lewis, executive director; and Joe Cornely of Norwegian Cruise Lines.

“I am glad and appreciate the chance to lead the WashU Project Medishare for Haiti team organized by CFAR that allows students like me to work with a group of amazing talents and leverage my skills to help millions of Haitians in need and make some real-world impacts,” Luo said.

Former Dean Stuart Greenbaum offers his tribute to Ron Allen during a retirement reception at Kopolow Library in Simon Hall on October 12.

Former Dean Stuart Greenbaum offers his tribute to Ron Allen
during a retirement reception at Kopolow Library
in Simon Hall on October 12.

When Ron Allen first arrived on WashU’s campus for a new job as business school librarian, there wasn’t one—at least, not one adequate to serve a world-class business school.

In 1986, Robert Virgil was dean, on a mission to raise Olin Business School’s profile among global business schools. Simon Hall was under construction and a new, state-of-the-art business library was part of the plan to help propel Olin to new heights. Allen was to be the first to build the library from a tiny nook and to hold an endowed directorship for the position as the Asa F. Seay Librarian.

“There was a sense of starting from nothing and growing this library into a first-rate service for faculty and students,” Allen recalled on October 5, on the occasion of his retirement from WashU, 33 years after his arrival. The New York City native—who confessed that “I don’t know if I could have identified St. Louis on a map”—spent three decades building, defending, and morphing the library through changes in leadership and technology.

“He was a change agent like nobody else over the course of his career,” said Ron King, Myron Northrop Professor of Accounting, in his tribute remarks. “The heart of the school was the library.”

At an event in the ornate reading room at the Al and Ruth Kopolow Business Library, three former deans and Todd Milbourn, vice dean and Hubert C. and Dorothy R. Moog Professor of Finance, shared their recollections of Allen’s career and contributions.

Milbourn recalled how Allen “got me wired in” as a brand new faculty member in the business school when he arrived, describing Allen as a partner in research who would find and help faculty exploit new data sets for their work.

Former deans Stuart Greenbaum and Mahendra Gupta recalled occasions when they tried to commandeer space from the library to accommodate expanding programs at Olin—attempts Allen rebuffed every time.

“You fell in love with the place when you walked into Kopolow,” Greenbaum said, crediting Allen with the environment he’d created. Gupta built on that remark, calling the library “the intellectual future of the school.”

When Allen came to WashU to run the business library, it was a standalone entity. It’s since been absorbed as part of the WashU library system. He said he’s come to terms with the idea of retirement and is looking forward to downsizing from a house to a Central West End apartment and his Florida condo.

“His handprint is all over this library and the way it was shaped and developed,” said former Dean Robert Virgil. “It was why our students wanted to stay here and study here.”

Fran and Elke Koch, first row. Paul Koch, Dean Mark Taylor, Roger Koch, and Chancellor Mark Wrighton on February 20, 2018, when the Kochs

A tour of duty in the military might have been one of the best things for Paul and Roger Koch. The experience upon their return guided their thinking about how to manage their family-owned business in the latter stages of their career.

“One of our saving graces was going into the service after graduating from WashU,” said Paul Koch, BSBA ’61, JD ’64, MBA ’68. “It got us away from the family, it got us away from St. Louis. And when we came back, our father said, ‘This is my company. You’ll have to start your own.'”

Their father didn’t want his sons, Paul and Roger, BSBA ’64, MBA ’66, to follow him into his real estate company. So they did exactly as he said and started their own. It became Koch Development Co., a St. Louis-based developer and manager of commercial real estate and owner/operator of select entertainment attractions—a business that has endured for three generations, so far.

“We say we are the third generation because we’re in that line of entrepreneurs in the same kind of business,” Roger Koch said. “Our kids had different interests. They had an interest in real estate, but they wanted to move in different directions.”

Paul and Roger Koch’s experiences separating from their father’s business, growing their own, and arranging for a generational transition informed their interest in deepening Olin Business School’s focus on the family business arena. The two brothers—and their spouses, Elke and Fran Koch—established a family business initiative in 2016, with a $1.09 million gift.

A key component of the family business initiative is an annual symposium focused on the topic of closely held and family-owned businesses. The fourth annual Olin Family Business Symposium will be held October 12 in Emerson Auditorium, focused on “Staying Private Forever–Often a Better Alternative.”

The Kochs’ commitment expanded in February when they contributed an additional $9 million toward a full-fledged Koch Center for Family Business, a research center that will be run by a faculty member holding a newly endowed Koch Distinguished Professorship in Family Business.

Roger Koch said Washington University has the potential to be a hub of knowledge, learning, and research on family businesses, which contribute more than $68 trillion to global GDP and drive 64 percent of the US economy.

“Students get totally focused on big, publicly traded companies,” he said. “They get no exposure to what family businesses are like. Family businesses by far create more jobs than any other sector of the economy. There are great careers to be had in family businesses. They’re very long-term oriented. They don’t only think about the next quarter. They’re here to move the entire organization along.”

He and his brother Paul know first-hand the importance of planning for generational transitions, a key stumbling block for many family businesses.

“We’re not unique, but too often family businesses fail to create that high-level management by using non-family managers,” Roger Koch said. “The seniors don’t want to give up control. That almost dooms the business. Even if you have a family member in that management team, you still need non-family managers to provide back-up support and continuity.”

Paul Koch added: “What is atypical of our business is that we were willing to go from family business managers to stakeholders.”

The next Olin Family Business Symposium includes keynote speaker Dave Whorton, founder and CEO of The Tugboat Group, as well as three panels, all discussing different aspects of “evergreen businesses”—businesses “led by purpose-driven leaders with the grit and resourcefulness to build and scale private, profitable, enduring, and market-leading businesses that make a dent in the universe.”

Pictured above: Fran and Elke Koch, first row. Paul Koch, Dean Mark Taylor, Roger Koch, and Chancellor Mark Wrighton on February 20, 2018, when the Kochs’ gift was announced.

Symposium schedule

7:30 a.m. Breakfast and Networking

8:30 a.m. “Introduction to Evergreen Principles,” Dave Whorton

9:00 a.m.: “The Concept of Strategic Ownership in Evergreen Companies”
Panel discussion with Dave Whorton, The Tugboat Group; Penny Pennington, Edward Jones; Alaina Macia, Medical Transportation Management, Inc. (MTM)

10:00 a.m.: “Importance of Evergreen Values in Businesses and Families”
Panel discussion with John Stupp Jr., Stupp Bros., Inc.; Michael Dierberg, First Bank Inc.; Greg Twardowski, Whelan Security Company; Jessica Rovello, Arkadium

11:00 a.m.: “Importance of Evergreen Values to Our Community”
Panel discussion with Spencer Burke, Olin Business School; David Kemper, Commerce Bancshares; Ricardo Cervantes, La Monarca Bakery; Michael Van Houweling, Van Wall Equipment

Cliff Holekamp

One day, we may think of the Holekamp family as the Johnny Appleseed of Olin’s startup ecosystem.

Thanks to a $500,000 gift from Cliff Holekamp and his father Bill Holekamp, known as the Holekamp Seed Fund, Olin now offers up to 20 grants a year of $1,000 to students who need a small injection of capital to get a startup business off the ground.

“I’m just interested in having all of our entrepreneurship students take action on their ideas and that they have the support to pursue a passion,” said Holekamp, professor of practice in entrepreneurship and academic director for entrepreneurship at Olin.

The idea for the Holekamp Seed Fund grew out of his experience with startup competitions, which typically hear from a variety of student proposals, but only reward one or two with funding. “The thought is to flip that around,” Holekamp said. “What if we were to think of it as seeding a large number of students with small checks? It’s about moving a student to action.”

It’s Holekamp’s dream that these relatively small grants will stimulate an even more vibrant startup scene on the WashU campus. The outline for the Holekamp Seed Fund suggests that the next Varsity Tutors, Schoology, or ePharmix—established firms that launched as student-run startups—will get their first investment from Olin.

He only asks for two things of the students.

First, he expects students to demonstrate a serious commitment to launching their idea. Applications won’t be judged on the potential long-term viability of the idea, but rather on how passionate the student is about giving the idea a go.

One reason for that stipulation? Eventually, students may learn their idea isn’t viable. Or, perhaps, they’ll uncover a better, more promising opportunity along the way. “Entrepreneurship should be liberating,” Holekamp said. “It shouldn’t be a cage.”

Second, Holekamp will ask recipients of the $1,000 grants to consider paying them forward after they’ve had a chance to pursue their own idea. Though not a requirement, he hopes students will consider pledging $200 a year over five years back to the seed fund or to the Olin Annual Fund.

“I’m not aware of any other schools doing something with this ‘pay-it-forward’ element,” he said. “I know of schools that do loans or give out cash prizes.” The component of building a vibrant startup community on campus was important to the Holekamp family’s conception of the idea.

“The idea behind this fund is wonderfully innovative—befitting Cliff, his family, WashU and the entrepreneurial spirit of the St. Louis community,” Dean Mark Taylor said. “This fund will provide a nudge to student entrepreneurs and it may well entice them as successful alums to likewise lend a hand to students who follow them. It’s an innovation win-win.”

Students can apply on the Holekamp Seed Fund website with the expectation that they will have a face-to-face interview with Holekamp. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis, so students can apply at any time. A three-person panel—Holekamp; his father, Bill; and Elise Miller Hoffman, MBA ’16, and principal at Cultivation Capital—will review applications. They’ll be assuring the applications come from Olin students who are ready to incorporate as a business and can demonstrate a personal commitment to the idea.

Applicants must have completed at least one semester in an Olin graduate program or course, or they must be a rising junior who is majoring in business or has participated in an Olin entrepreneurship course.

“It’s enough to get them motivated, get started, get incorporated and begin creating something,” Holekamp said. “Sometimes the hardest milestone is the first—going from nothing to something.”

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