Karen Margo, who followed a stellar career in banking with nearly 29 years of alumni development work for WashU Olin, died July 17, 2021, after a 10-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
After joining Olin Advancement in 1985, Ms. Margo was appointed executive director of development for the business school in 2009. Renowned for her talent for making and cultivating relationships with Olin alumni, parents and friends of the business school, Ms. Margo was herself an alumna after earning her MBA from WashU in 1979.
Ms. Margo was beloved by Olin staff, faculty and alumni and had an extraordinary talent for fundraising on behalf of the business school. During her years working for University Advancement on behalf of Olin Business School, she was known for tripling scholarship support and increasing Olin’s endowment to $309 million—a sixfold increase under her tenure. She retired from the role in 2014.
“Over the past 30 years, I believe the Olin School has had the good fortune to have the best director of development at any business school in the country,” David Blasingame, AB ’69/MBA ’71, said in a story in the 2014 edition of Olin Business magazine. Blasingame was WashU’s former executive vice chancellor for alumni and development programs and Margo’s predecessor in the role at Olin.
Prior to her promotion to executive director, Ms. Margo collaborated with Olin leadership and volunteers, driving the school’s participation in the Campaign for Washington University, where the effort led to contributions in excess of $142 million—exceeding an initial goal of $105 million—for the school.
“Through her long career here, she has helped us realize our vision as a school, and she has built a strong team of fundraising professionals who have learned from her thoughtful and gentle approach to fundraising,” Mahendra Gupta, former Olin dean and the Geraldine J. and Robert L. Virgil Professor of Accounting and Management, said in Olin Business magazine.
At her retirement party, Olin Dean Emeritus Robert L. Virgil, MBA ’60/DBA ’67, announced an endowed scholarship fund in her name. More than $1 million in gifts and pledges had been received within three months of the announcement.
“You also have made a legion of friends,” Virgil said in his tribute. “Every place in America. Around the globe. Alumni. Parents. Companies. Staff. Faculty. People you have recruited, developed, and launched on their own successful careers in development. You are their model.”
Prior to joining Olin, Ms. Margo was president of the Mark Twain Bank in Fenton, Missouri, and earlier earned her bachelor’s degree from St. Lawrence University. She was the salutatorian for her class upon graduating from both St. Lawrence and WashU.
No funeral or memorial service has been planned at this time. Ms. Margo is survived by her husband Mitch, son Sam and his fiancée Eva Gonzalez, her sisters Beverly Brown and Barb Romig, and her brother David Miller and his wife Carol.
Halo + Cleaver, an alumni-owned, St. Louis-based condiment company with a mission is to produce healthier, more natural versions of popular sauces, has revamped its brand.
Co-owners Rob Garwitz, MBA ’18, and Matt Richard, PMBA ’19, recently launched a new website and brighter design and added three new low-sugar sauces to the company’s repertoire. As a result, their products have landed a spot on the shelves of St. Louis grocery stores including Schnucks, Dierbergs and Straub’s, and they have been approved for use in a range of popular diets, including non-GMO, Keto and Whole 30.
The three new Halo + Cleaver sauces hitting shelves this month are Perfect Ketchup, Backyard Red BBQ Sauce and Gold Mustard BBQ sauce. All three have 0 grams of added sugar and no artificial sweeteners, instead using naturally sweet ingredients.
These sauces, as well as the website and packaging, aim to promote the company’s mission to “empower current and future generations to live long, healthy, and fulfilled lives.” Garwitz and Richard have designed a brand with the message that “truly good health is about finding balance.”
Garwitz and Richard attribute the existence of their company, to some degree, to their time at Olin. The two met through a fellow alumnus, and both learned essential skills in entrepreneurship courses taught by Cliff Holekamp, MBA ’01, and former director of Olin’s entrepreneurship platform.
They said they hope that Halo + Cleaver will make Olin and the broader St. Louis community proud.
Find Halo + Cleaver at your local grocery store or on their website.
At this year’s virtual panel, the 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award winners shared career advice to students and professionals through the lens of WashU Olin’s values-based, data-driven approach to leadership.
For more than 30 years, Olin has recognized a select group of alumni who have attained distinction in their respective fields and share strong leadership characteristics. This year’s honorees span a wide variety of areas, from investment to tech.
The honorees spoke of the values-based, data-driven approach instilled in them at Olin and how they have applied this approach in their careers. They answered theoretical questions tossed around in Olin classrooms: What do you do when there isn’t any data, and how should you react when data and values collide?
On the absence of data
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Robert Vitale, PMBA ’94. As CEO and president of Post Holdings, he was forced to make decisions that would impact consumers without any data at hand.
“It was less about data than the absence of data,” he said. “Our very first value is to protect each other. We had to balance our primary value of protecting our employees against our obligation to keep supply chains running and food available to people. Then, we had to manage that with a significant absence of data.”
Andrew Rubin, BSBA ’98, CEO and co-founder of Illumio, struggled to provide answers to his employee’s “what ifs” during COVID-19.
“It became reassuring to stop trying to predict the future. We didn’t know. We didn’t have data, and it was OK to admit that. A lack of data is something we had to get comfortable with.”
On when to prioritize your values
When analyzing data isn’t an option, it’s imperative to lean back into your values. In the wake of the murder of George Floyd last summer, people are watching to see how companies would react.
“It’s incumbent to us as leaders to be fact-based, truthful, authentic and to take a stand appropriately,” says Eric Veiel, MBA ’99, co-head of global equity and head of US equity at T. Rowe Price. “That doesn’t come easy and everyone won’t completely agree. But if they believe you are doing it for the right reasons, it becomes a much more manageable and productive conversation.”
Kelli P. Washington, CFA, BSBA ’94, managing director of research and investment strategy at Cleveland Clinic Investment Office, shared her thoughts about the next generation of leaders, including Olin students.
“Today’s young adults are going to push for alignment with their values. Our ability to attract them to work for and with us is going to hinge on our ability to align with what they feel is important.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn caused internship cancellations, WashU Olin and the Center for Experiential Learning stepped up to provide summer learning opportunities for students while supporting St. Louis-based businesses. Today, we hear from Toby Warticovschi, EMBA ’09, partner at Millstone USA, as well as Millstone CEO Carin Stutz.
Given the pandemic, what compelled your company to get involved with this program?
Warticovschi: We wanted to provide an opportunity for world-class talent, and to see if these students could assist us in deriving value from the data from one of our portfolio companies that, due to resource constraints, we have not been able to analyze. I have a sophomore in college and a junior in high school. Their internship plans were canceled, too. I brought my daughter to work for one of our portfolio companies for the same reason we’re working with WashU students: It’s a mutual benefit.
Stutz: We all want our companies to be relevant to future generations, so the opportunity to participate and hear the perspective of your students is invaluable.
What is your project about?
Warticovschi: We asked students to our data to see if they could find any key insights to our guest/consumer behavior when it comes to choosing healthy or indulgent menu items; willingness to try new menu items or limited-time offers; and menu pricing.
What was it like working with WashU Olin students?
Stutz: They came prepared and asked insightful questions. For some, it may be the first time communicating directly with an executive team, so some seemed a little hesitant to engage. Having the advisor involved, in our case Zachary Kaplan, helped bridge the newness of the situation.
What advice would you give students on the cusp of graduating at this time in history?
Warticovschi: These are certainly unprecedented times, but my main advice is to remain optimistic. As this change happens, every business is having challenges—and that also presents new opportunities. Those who ask themselves the question “How can I leverage this opportunity to add or create value?” are the ones who will be best positioned for the future.
Alison Berger, senior associate director of University Advancement at Olin, wrote this blog post.
Olin honored five recent alumni with Emerging Leader Awards today. The event included a panel discussion featuring the 2021 honorees and a virtual celebration.
The Emerging Leader Award honors recent Olin alumni who exemplify the business school’s mission to create knowledge, inspire individuals and transform business.
We are proud to recognize these five honorees:
Ryan Cameron Courson, BSBA ’10
Chief Financial Officer, EagleView
Ryan Cameron Courson is the chief financial officer of EagleView, a world-leading provider of Geospatial Intelligence. At EagleView, he is responsible for accounting, finance, corporate development, corporate strategy and legal.
Prior to joining EagleView, Courson was the CFO of Atlas Corp. (NYSE: ATCO), a $10 billion global asset management firm that owns Seaspan Corp. and APR Energy. During his tenure at Atlas, the company invested over $4 billion of capital across both portfolio companies.
Before he became an executive, Courson developed his career as an investor, spending three years at Falcon Edge Capital, a diversified investment firm with more than $3 billion in assets under management. He focused on researching and investing in equities across North America and Asia. Before that, he worked at Teton Capital, a private family office, as an investment professional and acting CFO of Teton’s Davos Brands. Courson began his career working at Berkshire Hathaway as an investment analyst.
Fluent in Mandarin, Courson graduated summa cum laude from Washington University, where he serves as a visiting professor teaching a course on investing. Ryan married Rebecca in 2016, and they have two daughters, Cameron and Quinn.
Elise Miller Hoffman, BA ’11, MBA ’16
General Partner, Cultivation Capital
As general partner at Cultivation Capital, Elise Miller Hoffman invests in digital health and life sciences startups in the seed to Series B stage, focusing on healthcare companies that are solving the pressing problems exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic. She supports the Cultivation Capital portfolio as a board member at Healthy Bytes, board observer at ImageMoverMD, and former board observer at NarrativeDx before its acquisition in 2020.
In addition to her work at Cultivation Capital, Hoffman is active in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, serving as co-chair of the board at the St. Louis Equity in Entrepreneurship Collective and an advisory council member at Arch Grants. In addition, one can often find her on the Washington University campus, serving as an investor in residence at the Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship and a director of the Holekamp Seed Fund. In the St. Louis community, Hoffman serves as a board member at Forward Through Ferguson, an advisory board member for the Center for Civic Research and Innovation, and a member of the St. Louis Forum. Hoffman holds a BA in Spanish literature and Latin American studies and an MBA from Washington University. The St. Louis Business Journal recognized her as a “30 under 30” awardee in 2018.
Ryan Hwang, BSBA ’09
Ryan Hwang graduated from Washington University in 2009 with a BSBA degree in marketing and international business. At WashU, alongside classmates Tim Trinidad and Jeremy Friedman, Hwang founded Schoology as an online learning platform focused on helping K-12 schools continue to advance what’s possible in education. Hwang was a key leader on the product management team. He managed a team of product managers and oversaw product strategy and roadmap for Schoology’s core product, the learning management system (LMS).
By 2019, Schoology had reached more than 20 million students and become the leading LMS provider, leading to its acquisition by PowerSchool. At PowerSchool, Hwang served as director of product management, where he continued to oversee product strategy and roadmap for Schoology, leading to unprecedented growth throughout 2020.
Philip Lewis, BSBA ’07
Partner, Fulcrum Equity Partners
After graduating from Olin, Philip Lewis accepted a position with A.G. Edwards & Sons in St. Louis. The opportunity proved to be a brief one when Wachovia acquired A.G. Edwards in the ensuing months and opted not to retain recent hires. His next opportunity soon arose in Atlanta, where a start-up growth equity fund, Fulcrum Equity Partners, chose Lewis to be its first hire. Lewis began as an analyst during the initial fundraising, and he is now principal, leading new investments, sitting on multiple boards, and helping source investment opportunities.
Lewis also served as CFO of a portfolio company, RivalHealth, from 2015-2017, ultimately guiding the company through a merger and sitting on the new company’s board.
Lewis is deeply involved in Atlanta’s professional and nonprofit communities. He is on the leadership council for Year Up! Atlanta, a nonprofit focused on closing the opportunity gap for underserved young adults through professional skills development, classroom learning and internships. He previously chaired the steering committee of the NextWave Society at the Georgia Aquarium, focusing on raising awareness and funds for environmental research and conservation. In the professional community, Lewis serves on the board of directors and selection committee for Venture Atlanta, the largest venture capital conference in the Southeast. He chaired the 10th anniversary Venture Atlanta conference in 2017. He also serves on the board of the Center for Entrepreneurship & Development in North Carolina. Lewis previously was on the board of the corporate development society for the Technology Association of Georgia, founded the Young Southern Capital Group (Atlanta’s largest community of young investment professionals), and he served multiple years on the selection committee for the Technology Association of Georgia’s Top 10/40 Most Innovative Company awards.
Tim Trinidad, BS ’09, BSBA ’09
Tim Trinidad joined Washington University as an undergraduate freshman in 2005. During that time, he participated as a member of The Washington University Amateurs a cappella group, the WUSauce salsa team, the Orientation Executive Board, the Dance Marathon Executive Board, and Sigma Nu Fraternity. In addition, he served as webmaster for several university organizations, to which he credits his start in web development and web design. Trinidad graduated cum laude in 2009 with majors in entrepreneurship and computer science.
With the help of The Hatchery course taught by Cliff Holekamp, Trinidad and co-founders Ryan Hwang and Jeremy Friedman refined the Schoology business plan and pitch deck (the original versions of which are still available to see at Olin). Schoology soon received angel funding, at which point the team moved to New York City and grew to over 150 employees with more than 2000 enterprise customers in more than 100 countries. Since then, the founders were recognized by Forbes‘ 30 Under 30 in Education.
During his tenure at Schoology, Trinidad has built a team and infrastructure that has scaled to more than 18 million users worldwide. Through his leadership, Schoology has developed a highly scalable and available infrastructure, an architecture that supports agile development methods and continuous deployment, and a world-class engineering organization. In November 2019, Schoology was acquired by PowerSchool, where Trinidad continues to work on the Schoology platform as a senior principal software architect.