Tag: Alumni

Nina Leigh Krueger

Cat litter isn’t sexy, but it can earn you some scratch—especially when you think out of the … um … box. Nestlé Purina PetCare CEO Nina Leigh Krueger tells the go/no-go story of a kitty innovation in our latest On Principle podcast.

For most of her career with Nestlé Purina PetCare, Nina Leigh Krueger had worked on the pet nutrition side of the business. When the WashU Olin alumna joined the company’s cat litter group to lead its marketing, she found she was a fish out of water—and facing a challenge with a high sales goal in a stagnating business. Leadership, questioning whether or not to exit the business, challenged her to make or break the line. 

Our story sets the stage for that pivotal moment and goes on to share the work she did in building and creating a team dynamic that was creative in its thinking. Then, once Krueger understood how the team worked, how could she blow that up and identify paths to pursue in the business? Could she renovate an existing product or find something totally new to build from the ground up? 

In addition, she did something marketers rarely do and offered up her marketing budget to R&D to help spur growth through product development. And she gave the scientists a seat at the table to listen to consumers. 

The kernel of the idea for lightweight litter came from one of those scientists. They began to toy with potential solutions. A prototype was created using corn husks. A year later, Krueger was promoted to president of the litter business, and it was time to accelerate the work toward lightweight litter. 

The end of the story? Success and a challenge from Krueger to make the company’s litter division—near extinction a couple of years earlier—into a billion-dollar business. That milestone came when the brand reached $1 billion in sales in 2020. 



Aaron Powell

Joe Dwyer wrote this for the Olin Blog.

Aaron Powell, BSBA ’93, was named global Pizza Hut Division Chief Executive Officer effective Sept. 20.

Pizza Hut is a division of Yum! Brands Inc., and Powell will report to Yum! Chief Executive Officer David Gibbs. Yum’s operations also include KFC and Taco Bell. In this new role with Yum!, Powell will assume global responsibility for driving the Pizza Hut division’s growth strategies, franchise operations and performance.

Kevin Hochman, president and chief concept officer, KFC US and interim president, Pizza Hut US, and Vipul Chawla, president of Pizza Hut International, will report to Powell.

During his time at Washington University, Powell was a captain of the football team. He said WashU football definitely played a role in his development as a leader.

“The chance to join an iconic, powerhouse global brand like Pizza Hut, combined with the backing of a world-class and culture-rich company like Yum! Brands, created an opportunity I knew I had to be a part of and simply couldn’t pass up,” said Powell. “I’m excited to work with Kevin and Vipul, and can’t wait to begin working alongside and building relationships with such a talented team of employees and franchisees around the world.”

Powell is former president of Kimberly-Clark Corp.’s Asia-Pacific Consumer Business, the company’s largest international region with operations in more than 30 countries, including China, India, Australia, Korea and the ASEAN member states.

Powell previously spent four years with management consulting firm Bain & Company, serving in its consumer practice. He also spent eight years in sales leadership and brand management roles at Procter & Gamble.

In addition to his business degree from Washington University, he has an MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. He currently serves on the board of directors for Sherwin-Williams.

In the summer of 2017, a data breach occurred at Atlanta-based credit bureau Equifax affecting the records of more than 140 million consumers in the United States. The company announced the incursion in September, arguably one of the largest such breaches in history at the time, giving hackers access to private information—names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, credit card numbers, even driver’s license numbers.

​“We had people being attacked publicly, people avoiding mentioning the fact that they worked for Equifax.”

Into that scene, WashU Olin alumnus Paulino do Rego Barros Jr. stepped as the company’s interim CEO, charged with managing the fallout from the situation. Employees were scared as they faced furious backlash—even threats from consumers. Systems were overloaded as consumers flooded the firm’s call centers and websites. “The building was on fire,” do Rego Barros said.

In this episode, we examine the steps he and his colleagues took to confront the situation and begin to restore trust among consumers, customers, regulators and policymakers. While avoiding the regulatory and legal issues—these won’t be relitigated in this episode—we focus on three primary decision points: Engaging with employees, engaging and reassuring consumers (e.g., individuals), and doing the same with customers (e.g., banks and other institutions).

The subject remains topical today as companies and institutions continue to be vulnerable to data breaches that expose private consumer information. What decisions had to be made in the immediate aftermath of the breach? What were the implications? How does a business re-establish trust with customers under those circumstances? Then, once the immediate fire is quelled, how do you propel the business into a better place?

Listen to more of On Principle’s first season.

MItch, Karen and Sam Margo.

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.

Karen Margo with former Olin Dean Mahendra Gupta.

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.

Pictured at top: Mitch, Karen and Sam Margo.

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.”

Watch the full conversation, moderated by Olin’s Stuart Bunderson.