Tag: Executive MBA



Twenty years ago, Robert S. Mathews Jr. was a student at Olin, working toward his professional MBA.

Also 20 years ago in September, terrorists hijacked four jetliners and flew them into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and crashed one in a field in Pennsylvania. Almost 3,000 people were killed.

“Unfortunately, things took a very bad turn in the world.”

In December 2003, Mathews, a U.S. Army reservist, was recalled to active duty to support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He promised himself that, one day, he would return to Olin.

In all, Mathews served 33 years in the U.S. Army. Early in his military career, before the terrorist attacks, he commanded the Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha in the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne).

In that role, he supported counter-drug and counter-terrorism training in the U.S. with Mexico and Central and South America. Ecuador was his specialty. One of the highlights of his career, he says, was participating in peace talks between Ecuador and Peru.

A word about the Army Special Forces. They’re also known as Green Berets. As Mathews himself said, “It takes an individual with a high tolerance and endurance for physical and mental pain to complete the two and half years of training.”

As the years passed, he rose in rank, took on expanding responsibilities and received numerous medals, including the Bronze Star and the Legion of Merit.

Recall after recall

Let’s backtrack. During his time in the Army Reserve, and some time before the September 11 attacks, Mathews worked at G.E. Capital in Danbury, Connecticut. He was with the Commercial Equipment Finance group as a Six Sigma Black Belt.

A certified Six Sigma Black Belt leads and facilitates teams of subject matter experts on process improvement and lean initiatives that executives champion in the business.

He was then promoted to Six Sigma Master Black Belt and sent to the GE Small Business Finance Group in St. Louis, where he also started his PMBA at Olin.

Months later, the Army recalled him into active duty. In all, while he was trying to build his corporate career, he was recalled four times for a year each time. After one of those recalls, Citibank hired him in New York City as the senior vice president of national client onboarding. That lasted a year before the Army called him into service again.

Eventually, the Army pulled him back full time, into what’s called acquisitions. “Now, most people think of acquisitions like mergers and acquisitions, but the Army does it differently,” he said.

“It’s more the procurement and the contracting. We essentially are the business part of the Army that negotiates the contracts, commodities, services and minor military construction throughout the world for the different parts of the Department of Defense.”

Mathews wore two hats: Chief of staff of the Mission and Installation Contracting Command and acting commander of the 418th Contracting Support Brigade. As chief of staff, he managed the executive staff responsible for 1,500 people and a $15 billion portfolio throughout the United States. As the acting commander, he oversaw 500 people and a $3 billion portfolio for Army contracts West of the Mississippi.

A two-mile run

As of today, Mathews is officially retired from the military. Yesterday was U.S. Army Colonel Mathews’ last day in uniform.

The Army retired him because of a medical condition.

“We’re required to do a bi-annual physical fitness test to demonstrate that we’re in good working order and that we’re still able to do all the things that the military asks us to do,” he said.

“Well, in that test it was the first time in my entire military career where I couldn’t finish a two-mile run. I was having a hard time with breathing.”

An MRI on his chest revealed pulmonary embolisms in his left lung. “It was very, very dangerous.”

In Afghanistan, Mathews and others were repeatedly exposed to fumes from burn pits the Army used to get rid of waste. “The fumes and everything, we think, got into my lungs created these problems.”

The condition would prohibit him from remaining in uniform, especially because he has to be on blood thinners. It was likely that no one could stop the bleeding if he was shot or injured in an explosion.

Mathews’ career, however, is far from over.

These days, he is enrolled in Olin’s Executive MBA program: He expects to graduate in April 2022.

The Army is footing the bill as part of his vocational rehabilitation benefits.

Mathews says he’s getting the tools he needs to transition back into corporate banking. More important, he says, is having access to professors with extensive experience, along with building a network in his EMBA 56 class and with people in other EMBA classes.

“It had been 20 years,” Mathews said. “And this was my first opportunity to return to the program.”


Carl Casale, EMBA ’92, will be honored on April 30 as the 2021 Dean’s Medalist.

A purpose-driven executive and respected leader in the agriculture and food industries, Casale leads the venture capital practice at Ospraie Ag Science.

His three decades of experience leading globally influential companies across the ag and food sectors provide insight into converging forces that will fundamentally transform global agricultural systems.

“The projections are by 2030 about half the world is going to be middle class or wealthy and the other half is still going to be poor,” he said in an interview.

“What we believe is going to happen is a bifurcation in the food supply. There’ll be those that just want more calories. But increasingly in what we’re seeing in this country is it’s not about how many calories can you produce. It’s how can you produce my calories?”

Consumers are interested in sustainability, transparency and local sources, he said.

“It’s not a fad. It is a shift, we believe. And so we said, ‘OK, if we believe that to be true, what do we want to do?’ And we said, ‘Well, let’s invest in technologies that fulfill those needs that can make farmers more productive but satisfy the desires of consumers in a way that they want met.’”

A farmer himself

A fourth-generation farmer, Casale identifies ag tech investment opportunities that support sustainable food production. In 2018, he helped launch Ospraie Ag Science, which is the venture arm of Ospraie Management. In this role, he leads successful venture campaigns for select companies that help farmers do more with less environmental impact.

In another role, in Casale’s seven years as the CEO and president of CHS Inc., the company returned $3 billion to its owners, invested $9 billion in new capital expenditures and nearly doubled the size of its balance sheet from $8.7 billion in 2010 to $17.3 billion at the end of fiscal 2016. CHS Inc. is a global agribusiness owned by farmers, ranchers and cooperatives across the United States.

Casale said he focused on prudent fiscal management and enhancing management systems at the company. During his tenure, CHS was the only major firm in the industry to manage through the recent economic decline without a planned reduction in workforce, instead relying on strategic cost reductions. Casale reduced working capital by $400 million to help fund a $2.8 billion transformational investment in CF Nitrogen—without taking on an undesirable debt level. The result was an 80-year agreement and a significant new profit source for the co-op’s farmer-owners.

His Monsanto days

At Monsanto Co., Casale rose through the ranks from sales representative to running the company’s largest division at age 36. As executive vice president of strategy and operations, he conceptualized the industry’s first eight-gene agricultural biotech product, “SmartStax,” which became the nation’s No. 1 insect protection trait in corn. As CFO, he reduced several hundred million dollars in operating costs by shifting the reliance on revenue to the strategic use of cash to generate earnings.

From Congress to key industry events, Casale is a sought-after commentator on the future of farming and global ag infrastructure. He remains deeply committed to “creating business models that ensure relevance over time” and continues to shape the ag, food and energy industries in both private and public roles.

Casale and his wife, Kim, operate a 150-acre specialty crop farm in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and his family resides in Minnesota’s Twin Cities.




Olin’s 2020 EMBA program consisted of 87 students, all of whom continued or finished the program as the country shut down due to a global pandemic. Luckily, the EMBA program responded quickly and effectively to the newly-virtual and distanced educational experience. From virtual graduation ceremonies to hybrid classrooms, here’s how Olin EMBA students responded to the pandemic, by the numbers:

1

day to redirect travel and set up EMBA 55 on-campus DC residency after Washington University suspends travel on March 9

2

virtual graduation watch parties, along with celebration kits sent out to grads

2

cohorts—54 and 55 hybrid global residency

4

months—EMBA hybrid classrooms at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Clayton

6

months with virtual-only classes

6

conversations over cocktails with Olin experts, attended by 400 alumni and students

36

SimNet online Excel courses

120

lunches delivered to student homes in March and April

234

boxes packed and delivered to FedEx and DHL containing books and course packs

265

“mobile break station” packages delivered to student homes between May and December

We congratulate the EMBA program for their resilience and efficiency during this challenging time.




Matthew Nyman died in an avalanche in Alaska last week. He was 43.

Nyman was an Army veteran, wounded warrior, government innovator and 2017 Olin EMBA alumnus.

Last Tuesday, he and two other climbers drove to the trailhead at Bear Mountain, near Chugiak, an area about 20 miles northeast of Anchorage. The last time anyone heard from them was around 10:30 a.m. that day, Alaska State Troopers reported.

The climbers were due back at the trailhead around 5 p.m. Tuesday and were reported overdue to the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center, according to media reports.

On Wednesday morning, February 3, troopers and the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group began to search the mountain. Searchers saw that an avalanche had happened, and they found the men’s bodies buried in the slide.

Nyman, who lived in Denver, was an experienced climber, his wife, Kris Crichton, told the Tribune News Service. An Army Ranger turned Delta Force operator, Nyman was severely injured in a 2005 helicopter crash.

“He fought to be healed from the loss of a leg and no use of his other foot, in addition to a traumatic brain injury, to be able to walk again, climb mountains and work for the government to fight drug cartels in Mexico,” Crichton said Thursday. The couple met at Olin while Nyman and Crichton were both in the EMBA program, and they married in September 2020. (See his obituary.)

Nyman had considered business school for years. The helicopter crash helped accelerate his thinking, according to a 2019 Olin Blog post. During a combat operation, he was a passenger in a helicopter landing atop a building in Iraq. The crash left him with severe injuries to his head, back, lungs, femur and a below-the-knee amputation of his right leg.

After fighting his way back to health and building a stellar career developing and launching threat-assessment centers in the military and public sector, he pivoted to the private sector.

Nyman was a dedicated father to his two sons and his stepson, Crichton said. He most recently was the Cyber Fusion Center director for American Family Insurance.

He also was featured in the 2012 documentary “High Ground,” which followed 11 veterans as they climbed the Himalayan Mount Lobuche.

Nyman served in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

A Matt Nyman Memorial Fund has been set up on GoFundMe to help support his widow and children.




Keith Choy, EMBA-Shanghai

In a Q&A with McKinsey & Company published last month, Keith Choy describes how his GlaxoSmithKline’s Asia–Pacific Consumer Healthcare group is relying on the reality of the pandemic and the company’s values to speed up its response to customers and demonstrate its agility.

Choy, EMBA-Shanghai ’07, is head of the GSK unit, overseeing 6,000 employees whom, the article says, he has asked “to consider the pandemic a call to action, a chance to double down on existing digitalization initiatives and strengthen end-to-end supply chains to even better respond to emerging consumption trends across the 23 Asia–Pacific markets the company serves.”

Here are a few highlights from the October conversation Choy had with McKinsey on how “GSK is responding to COVID-19, how the company is guided by its values and what global companies can do to succeed in Asia during COVID-19 and beyond.”

On tech and digitalization

“Even before the pandemic, people were getting more digitalized and using technology in ways we couldn’t imagine before. We need to accelerate our use of digital to engage with consumers, customers, and healthcare professionals.”

On company values

“During the pandemic, and even Chinese New Year, our manufacturing site employees still went back to work; our supply chain continued to deliver products to customers. We demonstrated a deep commitment to help patients even as we worked to keep our employees safe and healthy.”

On speeding customer response

“Our decision tree is based on empowerment of our people—the trust of the leadership in the people on the ground. We give them whatever support and resources we can. In that sense, decision making is on the local level.”

On leadership qualities

“The first quality I look for is how they prioritize; I want to see how they consider opportunities and challenges and if they can quickly identify priorities. The second is how they shoulder their leadership responsibilities and accountabilities, and how well they connect with people even under remote conditions.”

Read the full interview on McKinsey & Company’s website.