The Olin Veterans Association (OVA) hosted their 4th Annual Dining Out Ceremony at the prestigious St. Louis Racquet Club. The crowd included thirty current MBA Veterans from all five branches of service, representation from thirty-six St. Louis companies including sixty prominent executives. The guests of honor were Jack Senneff, the President of the Mess, an Army Ranger Regiment Officer and current Managing Director at Thompson Street Capital Partners; the Keynote Speaker Jason Frei, a Marine Officer and current Director at Boeing Defense; and Mark Taylor, Dean of Olin Business School.
The Olin Veterans Association Military Dining Out Ceremony is an annual event to celebrate the partnership between the OVA and St. Louis business leaders who support Veterans with their time, expertise, and mentorship. Danny Henry, the OVA President and McKinsey Consultant, along with Joe Piganelli, the incoming OVA president, spent countless hours leading student and faculty teams to orchestrate the event and successfully doubled the headcount from the 2016 event.
Dean Mark Taylor was impressed with his first dining out experience, “I was deeply honored to host this event with the Olin Veterans Association…this momentous occasion celebrated the service of our military veterans and the tremendous support of our business community.”
The evening incorporated time honored military traditions such as Washington University’s ROTC Color Guard posting the American flag, a Washington University a capella group singing the National Anthem, and attendees raising their water glasses for a silent toast to remember our fallen comrades.
A crowd-favorite tradition was chastising guests who violated the Rules of the Mess. For example, one rule states, “Thou shalt not murder the Queen’s English.” If found guilty of murdering the Queen’s English, a penalty could include a monetary fine that supported Veteran scholarships and a trip to the “Grog Bowl”. The grog bowl was a combination of symbolic liquids and solids mixed together to represent the sacrifices of the Veterans both in combat and the MBA program. The crowd enjoyed the good-natured revelry as guests cited each other for violations.
Several current student OVA members to were able to enjoy the evening with their employers. Joe Rieser dined with his future supervisor Chip Hiemenz, the Director of Business Development at Hunter Engineering, and Dan Vitale sat with his former boss Rob Godlewski, Vice President of Commercial and Residential Solutions at Emerson. Dan enjoyed connecting with Rob again, “From the first day Rob ensured me that Emerson and the St. Louis Business community were committed to helping Olin Veteran Association members transition.”
The highlight of the night, was the guest speaker, Jason Frei. Jason, Director of Ethics and Business Conduct at Boeing Defense, a Purple Heart recipient, and an Eisenhower Fellow, centered his speech around his tenure as a Marine Artillery Officer. Jason was a natural born leader and the Marine Corps discipline and desire to bring the fight to the enemy was one of the main reasons he joined the Corps. He emphasized that his success was a result of his desire to lead Marines and he took every measure possible to keep them alive.
Unfortunately, Jason’s convoy was hit by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED), an event that physically and mentally changed his life and altered his career. After losing part of his arm, he decided to leave the Marine Corps and find a different path to lead and make an impact. He immediately enrolled in the MBA program at Notre Dame to launch him on his new career. Jason may have stopped serving in the Marine Corps however he took the lessons and leadership and brought them to Boeing Defense.
The OVA would like to thank the many guests that attended and to express our appreciation of the ongoing support of our faculty, staff, alumni, and honored guests. We look forward to the continued impact our veteran students make to our program and our community. Thank you to all our active duty service men and women for their continued sacrifice. We are grateful for those veterans who have served, many who are no longer with us today, and honor them with this event.
Guest Blogger: James Jacobs
VP of Communications, Olin Veteran’s Association