1989…Mr. Jefferson’s University.
The spring of 1989 brought the GBC to the Darden Graduate School of Business, nestled in the beautiful Virginia hills. Here, amidst the serenity of Thomas Jefferson’s university, we explored the thought-provoking topic: “Business Ethics and Ideals”.
Beginning yet another tradition, Darden instituted the GBC Business Leadership Award. After reviewing nominations for individuals who best embodied the Conference ideals of leadership and innovation, the planning committee honored Ken Iverson, CEO of NUCOR Steel, for his stellar record in returning competitiveness and innovation to the U.S. steel market. The beautiful Rotunda of the University of Virginia provided an inspirational setting for Thursday evening’s opening ceremony and Mr. Iverson’s acceptance remarks.
Inspiration was certainly the key element in 1989. Conference Co-Chairs Eileen O’Shea, Debbie Kelleher and Tim Grant crafted a wonderful program of speeches, case discussions, round tables and workshops. Most memorable was Keynote Speaker Tom Peters. In his trademark style, the noted author challenged the delegation to hold true to their beliefs and, if necessary . . . “Go out there and get fired!” Round table discussions with top corporate executives followed, prompting extensive discussion.
With sunset came the onslaught of Southern Hospitality, Virginia style. Friday’s banquet and dance at the quaint Boar’s Head Inn guaranteed sparse attendance at Saturday breakfast. Undaunted, the delegation enjoyed a day of workshops and concluded with a spectacular evening itinerary. Imagine a candlelit sunset tour through Thomas Jefferson’s marvelous Monticello, followed by a cocktail reception at the Monticello Visitor Center. Jefferson’s memoirs and mementos provided the perfect epilogue to an event devoted to ethics and ideals. A wonderful homestead-style dinner followed, and a rambunctious pub crawl dissolved into our all-to-soon Sunday morning departure.
Transitioning a vision…
1990 was a decisive year for the Graduate Business Conference. With the close of the 1989 Darden event came the end of our long-standing relationship with sponsor Nabisco Brands, Inc. Citing new challenges following the famed KKR leveraged buyout of the corporation, Nabisco provided a gracious “bridge” gift and urged us to keep the vision alive.
Fortunately, this event was founded on leadership. The GBC Alumni Council (comprised of a select group of dedicated alumni from the 1986 Conference) met at Darden and volunteered to share the ominous task of sponsor transition, and drafted what became an evolutionary vision for the next five years. The group envisioned a transition from an annual event to an organization that would garner support for student leadership and innovation worldwide. Though the Graduate Business Conference would remain central to this mission, this new organization could develop programs to elevate our founding concepts to new heights. Volunteer appointments were made, strategic plans were drafted, and the newly-formed Graduate Business Foundation (GBF) got down to the business of 1990 program funding.
Articulating the vision…
With this transition came the emergence of two new leaders. Fred Stow (Darden M.B.A. ’87, GBC ’86 and ’87) assumed the role of Foundation President from Founder Jim Deveau, while Gary McClure (Owen M.B.A. ’87, GBC ’86 and ’87) was appointed Executive Vice President of our volunteer start-up. Stow and McClure collaborated on a masterful presentation that highlighted the Foundation’s mission and the GBC sponsorship opportunity. Together, they descended on Purchase, New York and the executive offices of PepsiCo.
The unselfish efforts of Stow and McClure paid off a week later when the Graduate Business Foundation secured a one-year sponsorship from Frito-Lay Inc. While we were jubilant, the real celebration came in far-off Seattle, where the University of Washington 1990 Graduate Business Conference student organizing committee was finalizing plans for a hard-won hosting role (Washington, like many host schools, bid for three successive years to claim the honor). Given the “green” light, Washington was off to write another page in our annals.