Alumni Club News

Israel Club Gala Hosts 200 Attendees

Continuing a tradition, the Wharton Club of Israel and the local Harvard Business School alumni club celebrated their sixth annual Gala Dinner on December 26, 2007. To date, this was the largest event of its kind for the local alumni club, hosting 200 people, including many business and community leaders. The keynote speaker was Shay Agassi, one of Israel’s best-known entrepreneurs, who had sold the software company he founded to SAP and went on to become SAP’s Deputy CEO.

These days, Agassi is promoting the adoption of a nationwide network of electric outlets in Israel, in which drivers can recharge their electric car battery anywhere. The total cost of this project is set at $200 million. The existence of such a network would make it possible for everyone to switch from a conventional gasoline-powered car to an electric-powered one. Agassi has already secured the funds as well as the cooperation of Renault-Nissan and the State of Israel.

Every year at the Gala Dinner, the Organizing Committee rewards a community organization for their exceptional achievement in building a “critical mass” of young leaders who will impact society. This year, a not-for-profit organization called LEAD was chosen. Founded by self-made billionaire Morris Kahn, the organization has taken upon itself the task of encouraging and developing youth leadership in Israel. The goal is to mentor 120 young adults every year, training each according to the most advanced leadership techniques and concepts. LEAD’s purpose is to make an impact on the next generation of leaders throughout government and business across in the country.

Yarom Arad, WG’95

New York Club Explores ‘Slash’ Careers During Author Speaker Series

After a long day in their offices, on October 4, 2007, a group of about 20 people, including three men and 17 women of all ages and career choices, came to the 15th floor of J.H. Cohn to network over sandwiches and wraps and prepare for an interactive question and answer session with Marci Alboher, C’88, and Dale Kramer Cohen, W’76. Alboher, author of One Person/Multiple Careers, sat down for a candid interview with Marci Alboher, who left the practice of law to become a freelance journalist, now writes the Shifting Careers column and blog for The New York Times. She is also a sought-after speaker and a coach to aspiring writers and professionals. Cohen is the chief marketing officer of the Leaders Edge and president of PennNYC. Some in the audience came because they were feeling overworked and wanted to find a balance in their careers.

Others came because they were burned out and wanted to be inspired to follow their passions. Still others came because they have read Alboher’s book or articles in The New York Times and wanted to know firsthand if multiple professions and multiple identities are possible and how they can be achieved. Alboher began the evening going around the table asking participants to introduce themselves, revealing a “slash” in their description—something beyond their day jobs. The results were quite interesting: Some were gourmet cooks; one, a race car driver; another, an army reservist. Still others said they have come for the session in search of a slash.

After this interactive roundtable,Cohen began to question Alboher on a wide range of topics, from leaving the practice of law to embarking on a career in journalism to the inspiration for her book and lastly to her latest project—a daily blog and bimonthly column, exploring the changing landscape of careers for The New York Times. After about 40 minutes of questions and answers, Alboher again went around the room asking all participants to recall something from their youth that they did habitually, whether it was constantly talking as Alboher confessed, or perhaps sewing or acting. These activities, suggested Alboher, might contain the seeds of a future slash or identity

By 8:30 p.m., all headed off to Penn Station, Metro North, or their apartments. They took with them thoughts planted that evening on how their chosen paths could accommodate new identities and become more fulfilling, and how can this slash concept might play out in their own lives.
Jennifer Gregoriou, W’78

Philadelphia Club is Guest of Tiffany & Co. for a Gala Reception

The Wharton Club of Philadelphia’s focus is “Get Connected. Stay Connected. Keep Your Edge.” This theme reflected the club’s diverse and enhanced schedule of events, new membership outreach, and resulting expansion, which doubled membership in the last year. One marquee event was a Special Evening at Tiffany & Company’s October Reception in Philadelphia. The members-only event completely sold out, drawing more than 150 members and guests, including Chairman & CEO of Tiffany & Co., Michael J. Kowalski, W’74.

Tiffany & Co. opened its Walnut Street Philadelphia store especially for the club. Members and guests were personally greeted when they entered by Michael Kowalski and Ray Raybe, Philadelphia and MidAtlantic Region Director of Tiffany & Co. The crowd heard comments byKowalski, who spoke of his career and recalled his time in Philadelphia at Wharton. He answered questions and spoke about an unexpected turn of events that brought him to Tiffany’s just before the management buyout in the 1970s.

We enjoyed a special showing of Tiffany’s extraordinary collection of signature jewelry by Frank Gehry; Elsa Peretti, Paloma Picasso, and Jean Schlumberger, accompanied by live music, hot hors d’oeuvres, and desserts. It was a fabulous evening culminating a year of work by Wharton Club of Philadelphia Vice President of Programming, Madlyn Powell. Every guest received a special iconic gift from Tiffany’s—a china gift box in signature aqua.
–Gloria Rabinowitz, WG’78

Club News in Brief

Support for Environmental Issues in Mexico
On November 14, 2007, the Wharton Club of Mexico City held a cocktail party and art auction to support Global Healing AC, a not-for-profit organization that is focused on environmental issues in Mexico. “The assistance was great and we remember the events of a very active year of the Mexico City Club in 2007,” wrote Club President Oscar R. Diaz Flores, WG’96.

Alumni of Multiple Business Schools Converge for Mixer in India
An alumni mixer, the first of its kind, with alumni from Harvard, Wharton, Chicago, Stanford, and MIT (Sloan), was held at The Dome, Hotel Intercontinental, Mumbai on July 27, 2007. The Wharton Club of India took the lead in getting the other clubs to participate. Building on the success of the event, a second mixer was held for alumni of the same business schools as well as Kellogg at The Wink, Hotel President, Mumbai on January 25, 2008.

In between those two events, the club held an interesting panel discussion on “Implications of the Emergence of India” on October 25, 2007, at Oberoi Hotel, Mumbai. Visiting leaders from Wharton shared some of the exciting new initiatives at Wharton and also their perspectives on emerging India. The panel included Wharton management professor Michael Useem, Vice Dean of Executive Education Tom Colligan, and Executive Director and Editor-in-Chief of Knowledge@ Wharton, Mukul Pandya.

New Jersey Hosts Improv Workshop
On Tuesday, January 29, members of the Wharton Club of New Jersey (WCNJ) and their guests gathered for an out-of the-box event that entertained and enlightened all. The program, Improv for Business, received ratings from those in attendance that were among the highest in the club’s six-year history. Led by learning development consultant and master of improvisation Eric Brunner, participants loosened their ties, removed their jackets, and interacted in ways they (most likely) never had before — à la the popular improvisational TV program Whose Line Is It Anyway?

According to Ken Wolf, W’87, WCNJ President and event co-chair, “Eric brought out the hidden thespian in all of us, but in a way that had direct applicability to our professional lives. He helped us find ways to be more creative, spontaneous, and accepting and encouraging of others in the workplace, with the goal of producing more positive business outcomes. And he did so in a highly participatory way, resulting in what most would agree was our most uproarious event ever.”

Many WCNJ events focus on hard skills like finance, management, and marketing. However, it’s often the events that cater to the softer side of business that are the most interactive and memorable. “Increasing member-to-member interaction is one of our primary goals as a club,” said Membership Vice President Jess Germansky, W’80, EMTM’02. “Events like these are critical to meeting those goals and helping our members to build stronger relationships.” WCNJ highly recommends this event to other clubs looking for an evening of fun, interaction, and professional development—all wrapped up in one.

Connections in Action: A Hotbed in Houston

With a busy slate of Deal Flow Lunches, Speakers’ Forums, and Career Networking Groups, the Wharton Club of Houston (WCH) has become a major catalyst for deals and career advancement in the Houston region. Following is a selection of success stories from alumni.

Opportunities in Houston…and Around the World
In early 2004, the WCH established the Career Networking Group to assist members with hiring, job hunting, and career development. At one meeting, WCH member Ron Orsini, WG’90, mentioned to Brian Swain, WG’90, that Reliant, which Orsini had just left,was looking for a product manager. Swain was interested and qualified and asked for the names of several Reliant vice presidents, whom he called. By the following afternoon, Brian was interviewing for the position, which he received a week later.

Aristide Tchamdjou, WG’01, was searching for a job in the energy sector that would expose him to his native West Africa. A regular attendee at WCH events, Tchamdjou learned during one event of an opportunity with Tenaris and contacted WCH member and Tenaris Manager, Emmanuel Toutain, WG’04. Toutain put Tchamdjou in contact with the head of the group that was hiring. Tchamdjou was called in for an interview and offered a job on the West Africa team.

A Chance Question, a New Client, and a New Job
At a Deal Flow Luncheon, a retail store chain owner made a pitch for fundingfor expansion. WCH Board Member Mary Jo Martin, WG’75, asked the owner a follow-up question regarding the importance of marketing data on new store location decisions. In so doing, she gained a new client for market research and analytics, which will help the company to better understand its customer base.

Houston native Anh Dang, W’00, returned home after eight years of banking in New York City. Dang began coming to Wharton meetings, including the Career Networking Group. Dang wanted to make a switch to commercial real estate and received industry referrals and contacts from many of the Wharton alumni she met. Martin introduced  her to a former Wulfe & Company broker who had started his own company. He then introduced her to Ed Wulfe. Several weeks later, Dang was offered a job by Wulfe & Company.

Connections with Friends, a Buyer for a Business, and $110 Million in Funding
At the WCH UBS Speakers’ Forum Luncheon featuring Dynegy CEO Bruce Williamson, club member Jim Sorenson, WG’03, mentioned that his client, Triad Pipe & Steel, was looking to sell. Club President Evan Betzer, WG’99, introduced Jim to club member Chris Krummel, WG’03, CFO of Enventure Global Technology (EGT), at a private lunch a few weeks later,which ultimately led to EGT’s acquisition of Triad in October 2006. Over drinks at the 2002 holiday party, Steven Vosko, W’75 learned of a deal that WCH member and investment banker Betzer was putting together to acquire a paper mill and referred him to a Canadian fund that supplied a $25-million equity commitment.

Another transaction involved the funding of an $85-million real estate project that was pitched to the Deal Flow Lunch by a WCH real estate developer Jim Noteware, WG’76, and funded by an attending investment banker from the investment bank of WCH member Charlie Elliott, WG’60, Howard, Frazier, Barker, Elliott (HFBE). Noteware has followed this project with others and has continued collaboration with HFBE. Great Friendships, Consulting Projects, and a Pipeline Deal Joan Gallagher, WG’92, and Marla Driscoll, WG’01, served on the board of the Wharton Club of Houston together for nearly two years.

Soon after Gallagher joined El Paso as vice president of human resource for their Exploration & Production business, the president asked her to spearhead a project to review and redesign business processes. Gallagher asked Driscoll, a business process design specialist, to submit a proposal. Driscoll’s firm competed in the process with several larger firms and was selected to perform the assignment.

During her previous employment at Torch Energy, Gallagher attended a speaker’s breakfast and mentioned during introductions that her company was looking for pipelines to invest in. The next day, WCH member Evan Betzer had a meeting in the offices of Stoneworth Financial with a pipeline deal promoter. The two were introduced and several months later, Torch Energy closed on the deal.

– Evan Betzer, WG’99

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