Alumni Profiles and Reunion Photos
A largely sunny spring weekend greeted the more than 1,000 returning alumni and guests – an attendance record – during MBA Reunion 2001, held May 18-20. Ten MBA reunion years – WG’96, WG’91, WG’86, WG’81, WG’76, WG’71, WG’66, WG’61, WG’56, WG’51 – returned to campus, the third time 10 MBA reunion years have celebrated at once. Look for people you know enjoying the weekend in the pages that follow, and read profiles about alums from several of these classes.
The Juggling Act
Matti Gershenfeld, WG’51, Making it Work at Home and Work
Late-night office meetings, juggling class and work with babysitters’ schedules, long business trips out of town – all are routine for many of today’s working parents. As she calmly sips her morning decaf, Matti Gershenfeld, WG’51, doesn’t exactly look like a weathered pioneer, but she’s been down this road before.
She even missed one son’s high school graduation because she had to lecture in France, but that’s another story.
Gershenfeld, a Philadelphia-based psychologist and author of eight books, has spent a career redefining her own role as a working mother and researching how men and women are shaped by the lightning-fast changes splintering America’s social landscape.
Couples today, she says, are working longer and that may have a bleak impact at home. “Mom and Dad don’t just work anymore, they have careers now,” says Gershenfeld, president of the International Council of Psychologists. “People work more hours, not less, and the result is everybody’s tired and frazzled.”
A sincere commitment to ‘making it work’ may be the first steppingstone, she says, for families struggling to be successful at work and at home. “Look, people change at different stages in their lives,” she says, gently raising her shoulders. “Marriage can last only if a couple really wants it to last.”
Gershenfeld didn’t begin her career as a social scientist. She was accepted to Wharton after receiving her bachelor’s degree in economics in 1946 from Penn. As the only woman in her class at Wharton, she often felt isolated. It was her time at the school, she says, that sparked her interest in studying the role of women in the work- place. Attending Wharton while working for the Philadelphia City Planning Commission meant splitting her time between the two, making sure to keep the full-time hours she needed and meet the class requirements. It also meant dealing with the reality that some professors were anything but encouraging to female students. “It was not easy, let me tell you,” she says. Despite a grueling final oral exam, Gershenfeld graduated with a degree in government administration and made up her mind to study ways organizations could improve internally.
She was 26 and working as a TV host for a local broadcast called “Citizen in Action” when she became pregnant with her first child. “In those days, they wouldn’t allow a pregnant woman on television. But they didn’t want me to leave either, so I did the whole show sitting behind a desk and no one knew the difference,” she laughs. “I never thought I’d work again after I had babies.” But she soon realized that as much as she loved spending time with her children, she missed the stimulation of working outside the home. “There was an attitude then that you got married, had children and stayed home and that didn’t do it for me. I don’t look at the world like other people. I’m into changing the world.”
Her husband, the late Marvin Gershenfeld, M.D., supported her goals and her ambition, she says. Besides, Matti Gershenfeld was used to a fast pace and making the best of challenging circumstances. “I decided I wanted to be a psychologist so that I could help people who are stuck,” says Gershenfeld, the mother of four sons, who enrolled at Temple University for her doctorate in social psychology in the early 1960s.
At the time, all her children were under the age of eight. When she graduated in 1967, she was asked to join Temple’s faculty as an adjunct professor, a title she still holds today. In the early 1970s, with the doctorate degree and a renewed eagerness to make a difference in the lives of women, Gershenfeld co-founded and served as director of the Institute of Awareness. The Institute offered university-level programs for women and won numerous awards. It enrolled over 2,000 women before closing later that decade. She also co-founded and was president of the Couples Learning Center in 1976. The educational, non-profit corporation developed innovative programs for couples and families and broadened her consulting career.
Today many of her books, including Contemporary Marriage Handbook (1985), Making Groups Work, (1983) and How to Find Love, Sex and Intimacy after 50: A Woman’s Guide, (1992), address the challenges couples face and the changing roles of women at work and at home. She’s been a guest on TV and radio shows including Good Morning America, Oprah, and The Phil Donahue Show. Today, she still writes and runs a consulting practice from her Jenkintown office. “I’ve always looked at things and said ‘Why is that happening?’ I’ve tried to make a difference in each problem and see what I can do to change things.”
And about that high school graduation she missed?
“The school had actually postponed the graduation four different times because of weather. So, by the time they held it, most of the kids had started their summer vacations and didn’t even go. My son understood. He supported me.”
Beyond Channel Surfing
Charles Benson, WG’96: Tuning in to the Future of Television
Charles Benson, WG’96, was an investment banker for Salomon Smith Barney and even worked for a period at Walt Disney and Kraft before he tuned in to the future of television and launched his career at Liberty Digital. The two-year- old new media company develops interactive television networks, says Benson, who focuses on strategy and business development.
But exactly what Liberty Digital provides, Benson, 34, says, is a bit more complicated. “We’re part VC, part business incubator, part transaction shop.”
Never one to shy away from risk, he quit the banking industry several years ago to move to Germany without a job. Benson, who speaks German, dabbled in the food products business there, but not for long. “I returned to the States and after Wharton, caught on to the promise of iTV,” says Benson, a native of Bronxville, N.Y. “Similar to our parent, Liberty Media, we are not an operating entity, but rather a holding company looking to leverage our assets to create a suite of television channels.”
But not your basic television channels, he says.
Though still little known to some, the fast-growing concept of interactive TV is actually not new. “Interactive TV can mean different things to different people,” says Benson, who admits to being a closet Type A personality who can’t sit still long enough to finish a book. “It’s really any activity where the viewer is doing more than leaning back and just channel surfing. In its simplest form, it can include ordering items viewed on the television by dialing an 800 number. Established companies like the Home Shopping Network and QVC have been doing this for years.”
The promise of new interactive technologies, he says, will only enhance existing TV commerce opportunities by allowing the order process to take place with a click of the TV remote control.
Interactive TV can also include viewing movies on demand, selecting multiple camera angles and performing web-type functions like browsing, e-mail and chat. “In other words, the viewer is interacting with the medium,” says Benson, who is responsible for several cable channel development initiatives at Liberty Digital.
The concept banks on the belief that the viewer will become a “lean forward” consumer instead of a passive couch potato, says Benson, who believes the television Set Top Box is the key to this process. Essentially a channel selector, the device has been evolving into what he calls “a communication portal” that enables the TV to be hooked up to the Internet and become a gateway to the home. While some consider it a competitor to the PC, in many ways the TV provides a way to complement and enhance the PC experience. “Already we’re seeing the two devices being used simultaneously in millions of homes,” says Benson.
Thus far, he says, the main hurdle has been cost. Convincing powerful cable companies to spend more aggressively to support the emerging – and costly – technology that allows the audience and the merchant to essentially have a two-way conversation is part of the challenge for Liberty Digital. The interactive Set Top Boxes must be installed into viewers’ homes – and that means a cost to the cable carrier of about $300 to $400 per device. Although there are several million interactive Set Top Boxes in use today, he says, deployment has lagged earlier predictions.
But with its ties to Liberty Media and assets that include an access agreement that secures bandwidth with AT&T digital cable systems, Liberty Digital is in a prime spot to succeed. AT&T is the largest U.S. cable provider with over 14 million subscribers. “The connection to AT&T is a real plus. It will be the cornerstone of our distribution footprint and will serve as the basis for us to role out our channels nationwide. “As the leading interactive television technology investor, Liberty Digital’s portfolio consists of over 25 public and private companies. The company is headed by Lee Masters, one of the cable industry’s most successful network executives who led MTV and VH-1 and launched E!Entertainment Television.
Ultimately, Liberty Digital projects that channels in the game, travel, music and automotive categories are among those with the highest chance of success. “We looked at the online world and found that Web sites for games are among the most heavily trafficked.In the travel and automotive categories, consumers rely heavily on information gathered from online sources in making their purchase decisions,” says Benson, a music fan who is particularly excited about developing Liberty’s interactive music channel concept.
Developing successful models that will earn money for both the network and the cable operator is the key. “With the 500-channel universe,ad revenues get stretched thinner, forcing networks to look for additional ways to make money Interactive TV applications are a way to supplement the traditional network economic model, and I believe Liberty Digital is very well positioned to exploit the promise of interactivity to create viable new businesses.”
Alums and their families reunited with old friends and classmates, caught up with school news during a Wharton Town Meeting with dean Patrick Harker, picnicked on the Quad, danced and dined, and attended workshops and panels.
On Friday evening, alums from all 10 reunion years gathered at a festive reception at Hoover Lounge followed by a Class of ’96 Nostalgia Night at the MBA Pub. Weekend events included alumni/faculty exchanges including Jeremy Siegel’s always-popular talk, “Perspectives on the Market: Are Stocks Still a Buy?” and a talk on “Work/Life Balance.”
A Snack Sleuth
Paulette Kish, G’86, in Search of the Next Cracker Jack
Paulette Kish, WG’86, is sort of the Detective Colombo of snack food trends. Except that, as Frito-Lay Company’s vice president of consumer trends and insights, her charge is to uncover what the public craves before they know themselves. A proven mix of research, savvy and intuition has earned this marketing research specialist high grades within the ranks of Frito-Lay, the $11-billion snack food division of PepsiCo, Inc.
“What I love about this role is that it really is a blend of the science of research with a bit of art and magic…that eureka that comes from stepping back, asking why, what does it mean and what do I do about it, “says Kish, the inventor of Equitrak – a proprietary tool used at Frito-Lay for brand equity and health assessment.
“For example, one consumer need we’re looking at is ‘sweet, mindless nibbling’,” Kish explains from her office in suburban Plano, Texas. She has worked at Frito-Lay in consumer insights and marketing for almost 13 years and heads a 24-member department there, including managing 10 on-site consultants who study grocery-shopping data.
“Traditionally, when you choose something sweet to eat, like a candy bar or granola bar, the eating experience has a clear start and stopping point.”
The future of ‘bite-size sweet,’ according to Kish’s latest research, blends the benefits of sweet products with the already popular, non-stop ‘snackability’ of salty snack chips.
Frito-Lay’s market research team does not influence the public’s taste, she says. Instead, it examines what’s there and predicts what’s coming.
“We’re constantly seeking revelations about consumer behavior and attitudes,” says Kish. “We use traditional and nontraditional tools, searching for a deeper understanding of macro trends and latent needs. We’re not changing attitudes. We just unearthed the fact that when the public wants something sweet, they don’t always want something with a distinct start and end. A thorough examination of consumer needs showed this desire exists, and there are not a lot of existing products to satisfy this need.”
This discovery was a key reason behind Frito-Lay’s decision to acquire the Cracker Jack brand in 1997. “It was a trademark that was highly recognized and beloved by the public, could benefit from our distribution, and delivers on the bite-size sweet eating experience,” says Kish, who attended Wharton on a GM Fellowship while working for Cadillac. “That was a time when going into consumer research was not the norm. Professors Dave Reibstein and Paul Green were two of the people who taught the research courses that really opened my eyes to this choice. They took the idea of research and made it a legitimate discipline of marketing.” After graduating, Kish returned to Cadillac as a senior research and forecasting manager and in 1989 took a post at Frito-Lay.
Her staff scours the domestic and foreign marketplace for proof of emerging trends in other snack products. Through in-depth consumer interviews and ethnography –observational research – they target “who the buyer and eater” will be, she says. Part of this task involves tracking consumption behavior to target who uses various snacks. “Understanding the consumer behavior and attitude, we build on our understanding of the consumer opportunity,” says Kish, who says one of the perks of her job is that Doritos and Cheetos are never in short supply in the office.
Once trends have been identified, she says, the next step is to sell the concept internally and beat the many snack food competitors to the punch of marketing the item to the public. This is no small feat, with an estimated 4,000 new food introductions each year, 1,200 of which are snack foods, says Kish.
The formula seems to work.
With operations in 40 countries, Frito-Lay has grown dramatically. Sales have increased from $3 billion to $11 billion over the past decade and the company is regarded as an international snack food leader with a stable of brands including Lay’s Potato Chips, Doritos Tortilla Chips, Ruffles Potato Chips and Cheetos cheese flavored snacks. A key ingredient for growth at Frito-Lay, she says, is identifying and developing new talent. “I take a nontraditional approach to building my team. I blend the background of my staff from different marketing disciplines. Typically, they come with a background in consumer research combined with strategic business knowledge. I’m looking for people with an insatiable curiosity about the consumer and the way things work,” she says.
“Secondly, I look for analytic people who actually come from creative backgrounds such as advertising, because they tend to have a strong depth of consumer knowledge and intuition about the consumer in the marketplace. Intuition — people either have it or they don’t — it’s hard to train. I’ve been fortunate to have hired the right mix of talented people. It’s a really good marriage of experience for the department because it makes us more creative and persuasive. I also want people in this role to feel that they have some skin in the game. It’s not just about providing information. I try to hold the team accountable.”
But the team faces its own set of challenges. “What’s difficult is that you would think that once you had an insight, that the whole world is going to follow. But it usually takes multiple reinforcements before an idea really clicks with people.”
The Changing Face of America
Ad Man Ed Wax, WG’61, on Diversity in Advertising
Ed Wax, WG’61, has always pushed boundaries and taken chances. “I started out as a chemical engineer and went to Wharton to get away from that. I ended up in advertising at age 26. People thought I was nuts,” says Wax. After 38 years of success in the merciless world of advertising, 33 of them at the venerable Saatchi & Saatchi, Wax became chairman emeritus of the company in 1998.
“I don’t have to live in New York anymore and I can grow beard,” jokes Wax, who now lives with his wife, Carolyn, on Kiawah Island in South Carolina. As chairman emeritus, he represents Saatchi & Saatchi on industry issues, which means he still endures steady diet of travel, frequent airport holdovers, and lengthy conferences.
Semi-retirement, he admits, is big switch from his role as CEO at Saatchi & Saatchi, which put Wax at the helm of 161 offices in 91 countries. But far from relaxing on the golf course in his spare time, Wax says, his new position has borne fresh opportunities to pursue two causes that have been on his personal agenda for years.
“Education and diversity are things I believe very strongly in,” says Wax, who was the first in his family to complete college degree. “There are two ways to give back – you can write checks and, or, you can give your time. I still like to think that my time is valuable and that’s what I choose to give,” says Wax, who was named Advertising Man of the Year by the American Advertising Federation in 1993 and the United Jewish Appeal in 1995. Much of his energy now is spent visiting universities like Morgan State and Fisk to talk to students about the ad business.
“When I was chairman of the American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA) we jumpstarted the minority issue,” says Wax. “In 1994, one of my colleagues gave a speech and talked about the fact that we weren’t very diverse. I thought to myself, here’s an opportunity to do something. I made increasing minority employees the central theme of my year,” he says.
With the cultural demographics of the United States in such a rapid period of growth and change, it’s crucial for the advertising business to ensure that its ranks reflect the changing face of America,says Wax. “We’re becoming diverse at such a fast rate, it just makes sense to have a multicultural team of people in agencies. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s the smart thing to do.”
Identifying the most talented people and finding a way to keep them are the challenges the industry grapples with now. “But these are not huge obstacles,” he says. “They can be overcome.” For example, the AAAA’s minority advertising intern program employs 100 interns per year and plans to double that figure in the next few years.
But retention requires mentoring. “You have to change the agency as well. So it’s a fine line between attracting the talent and then making sure you don’t lose all recruits. You have to make people feel that they’re valued and are an important part of the business,” Wax says.
Agencies everywhere are in the midst of spending freezes and that doesn’t bode well for the next generation of ad men and women. “When I was running agencies, I never stopped hiring young people because they are your future,” he says. “All indications are that by 2050, people of color will account for over 50 percent of our population. If advertisers are going to market effectively we sure as hell better understand how to reach every market.”
Wax admits he was “jumpstarted” himself to the issue after a young, African-American account executive sent him a memo entitled Diversity 2000 about the urgent need for diversity in the industry. “It was a bold memo clearly pointing out the negative business consequences and lost opportunities if people of color were underrepresented,” recalls Wax.
There are some parallels today, says Wax, to the equality issues that women – hoping to break into the industry –faced in the late sixties. From 1968 through 1971 he was working in the Philippines with ACE Compton which eventually became Saatchi & Saatchi. The agency was on of the first international companies for Saatchi & Saatchi.
“I came in this business when it was predominantly Anglo and I don’t think diversity was a dominant issue then. But over the years, things changed dramatically. I had been in the business for about five years and I was called into question because I brought a woman in as an account supervisor. The first couple of women I hired didn’t make it and management said ‘I told you so’. But it didn’t deter me,” says Wax, who continued to hire qualified women who quickly proved they belonged.
“Once you get the change really going it will happen. We’ve made progress but no one should say ‘aren’t we wonderful’– we still have a lot to do. I didn’t think it would be an overnight success – you have to seed the garden. The good news today is we’ve made a lot of progress – but not enough. Percentage-wise, the number of professional people of color in the advertising business is equal to the population, but we’re still under 20 percent that’s just not good enough.”
Wax refuses to take credit for much, including the success of such clients as Lexus, Proctor & Gamble and British Airways. “I’m on the management side, and the people who created the campaigns deserve the credit. I just supported it and it was my job to find the talent to do it. But I do think it’s easy for management to be afraid to take chances. If I had any advice it would be to take every opportunity you are given. If you’re asked to solve a problem, or to fix something, the chances of you making worse are remote. Anytime I’ve been asked to take on a difficult assignment, I’ve accepted. That job in the Philippines was early in our international career and no one else wanted to go there. Suddenly, I was running a small office in a country that had a bit of a Wild West feel, but it was a great experience. I came back two levels higher and never looked back.”
Alums danced and dined the night away during Saturday night’s reunion dinners, held at the Ballroom at the Ben (class of ’96), the Material Culture Design Studio (class of ’91), The Inn at Penn (class of ’86) and The Inn at Penn (classes of ’51 to ’81). The weekend concluded with a farewell brunch at the Sheraton Society Hill.
Managing During Upheaval
Julio de Quesada, WG’76, Shaping Citibank’s Future
When Julio de Quesada’s plane landed in Mexico City on a March afternoon in 1994, the young-but-seasoned finance executive had just been named president and managing director of Citibank’s Mexican division, known as Grupo Financiero Citibank, and was eager to begin his new post.
But de Quesada, WG’76, never guessed the challenges awaiting him or how quickly they would erupt. Within two hours of his arrival, de Quesada heard news that Luis Donaldo Colosio, the presidential candidate for Mexico’s ruling PRI party, had been murdered.
“I landed at 4 p.m., and by 6 p.m., I learned that this major event had happened which everyone knew would cause a crisis in Mexico,” he recalls. Fortunately, de Quesada, who grew up in Florida as a Cuban exile, had weathered such storms before.
On this politically and financially turbulent stage, de Quesada tapped his experience, and in the process helped shape success for Citibank’s future in Mexico. Today, Mexico is one of the bank’s most profitable international markets.
Since joining Citibank in 1976, de Quesada has held corporate banking posts in seven countries including cities in Central America, Greece and in Saudi Arabia, where he was the general manager in charge of that country’s western region. “I’ve had to manage crises my whole career,” says de Quesada, now 49. “I went through the whole Gulf War in Saudi Arabia. So, it may sound strange, but when I arrived here and heard about the assassination, my first reaction was ‘Whoa, here we go again.'”
Flexibility is something de Quesada learned early in life. Born in Camaguey, Cuba, his family had thrived in the cattle business. But when revolution began in Cuba, the world of the then eight-year- old de Quesada exploded, too. “We had to escape when the revolution came. My father had to go into hiding and we moved to Havana with my mom,” he says. The family was placed on a waiting list for the United States. “Every day, for four months straight, we would go to the airport. Then one day, there was one seat available, and my mother said I had to go.” Scared, alone and just a boy, de Quesada didn’t speak a word of English when he boarded the plane for Florida. “I had my passport and a 25-cent Cuban coin.”
Months later, the rest of his family joined him. “We went from being well off to living in a run-down area of Miami. We were very poor,” says de Quesada, who reacted to the adversity by excelling in school and eventually earning a scholarship to Brown where he studied engineering. “I see that coin as a symbol of good luck and survival. It’s something that has been with me my whole life,” he says.
De Quesada had the same Cuban coin with him in Mexico, where 1994’s political upheaval seemed another blow in a string of catastrophes. In 1982, a major financial crisis had hobbled Mexico’s market resulting in the nationalization of almost all the country’s banks. Citibank, established in Mexico in the 1920s, was one of the only private institutions permitted to remain in operation in the country. The government privatized the banking industry between 1991 and 1992. And in 1994, sparked by poor risk management and an increase in non-performing loans, the peso fell sharply against the dollar.
“It was a transition point,” says de Quesada. “They were turbulent times.” De Quesada was packed and primed for a long-overdue vacation with his wife, Sabina Pfleger, and sons Julio, Jr., and Felipe, when he received a pre-dawn call from the head of the banking industry. The peso was by all accounts overvalued, government officials told him, and they were devaluing. Mexico’s banking system had been in the hands of inexperienced people, de Quesada says. Companies had debt, and people couldn’t pay back loans.
“When the peso was devalued, I had been here for a few months. By the time the crisis was hot, we were a significant banking presence.And to the major corporations, our role was pretty firm. The government asked me to go to the international press and say this would be good for the country. But I told them this would cause a major dislocation in confidence. It was a time of revolution and the economy crumbled,” he says.
“I told my wife, ‘Let’s cancel the trip.’ I came to the bank, gathered my folks, and told them we were in the middle of a storm. By mid-day, interest rates shot up and there were phone calls everywhere. There was a complete meltdown.”
Days blurred into nights. De Quesada spent most of his time in a whirl of communication with Mexico’s finance minister and the U.S. authorities including Robert Rubin, Secretary of the Treasury in the Clinton Administration. Ultimately, the negotiations led to a $20-million bailout plan. “It was late-night meetings, pizza and tacos at three in the morning, and spending weeks without getting home,” recalls de Quesada. “But Citibank managed the crisis fine. My role was to be a calm leader and calm my people down. If I had to look back, my biggest achievement was to convince the corporate leaders to stay the course and be a partner in Mexico for the long term,” he says. “I used various arguments – one was that we were a neighbor to the United States, and it would be in their best interest to do something to help.”
In spite of its deep problems, he says, there were many good things about the Mexican economy. “There were a lot o resources, a young population and capable government officials who could work through this,” he says. With the help of the bailout package the financial industry was able to survive and thrive.
“I had some experience with Citibank overseas in challenging political situations so I think I was training for this all along without knowing it,” he says. “The Mexican banking system has emerged stronger.”
In addition to purchasing a Mexican retail bank with over 250 branches, Citigroup gradually has expanded from a niche corporate bank to a sizable, broad-based financial institution. The company, which offers a wide range of products including mutual funds, branch banking, corporate finance, pension fund management, trade finance and investment banking, plans continued growth. “We’re sort of a supermarket of products in Mexico,” he says. De Quesada is also proud of orchestrating the start of a pension fund business for Citigroup, called Garante, which today has two million customers.