This is the season of thanksgiving, and even the Wharton School had to be thankful for our Club’s 2016 Joseph Wharton Awards Dinner. Held on October 6, at the JW Marriott Essex House in New York City, old friends caught up, and new friends were made. The food was excellent, the ambience perfect and the mood forward-looking. We gathered to honor four individuals, because of all they had accomplished it, and how they accomplished it.
All four honorees called out their friends, family members or employees attending the event. Jay Baker had Professor Peter Fader in attendance, as well as the Presidents of the Fashion Institute of Technology and Hunter College.
Al Shoemaker, W’60, Hon’95, is the former Chairman of First Boston, and recipient of the Wharton Dean’s Award. As Dinner Chair, Al said, “I want to speak on behalf of a lot of great guys — Mickey Tarnopol, W’58; Billy Mack, W’61; Jon Huntsman, W’59, HON’96; Saul Steinberg, W’59; and a lot of others. We had a passion for this school, and we were determined to make it better than when we found it. We’re proud of what we accomplished over the past 40 years, and we want to pass the torch on to all of you. Look at the school, and say, ‘We can do better than these old guys!’”
Kenny Beck, WG’87, President of the Wharton Club of New York, for one, took Al’s advice. Kenny told the audience that, after 15 years as Club President, he reflected on why he joined. “I had acquired a furniture company in Manhattan, and thought I should get involved in the Wharton Club. It’s my competitive advantage!”
A few years earlier, the school had asked some dedicated young alumni — including Allen Levinson, W’77, WG’78; Bill Haddad, W’89; Dana Michael, W’82; Nigel Edelshain, WG’93; and Johannes Albeck, WG’74— to revive the Club after some past financial difficulties. When Kenny volunteered to get involved, the Board said, “Great! Do you want to join the board?” Kenny attended meetings and told them that the small number of events they were doing each year was not going to help him sell office furniture. They told him, “OK, do what you want!” So he started two leads councils, which are noncompetitive groups of alumni who exchange business cards, and in nine months, he made $1.5 million of sales, which made him think, “I need to get more involved here!” That’s what he did. Kenny became the Club’s President. Today, Kenny pointed out, “We have 250 volunteers, and 27,000 alumni in the New York region. We connect alumni looking to hire people, to invest, to buy things and even to find spouses! We do this based on three principles: (1) enlightened self-interest — you have to give to get; (2) tangible results; and (3) small, interactive events, which are more valuable and powerful than large, passive events.
“Fifteen years ago, one of our goals was to show the school that the alumni association can not only run events, but also provide real value to the alumni community, without being a cost center for the school. We have accomplished a great deal since then. We wanted to put the Club in a financial situation where it could always serve alumni. And once we could do that, we wanted to contribute to the school. So I am proud to announce that the Club’s Board of Directors has agreed to donate $100,000 to the school this year.