If there was a concern that content on Innovation during COVID 19, written in May/June would be out of date by the time it reached readers in mid August, it was unfounded. As of August 10, there is no clear conclusion nor path put from this crisis. Not for the lack of brilliance and doggedness as expressed by the alumni on these pages.
Exploring the directory yields hints of where people are at and what they’re doing. I called someone thinking they worked at Pfizer, only to discover that they had not updated their listing on the alumni directory. She had graduated from Pfizer, worked over 10 years at Adaptive Biotechnologies, where she is now President.
Because of its rapid, innovative progress on the COVID-19 vaccine, I wanted to interview someone from Moderna. The problem, they are located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I studied the firm’s C-Suite at their website, and thought the CFO might be located in New York because of the capital markets. Indeed, he has never left New York, and so could be included in our Wharton Club of New York Magazine. His role was to understand and articulate the innovation occurring at Moderna, to raise record sums ($5 billion in total over 6 years) to fund their development.
I reached out to Dr. David Fajgenbaum, M’13, WG’15, who has the character that he is your friend. I met him several years back at the Penn Club and had written about him. He is so forthcoming, so full of life, that you connect. I reached out to him because I thought he would be someone to not stand by, to take action. And indeed, he was. He transformed his Castleman network to reach out to the world – to find what had been tried, what might be working, and distributed 150 potential cures to a plethora of labs.
Lastly, I reached out to my friend, Dr. Ed Mintz, WG’01, and attending emergency room physician in New York city for over 25 years! What a record of service. Of importance to me, he helped propel me through Wharton, as a helpful mate in my study group, and even donned me with a cap that read, Wharton Poetry Club.
I noticed that the Pete Nicholas, WG’68, as co-founder and longtime CEO of Boston Scientific, and our 2019 Joseph Wharton Awardee for Lifetime Achievement — must have shared many leadership experiences with our 2018 Joseph Wharton Awardee for Leadership, Art Collins, WG’73. Art had ran Medtronic with over 90,000 employees. Both were medical device companies so they must have been competitors. As it turns out they both served in the US Navy. So I called Art and asked him if he would be willing to conduct the interview of Pete Nicholas. Art told me, “if Pete’s okay with it, I’d be thrilled. I think the interview was richer for that, and will be trying to find more opportunities to repeat this approach.
When our Managing Editor, Peter Hildick Smith, C’76, WG’81, P’13, heard that I had gotten Marc Lore, President and CEO of Walmart eCommerce, to participate in this issue on Wharton’s Impact on Retail — he was excited. Peter conducted an excellent interview that revealed not only insights from Marc’s journey, from baseball cards, diapers, Amazon, Jet.com, to Walmart, but how they are planning to take the top spot in online retail.
An interesting challenge was my discovery that although Marc is listed as an alumni in the directory, he is not. He dropped out to start Diapers.com which he sold (as Quidsi) to Amazon for $545 million. I’m sure Marc was thinking of getting back to school, except Amazon hired him and Marc soon moved on to create a major competitor of Amazon, Jet.com. So he was busy. But Marc gives credit to lessons learned at school, and returns to school to teach and mentor.