Learning from the Experts

The Executive-in-Residence program has been ongoing in the college since 1969. Each semester, distinguished business people take up residence at the college for anywhere from one to three days, during which time they share their insights and knowledge with students and faculty.

Last fall Wilma Vaught and Howard Weinstein were our guests. This spring we are fortunate to have James Hill, founder and managing partner of Hill Taylor LLC, one of the two largest minority accounting firms in Chicago; Sam Skinner, former Secretary of Transportation and chief of staff in the Bush administration, currently co-chairman of Hopkins and Sutter, a Chicago law firm; and Franklin Jacobs, founder, CEO, and president of Falcon Products, Inc, a major manufacturer and distributor of restaurant and office furniture.

Wilma Vaught

"A leader is simply someone who motivates other people to do something," Wilma Vaught told students in Assistant Professor Lorna Doucet's BA 321 — Individual Behavior in Organizations. Coming from Wilma Vaught, these words carry great authority. When she retired from the Air Force in 1985, with the rank of Brigadier General, she was the highest-ranking and most decorated woman ever to serve in the U.S. military.

For Vaught, the keys to success as a leader (or anything else, she added) come down to a few common sense qualities: self discipline, which results in intense, effective hard work; effective communication — whether reading, writing, or speaking; establishing and maintaining priorities so you can create a sense of urgency about your tasks; and managing others through good discipline, which ensures that tasks are understood and then done well.

Wilma Vaught

Vaught observed that managing people is always one of the most difficult parts of leadership, but perhaps the most rewarding. "Take care of your people and they will take care of you," is one motto she lives by. "Or," as she observed, "the reverse is true too." It is important to have a reward system beyond salary, to care about people, and to provide a good work environment. Dealing with ineffective people is difficult because it is hard to divorce the work from the human being. Firing someone is the toughest task of all. Before taking such extreme action, Vaught always weighed whether the act would "bring more pain than gain." And she cautioned, if you must fire someone, "let them leave with dignity."

To be an effective leader, it is important to strike a balance between caring and personal distance. You may have to deal with discrimination, harassment, and disappointment. It is important to ask questions, disagree with orders that don't seem right, learn from your superiors, and above all, be resilient. You must learn to rebound from disappointments. Developing a healthy sense of humor is also highly recommended. "It gets you through bad patches." Everyone defines success for him or herself. No matter what you do, "make a difference; leave a mark on the places you have been."


Since retiring from the U.S. Air Force in 1985, General Vaught has remained extremely active, as a consultant and as an inspired speaker on leadership and management. Her most visible role of recent years is as president of the board of directors of the Women in the Military Service for America Memorial Foundation. It is this group, with Vaught at the head, that raised funds to build the war memorial that recognizes the contributions women make to the military. This memorial now stands on the Mall in Washington, D.C.

Vaught earned a B.S. degree from Commerce in 1952, after taking a circuitous route to the college, mostly through LAS. She also holds an MBA from the University of Alabama and was granted an honorary doctorate of public affairs from Columbia College, Columbia, S.C. The University of Illinois recognized Wilma Vaught's career achievements when it gave her the Alumni Achievement Award in 1983.

Howard Weinstein

"Americans are the best salesmen in the world," Howard Weinstein told a class of finance students recently, during his short but lively tenure as CBA Executive-in-Residence. "We're the best marketing machine there is." Weinstein, who is president and co-owner of Rubloff, Inc., a large and venerable Chicago real estate company, was on campus in October for two days of classes and meetings, sharing his outstanding experience and business savvy with students and faculty. Having graduated from the University of Illinois in 1964 with a B.S. in urban land economics, Weinstein joined Rubloff the following year, launching an international career that has included involvement with such projects as the Tishman Gateway Center Complex, Carl Sandburg Village, and Prudential Plaza in Chicago; First Interstate Plaza in Houston; and The Renaissance Center in Detroit. He has managed a portfolio covering millions of square feet of commercial real estate, and he has had extensive involvement in joint-venture activities in Japan and elsewhere in Asia. In his talk to finance students in real estate, he offered anecdotal highlights from his career, ranging from his first real estate venture (taking over the lease of a financially troubled building), to creating an award-winning real estate Web site (including the innovative "virtual tours" of properties), to sponsoring a fiberglass bovine in the recent "Cows on Parade" cultural event in Chicago (mascot's name: "Moove into Your New House"). He regards marketing as crucial to his success. "In marketing," he said, "the key is to understand what you're trying to sell, who your clientele is, and the message you're trying to get across."
Howard Weinstein