ALUMNI

Annual Spring Luncheon

For forty years, Commerce alumni and friends have been meeting in Chicago with faculty and students to celebrate career achievements of alumni and teaching excellence of faculty and graduate students. Always a gala occasion, this year had a special poignancy because it was the last luncheon Howard Thomas would preside over as dean.

Emotions were high and good fellowship overflowing. Before a crowd of approximately 400, Howard Thomas spoke of his twenty years at Illinois — nine as dean — with warmth and enthusiasm. "Illinois is a great university," he reminded all present. "Our students have the Midwest work ethic, which means they work hard, a point not lost on recruiters who come to campus. They represent a triumph of substance over style." Thomas remarked that he has been particularly gratified by the growth in private support during his tenure as dean, especially in the area of scholarships and fellowships for students, the basic building blocks of this great institution. He also noted that seventeen gift commitments or direct gifts for endowed professorships have been received during his tenure as dean. And in the area of facilities improvement he has worked the hardest. Before he leaves the college in July he hopes to finalize gift commitments for the new instructional building on Sixth Street. He also promised to return to campus in the fall when the renovation of Com West is complete and the building is dedicated as Wohlers Hall. Waxing sentimental — and Howard told us that "the Welsh are a sentimental lot" — he reminisced that his twenty years had "gone like the wind and it has been a great ride, a great place."

In recognition of his great service to the college, Howard Thomas was given the Commerce Appreciation Award. Thomas Murphy, retired chairman of the board and CEO of General Motors, received the Distinguished Commerce Alumnus Award. Their stories, and those of the teaching award recipients appear on the following pages.

Richard A. Christensen, director, Alliances and Acquisitions for e-GM, General Motors' new electronic commerce unit, gave the keynote address. Whimsically titled, "Moving the Mountain," his talk related GM's experiences thus far, in creating an E-commerce business within an old-line, established, multi-national corporation.

"The dot-commerce world is a true phenomenon," Christensen averred. "Even though some of the companies, like AOL, have never made a profit, they were able to buy Time Warner. This is serious business — their capitalization far exceeds General Motors'." Christensen noted that the explosion in Web sites — just in the auto industry — is staggering. "Everyone has one: dealers and companies. If you don't have one, you fall behind." In his view, the Internet puts customers in control of information — base price, dealer mark-up, everything — making it a buyer's market.

Honors, and an emotional farewell —Dean Thomas with keynote speaker and alumnus Richard Christensen.

"Some in the industry view dot-com as a threat, but it is also an opportunity." GM's foray into the dot-com world is fairly recent; e-GM, led by CBA grad Mark Hogan, was founded in October 1999. Rather than a dot-com company, Christensen says GM aspires to become a Web-enabled company. What they hope to do with e-GM is integrate the power of the Web into all aspects of GM, a global company that provides not only auto products but also delivers services. The Internet promotes speed, which can sometimes be a problem for a manufacturing business. So at e-GM, projects are organized differently than in other segments of the company. Teams are organized by "workstream," where everyone on the project works together. One such product is called OnStar — an onboard computer that can bring help to a motorist who develops a problem on the road. This safety product is currently being used in high-end cars, marketed to Honda and other companies and for GM products. By the end of 2000, the company hopes to have 1 million subscribers.  As with any new venture, Christensen reports, there are bugs to be worked out. "The strategic part of the endeavor has gone well. Planning the process has been highly creative and successful. Putting it into operation is not as simple as it might seem. The interface between the Internet and the real world poses problems. The great strengths of the Internet, like speed, are also its weaknesses." One problem is that business leaders can't always see problems coming with the Internet, partly because they come so fast. Very quickly it became apparent that working with the Web required a new management style, a shift in the organizational base. For an operation that has only been running for six months, Christensen believes e-GM has done pretty well, in most areas. But one area, the allocation of resources, definitely needs more work.

Rich Christensen has the responsibility for identifying those areas where GM can capitalize on the business potential of the Internet by forging relationships with leading third-party firms and then executing these transactions. He also has lead responsibility for the Internet-driven re-engineering of GM's 1 million annual used-car business and for bringing broadband capability into tomorrow's vehicles. Christensen holds an A.B. from the University of Illinois and an MBA from the University of Chicago.

The Distinguished Alumnus Award was presented to Thomas A. Murphy (BS Accountancy 1938), who retired as chairman of the board and chief executive officer of General Motors in 1980. Except for a few summers, when he had a job in an ice house in Chicago, GM was the first and only company he ever worked for (except Uncle Sam — U.S. Navy 1943_46). A summer internship in 1937 led to a job offer from GM that blossomed into a stellar career. After fifteen days in the financial office in Detroit, Murphy was sent on temporary assignment to New York. This assignment lasted for twenty-nine years. Promotions followed one after another: he became chairman and chief executive officer in 1974 and after retiring in 1980 served as a member of the board until 1988. His tenure as CEO was marked by stability and growth. While CEO he renewed GM's commitment to the city of Detroit, renovating the company world headquarters and rehabilitating homes and businesses in the area.

When Fortune magazine (March 1996) singled out Illinois as "A grove of academe where chief executives sprout," Tom Murphy was one of the distinguished executives mentioned.

Tom Murphy enrolled at the university in 1935, after one of his co-workers at the ice house told him "You'll be breaking your back for the rest of your life if you don't get more education." So, Murphy came to look over the campus and discovered he could earn enough money working in the summers to pay his tuition during the term. "All that was required for admission to the university at that time was a transcript of credits from a high school in Illinois," Murphy reminisced during a visit to campus. "Now that didn't guarantee you would stay in; the mortality rate was fairly high. But I did get in and I never regretted it. It was a great decision on my part."
Thomas Murphy

A loyal Illini, Tom Murphy has maintained close ties with alma mater, generously sharing his money and his time with the university. A member of the UIF board and the Presidents Council, he served as general chairman for the first Campaign for Illinois from 1978-84. In 1976 he was given the Illini Achievement Award, the Alumni Association's highest honor, and was also named Accountancy Alumnus of the Month. Then, in 1987, he was invited as a Comeback Guest and spent a day at the college. He has been awarded a number of honorary degrees in recognition of his contributions to higher education; in 1986 he was presented the National Gold Medal Volunteer of the Year Award from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Higher Education. Tom and his wife Catherine (Sis) have three children and six grandchildren.

When Fortune magazine (March 1996) singled out Illinois as "A grove of academe where chief executives sprout," Tom Murphy was one of the distinguished executives mentioned. We are very proud to claim Tom Murphy as one of our own and to recognize his achievements over a productive lifetime.

 

Howard Thomas's influence on the college will be felt for many years to come — in the curriculum, in the MBA program, in the number of professorships, in the number of scholarships, and in the number of alumni and friends who will remember his warmth and enthusiasm.

 
Howard Thomas, dean and James F. Towey Distinguished Professor of Strategic Management, was awarded the Commerce Appreciation Award. After joining the business administration faculty in 1981, Thomas first won recognition as an outstanding teacher and world-renowned scholar in the area of strategic management theory. Recent honors include induction as a Fellow of the Academy of Management Society (1999), chair of the Graduate Management Admissions Council (1999-2000), and president of the Strategic Management Society (1999_2000). A native of Wales, Thomas holds degrees from Edinburgh University (PhD '70), University of Chicago (MBA '66), and London University (MSc '65, BSc '64).
Howard Thomas

 For the last ten years, as dean of CBA, Howard has guided the college through considerable change and growth. His strategy for enhancing the reputation of the College of Commerce has been to build on the strengths of the college and campus, concentrating on the MBA and undergraduate programs, faculty excellence and research, and alumni relations and fundraising. Under his guidance the MBA program was re-engineered. The resulting distinctive, integrative first-year MBA curriculum is a clear success. The undergraduate program, ranked in the top ten nationally, is, as Thomas affectionately says, "the jewel in the crown." The undergraduate task force he convened recommended adding two new core courses that address the changes technology has brought to business and business education.

A college is only as good as the faculty and students it attracts.  We are fortunate to have the best of both. And the seventeen new chair and professorship commitments Thomas has secured during his tenure have helped meet the challenge of attracting and maintaining an excellent faculty in the face of scarce state resources. It is perhaps in the area of alumni relations and fundraising that his accomplishments are the most visible. The major renovation of Commerce West, currently in progress, is proof of his successful campaign to raise money for facility improvement. Before Thomas leaves the college in July, to assume new duties as dean of the business college at Warwick University, we hope to announce additional gifts that will make the new Commerce building on Sixth Street a reality. Howard Thomas has spent much of his time strengthening alumni ties to the college and garnering support for faculty, students, programs, and facilities.

His influence on the college will be felt for many years to come — in the curriculum, in the MBA program, in the number of professorships, in the number of scholarships, and in the number of alumni and friends who will remember his warmth and enthusiasm. For all he has done, and continues to do even as he prepares to accept new duties at Warwick University, we offer this richly deserved appreciation award.
The Excellence-in-Undergraduate Teaching Award was presented to Richard E. Ziegler, associate professor of accountancy, who has been motivating accountancy students since joining the faculty in 1972. His dedication to students and his enthusiastic and engaging approach to teaching have earned him numerous awards. That his passion for teaching has been sustained and, in fact, strengthened over a career spanning twenty-seven years is remarkable. Honors for his teaching and other contributions to the field have come from many sources and with a telling frequency. These include: Illinois CPA Society Outstanding Educator Award, 1996; St. Louis Accountancy Committee Teaching Award, 1995; All Campus Teaching Award, 1994-95; Commerce Council Teaching Awards, 1993, 1991, 1990, 1989, 1988, 1986, 1984; Alpha Kappa Psi Awards, 1994, 1981; Emerson Cammack Service to Undergraduate Students Award, 1991; Excellence in Teaching Award, 1978. In the March 1994 issue of Accounting Today, he was listed as one of the "100 Most Influential People in Accounting." From 1986-99 he held the Grant Thornton Professorship.
Richard Ziegler

"Professor Ziegler cares about his students and teaching more than any other instructor I've seen."

Ziegler, who holds a doctorate from the University of North Carolina ('73), an MBA ('66) from Columbia, and an A.B. ('60) from William and Mary, teaches courses in auditing and financial accounting but is perhaps best known for his lead role in the CPA Review Course taken by nearly all accountancy majors their senior year. The nominating papers for this award credits Ziegler with "the outstanding performance by our students on the CPA exam. While the national average first-time pass rate has declined to 12.5 percent, the University of Illinois's rate remains in the high 40 to low 50 percent."

Universally recognized as a demanding teacher, he is also one of the most popular. Students jokingly refer to being in his class as "being in the hot seat," because they know they will be called on to answer questions every class period. Outside class Ziegler spends a lot of time with students, acting as a counselor and mentor. A sampling of student remarks about Ziegler the teacher is illuminating. "Professor Ziegler cares about his students and teaching more than any other instructor I've seen." Many comment about the enthusiasm he brings to class and the appropriateness of the material he teaches. "This course will directly help me when I start working for an accounting firm," one writes, echoing the opinions of several. "Professor Ziegler is a great teacher. He explains complex material and makes it so understandable. He keeps the class involved." And finally one student wrote, "This was the best accounting class in my four years here. I learned a lot and enjoyed the class. Professor Ziegler is the best professor I have had."

For a lifetime of outstanding teaching, the Commerce Alumni Association is pleased to recognize Richard Ziegler.

Recipient of the Excellence-in-Graduate-Teaching Award was Joseph Mahoney, associate professor of business administration, who joined the faculty in 1989. He holds a Ph.D. ('89) and M.S. ('84) in business economics and a B.A. ('80) in economics from the University of Pennsylvania. He teaches strategic management and business economics courses and his research interests include corporate governance and organizational economics, and distribution.
His contribution to graduate teaching is felt across several programs — MBA, EMBA, MSBA, and PhD. The Executive MBA students voted him MBA Instructor of the Year ('99, '98, '96, and '95) and he often appears on the Incomplete List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by Their Students. The nominating papers stress that Mahoney's use of a mix of cases and lectures in the EMBA courses, to provide both the theoretical underpinnings and practical applications of strategic management, work extremely well for these executive students. A successful mentor to doctoral students, he has either chaired or served on numerous doctoral committees. What is clear from the comments students make about him is that Mahoney has made a difference in their lives
Joseph Mahoney

"Professor Mahoney approaches his curriculum as an intricate culmination
of inspirational ideas and functional experiences that bring life and reason to the decisions of everyday managers."

With great eloquence, one student writes that she "had the honor of being taught the art of strategic management by Professor Mahoney. My reference to the `art' is quite significant, as "Professor Mahoney approaches his curriculum as an intricate culmination of inspirational ideas and functional experiences that bring life and reason to the decisions of everyday managers." Incorporated into his lengthy syllabus and every classroom session are the wisdom of managerial experts meant to open the minds of his students, combined with detailed analysis of facts that simultaneously focus the students on the true problems facing today's business organizations." He is praised for "his understanding of the course content and his ability to transfer this knowledge to his students." Then there is the student who writes about the extraordinary mentoring she received. "I still remember, back in 1996, I sent an e-mail to him with two short questions and got a prompt, four-page reply with thorough and insightful answers." Another student writes, "one of his strong teaching skills is his use of examples from daily life and the corporate world to teach complex concepts such as economies of scope. His ability to go back and forth between theory and practice taught us how to connect the analytical thinking and rigor of theories with the logic-in-use of managers."

From the many long and heartfelt letters the department received in support of Mahoney's nomination, it is clear that he touched the lives of many of his students and influenced not only how they think but also their choice of profession. He stood as a role model for many. For his outstanding teaching the college is indeed pleased to present this award to Joe Mahoney.

Gyung H. Paik, who entered the Illinois doctoral program in accountancy in 1995, received the Excellence-in-Teaching Award for Teaching Assistants. He earned a bachelor's degree from Seoul National University in 1986, an M.A. in economics from Brigham Young University in 1988, and an MBA from the University of Utah in 1995. From 1991-1993 he was a researcher at Korea Telecom Research Center in Seoul. He brings a wealth of educational and business experience to the classroom.

 
After serving as a TA for numerous accountancy courses, he was given the responsibility to teach Accy 304 — Accounting Control Systems, in the summer and fall of 1999. His outstanding performance in this role has led to the presentation of this teaching award. His nominators cite the excellence of his course materials and the fact that he earned very high ratings on the Incomplete List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by Their Students forms —despite the fact that Accy 304 is a required core course and instructors can usually expect to receive lower ICES numbers when they teach this difficult course.
Gyung H. Paik

A dedicated teacher who declares that he "always wished to contribute to society by educating students," Gyung Paik is clearly succeeding.

In talking about his views on teaching, Paik says, "I believe that students learn by being actively involved in thinking and participating in class discussions to solve problems." He therefore developed a teaching style that he calls "dynamic participation," which successfully involves students in class discussion and also stresses written communication skills. From one of his students we learn that, halfway through the term, Paik asked his students to evaluate the course and his teaching methods. He reviewed the responses and then revamped his course to "address the problems students had pointed out." One student reports that when she felt the need for extra help with a difficult concept she found that "Gyung's door was always open and he spent as much time as I needed to fully understand the topic." A dedicated teacher who declares that he "always wished to contribute to society by educating students," Paik is clearly succeeding. One of his students writes that she has "yet to come across an instructor who is as dedicated to his students' education as Gyung."

For his contribution to accounting education in CBA, we are pleased to recognize Gyung Paik with this teaching award.

 

Willard Bunn (r), a past winner of the Commerce Alumni Association Appreciation Award, with board member Tom Cartwright (BS Finance '75, MS '77).
 

The Excellence-in-Teaching Award for Teaching Assistants was presented to Gary Hecht, who entered the doctoral program in accountancy in 1998. He holds a B.S. in accounting from Illinois State University ('95) and an MBA ('97) from De Paul. He became a CPA in 1995 and worked in the profession before returning to school.

Gary Hecht puts into practice his belief that a teacher must not only "achieve `expert-status' in the subject matter being taught, but is also responsible for creating an environment in which the learning process thrives."

After assisting in several accounting courses, Hecht was asked to teach Accy 302, Decision Making for Accountancy, a core course in the accounting major, which he did to high acclaim. But even before assuming full responsibility for a course, Hecht's influence was felt. His faculty mentor praised him for "playing a key role in redesigning the introductory class on federal taxation." Apparently he had the "primary responsibility for introducing several online innovations, including developing and maintaining a Mallard Web-based testing system, a Web site, and several asynchronous learning systems.

Based on student feedback and my own observation, his performance was outstanding. I place him in the top 5 percent of doctoral students I have worked with in a teaching environment."


Gary Hecht

Hecht's desire to become a teacher surfaced early: "Since my experience as a Supplemental Instructor and tutor as an undergraduate at ISU, I have known that my future career involved a role as an educator." He puts into practice his belief that a teacher must not only "achieve `expert-status' in the subject matter being taught, but is also responsible for creating an environment in which the learning process thrives." He puts a great deal of effort into maintaining an open atmosphere that allows students to develop an appreciation for their education.

He also makes himself available to students at all times outside class.

Students respond to his warm personality and caring attitude. He "created an atmosphere conducive to learning," one student commented. "Since participation was such a big part of our grade, it was important that we felt comfortable speaking in class." Another wrote, "I looked forward to his class everyday. I was able to apply concepts he taught us outside the classroom. Before I took this class, I was not sure I wanted to major in accounting. But after taking the class with Gary, I knew I did." Apparently the attention he gave students outside class is legendary. Several wrote that when they ran into problems in other courses, they would frequently go to him for help and "the door was always open." Also appreciated is the fact that he took the time to get to know each student, to build a relationship. Perhaps we can end with one student's statement that "Gary is a great teacher and seems to like teaching. The two together are a perfect combination."

In the short time Gary Hecht has been in the doctoral program he has had an impact on many students. We are pleased to recognize his contributions with this award.