The Executive MBA at Weatherhead attracts professionals with plenty of experience and drive; intensive and residency-based, the program also tends to turn classmates into friends. Upon graduation, the tight-knit class of 2006 wanted to remain connected, continue learning together and find a way to help current students. Then-program director Jenny Lahman proposed a leadership award to be presented to a graduating student. The idea stuck, and the class decided to establish the EMBA Leadership Award, commemorated by a plaque and a $500 sum to be donated to the charity of the recipient’s choice.
“Jenny Lahman’s idea was the driving force,” says Amy Richardson, EMBA ’06 (seen in picture), one of four students who were instrumental in establishing the award. Richardson, along with 2006 EMBA classmates J.R. Bockoven, Mike Portale and Mike Mohlenkamp, determined the criteria that would be used to choose a recipient: The recipient must demonstrate outstanding personal leadership and exemplary personal generosity, and provide concrete service to his or her class and the EMBA program.
The class of 2006 did not want to wait until the endowment for the award was fully funded to begin the annual tradition. They chose Dan Quigg, EMBA ’07, as the first recipient, in recognition of his inspirational leadership. Ali Ahmed, EMBA ’08, a champion of sustainability, received the award the following year. Ahmed went on to help raise funds for the endowment and is the continuing energy behind the award selection process. Raymond Lewis, EMBA '09, was the third recipient.
But three years after the award’s conception, fundraising efforts were at a standstill. Richardson reveals that it was again Ahmed who moved the project forward.
“Ali jump-started the giving with a contribution and a matching gift from his employer,” she remembers. The endowment began to grow again. Finally, with $1,100 to go to reach their goal of $20,000, the class of 2006 reached out to other EMBA classes and received two pledges within 24 hours. Coincidentally, the donation that put the endowment over the top was from Patricia Persico, EMBA '10, the 2010 recipient of the award. Honored the next year was Seth Glauberman, EMBA '11, followed by Kenneth Edelman, EMBA '12.
The EMBA Leadership Award is now fully supported by a $20,000 endowment. The income from the endowment will support the award and its $500 charitable component. As the fund grows, the balance will be used to support the EMBA program.
Richardson notes, “Our ultimate goal in establishing the EMBA Leadership Award was to support Weatherhead, EMBA students and the program.”
Award recipients have chosen to support organizations including a nonprofit micro-lender, the Red Cross, the Cuyahoga Nature Conservancy, and Weatherhead’s own Fowler Center for Sustainable Value. One recipient purchased carbon offset credits and matched the contribution with his own funds.
“These gifts have been generous and impactful,” says Richardson; they serve as a lasting tribute to the vision of the EMBA class of 2006 and to their commitment to supporting their communities as well as their alma mater.
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Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University cultivates creativity, innovation, and purpose-driven leadership to design a better world.