Weatherhead School of Management is pleased to announce the keynote speaker for commencement 2014. On May 18, graduates and their guests will have the honor of hearing from William E. Conway, founder and chairman emeritus of Fairmount Minerals.
At a young age, Conway learned the values of hard work, responsibility and dedication when his four older brothers went off to the service and his father’s demands increased after taking over as president of Fisher Foods in 1942. With a strong educational foundation and passion to learn, Conway earned a Bachelor of Science from Yale University in 1949 and completed the executive program at the University of California-Berkeley in 1970.
With his own aspirations and his father’s business success as further encouragement, Conway began his career in mining. He spent four years in Australia opening a new iron ore mine, leading to the desire to own his own business.
In 1978 that dream became reality. Conway and a group of investors purchased Best Sand in Chardon, Ohio, which, at the time, had sales of $4 million, one salesman, one foreman, 30 hourly workers and three clerks. This transaction planted the seed that would blossom into Fairmount Minerals. In 1978, Conway met Chuck Fowler, who was vice president of operations for the industrial sand division of Martin Marietta (Wedron Silica Company). Conway and Fowler ultimately merged the two sand mining plants into one company, which became Fairmount Minerals. More than 35 years later, Fairmount Minerals has grown to over 750 employees with revenues over $800 Million.
In 1995, Conway's love for golf and his entrepreneurial spirit led him to dream, design (with Tom Fazio) and manage one of today’s top golf courses in the United States, Sand Ridge Golf Club. Today, he continues to lend his expertise and strategic direction to the course as a past member of the board and as a member of the Greens Committee. Conway also lends his wisdom and expertise to various other executive boards, including chairman of Austin Capital Partners and Mid-America Consulting Group, among many others.
Reflecting on his community involvement and philanthropic interests, Conway devotes a significant amount of time to local organizations that tie closely to his passions, including Cleveland Botanical Garden, University School and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.
In addition to his business and civic accomplishments, Conway has been honored with the Dively Entrepreneurship Award from Harvard Business School Club of Northeastern Ohio, Master Entrepreneur of the Year in Northeast Ohio in 1993. More recently, he was honored by Cleveland State University with an Honorary Doctorate Degree, inducted into Inside Business' Business Hall of Fame and named Mayo Man of the Year by Cleveland’s Mayo Society.
Conway continues to live by his father's motto, "Be a giver, not a taker." He and his wife, Mary, have passed on that philosophy to their four children and ten grandchildren.