Celebrating a century

Nine distinguished alumni share lessons learned at the top

By Kevin Manne

Peace bridge in blue for the centennial.

In coordination with the Centennial Celebration event, the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority illuminated the Peace Bridge in UB blue on Nov. 3, 2023, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the School of Management. Photo: Doug Levere

Amid a yearlong recognition of its 100th anniversary, the School of Management invited nine distinguished alumni to campus in November to share insights, inspire the university community and look ahead to the future.

Across two days, the alumni met with School of Management students, faculty and staff in classroom presentations, club meetings and roundtable discussions, and recorded a series of videos in which they shared their thoughts on the future of business (see sidebar).

To mark the occasion, the Peace Bridge was illuminated in UB blue, the school community signed the university’s Paint-A-Bull which had been adorned with the school logo and centennial mark, and the Erie County Legislature recognized the School of Management for 100 years of excellence in a declaration adopted on Nov. 2.

Their visit culminated with the school’s Centennial Celebration event, where they each received a Centennial Achievement and Impact Award — a once-in-a-lifetime honor for demonstrating exceptional leadership in their careers, and for making outstanding contributions to their industries, communities and the world.

Group of awardees at the celebration.

Dean Iyer with alumni honorees at the centennial event. From left: Chamoun, DeCarolis, Swan, McGlynn, Iyer, Vredenburgh, Jacobson, Ferranti, Kramadibrata and Murchie. Photo: Tom Wolf

Following their award acceptance, the honorees all added their remarks to a time capsule that will be held by UB’s University Archives and will be opened on the school’s 200th anniversary in 2123.

Below, you’ll get to meet each of our honorees, learn a bit about them and read an excerpt from their remarks, in which they shared brief personal stories about a challenge overcome, a deep regret or a perspective-changing success or failure.

George Chamoun, BA ’97

When asked about his job search prior to graduation, George Chamoun responded, “I’m not looking for a job; I’m starting a business!” That was in 1997 and Buffalo did not yet have the supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem that it has today. But Chamoun and his co-founder persevered, growing their 1998 startup, Synacor, into a successful software company with more than 400 employees. From there, he took the helm at ACV and led that innovative tech company to become Buffalo’s first unicorn, a privately held startup with value exceeding $1 billion.

Chamoun routinely feeds and supports the Western New York entrepreneurial ecosystem that he helped to create. He chaired Launch New York for six years and he regularly shares his entrepreneurial wisdom with others who are eager to create successful companies.

“To the next generation of leaders looking to build a company, disrupt an industry or change the world: It starts with believing in your idea like it’s a religion — this will propel others to join and follow your mission. Next, you need to surround yourself with people who are smart, but also happy — and together, with those great people, you will become successful. But while you are on your tireless journey, always remember: Your work will never be done, so please take the time to take care of yourself. ”

Donna L. DeCarolis, BS ’81, MBA ’83
President, National Fuel Gas Distribution Corp.

Donna DeCarolis is president of National Fuel Gas Distribution. She also serves on the New York State Climate Action Council, which is charged with creating a plan to reach the state’s greenhouse gas emission goals.

Taken alone, either of these commitments is daunting, but together they are enormous. Yet somehow, DeCarolis also finds the time to share strategic insights and thoughtful leadership with numerous economic, cultural and educational nonprofits, including the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, The Business Council of New York State, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House, the Buffalo Sabres Foundation, Shea’s O’Connell Preservation Guild, Leadership Buffalo, Niagara University and the UB School of Management. 

“After I completed my undergrad degree and decided to go on for my MBA, my dad, who was a pretty frugal guy, said without hesitation that he would pay for me to go — as long as I continued to live at home and work my two part-time jobs to pay for books, and to keep my ten-year-old, rusted out, highly temperamental Volkswagen Beetle on the road. He was not an effusive guy and definitely did not wear his emotions on his sleeve (except for Bills and Sabres games). But on the day I crossed the stage to receive my MBA, my father stood up and shouted for me so loudly that heads turned, in a cheer he otherwise reserved for Jim Kelly and the French Connection. ”
Awardee placing comments in time capsule.

Preserving the Moment: After Dean Iyer and the nine honorees gave remarks at the awards ceremony, they placed them in a time capsule that will be held by UB’s University Archives to be opened on the school’s 200th anniversary in 2123. Additional present-day items will also be added to the time capsule through the end of the school’s centennial year, which concludes in May. Photo: Tom Wolf

Richard M. Ferranti, EMBA ’97
CEO, Rich Products Corp.

Rich Products was born from innovation 79 years ago. Today, Richard Ferranti is at the helm of what is now Western New York’s largest privately held company, driving that innovation forward. Rich Products employs more than 13,000 associates in over 100 countries around the world, all of them focused on creating unique and distinctive value for their customers.

As CEO since 2020, Ferranti leads the long-term strategic direction, performance and growth of this $5.8 billion company while seeking ways for all associates to learn, grow and thrive. His priorities include extensive global growth through innovation and a relentless focus on creating unique and distinctive customer value. Under Ferranti’s leadership, the company has articulated its Generations of Good strategy, encompassing sustainability, health and authenticity; putting people first and community impact; and helping to create tomorrow for associates, customers and communities. The company maintains an unwavering commitment to Western New York. The Buffalo City Mission, Say Yes and Stitch Buffalo are just a few of the community organizations that are grateful to Rich Products for that commitment.

“For any organization to be successful for 100 years, that success is built on its core values, the character of its leaders, a commitment to learning, innovation and partnership. Success is also embracing change, taking risks and creating a positive impact on the world around you. It’s our collective duty to care and to embrace a sense of selflessness, to challenge the status quo and to inspire others – just as great leaders do, and just as this school’s students, alumni and faculty have done and will continue to do. Wherever you are in your journey, today is a time to build, to create and to inspire. ”

Jeff Jacobson, BS ’81
Former CEO, Xerox
Current Executive Chairman, EFI and Fiery LLC, and Executive Partner, Siris Capital Group

With more than 30 years of global experience in industrial technology and imaging, Jeff Jacobson rose to the top by helping customers improve their productivity and enhance their operations — and by committing to help remedy inequities in the business world.

Jacobson is executive chairman of Electronics for Imaging and Fiery LLC, as well as executive partner at Siris Capital Group. Previously, as CEO of Xerox Corp., he oversaw the largest product launch in its more than 100-year-history. He also served as CEO of Electronics for Imaging; president, CEO and chairman of Presstek; chief operating officer of Eastman Kodak’s Graphic Communications Group and CEO of Kodak Polychrome Graphics.

Through all of his success, Jacobson has never forgotten his alma mater and the students beginning their professional journeys here. He and his wife, Irene, started two scholarship funds, one for incoming MBAs and one focused on diversity, equity and inclusion.

“One of the classes at the School of Management I embraced and embedded in who I am in life and in business was organizational behavior. It was understanding human behavior, as my father understood me, that not everyone responds to the same messages, and they need to be tailored. That not everyone is perfect, and in fact, everyone has areas of opportunity. I learned that we need to understand each person’s strengths and put people into a position where we can accentuate their positives, and surround them with those who can shore up their areas of opportunity. ”
Awardees pose at Paint-A-Bull.

Horns Up: Before the event, the honorees visited and signed the university’s “Paint-A-Bull” located outside the Student Union, which had been adorned with the School of Management logo and centennial mark. Other members of the school community also signed the bull throughout the day. Photo: Tom Wolf

Ridzki Kramadibrata, MBA ’99
Commissioner, Grab Indonesia

Ridzki Kramadibrata was initially challenged by the open dialogue his MBA professors encouraged in class — a sharp contrast to the lecture-style setup he knew back home in Indonesia. He embraced the experience, though, and used those skills to extraordinary success in a 25-year career at the forefront of Asia’s tech revolution.

In 2019, Kramadibrata was named president of Grab Indonesia, the super app that provides everyday services like deliveries, mobility, financial services and more, and now serves as commissioner. Under his leadership, Grab exploded in popularity and became one of the continent’s most used super apps. During the coronavirus pandemic, he led the company’s efforts to ensure the health and safety of its users and drivers. This effort was crucial to the introduction of new products, including the delivery of daily essentials and on-demand concierge services. Grab also saved lives and reduced hospitalizations by setting up drive-thru vaccination sites.

“As a young graduate, I arrived in Buffalo with a mix of excitement and anxiety. I vividly remember my first encounter with Buffalo’s winter — a stark contrast to the tropical climate of Indonesia. It was a challenging adjustment, but it was in those early days that I discovered the warmth and resilience of the Buffalo community and fellow international students. One of the greatest gifts this institution gave me was the opportunity to explore my passion for technology. The late ’90s marked the beginning of an era defined by rapid technological advancement, and I was fortunate to be a part of it. ”

Margaret Hempling McGlynn, MBA ’83
Former President, Merck, Human Health Division
Current President and Founder, Hempling Foundation

One of seven children, Margaret Hempling McGlynn was just 11 when homocystinuria — a rare metabolic genetic disease — took the lives of two of her sisters in the same year.

Since then, McGlynn has dedicated her life to helping people live healthier, longer lives.

Her UB degrees led to a 26-year career at Merck, leading commercial functions and ultimately serving as president of Merck Vaccines where she ran an $8 billion global business that developed new vaccines to prevent HPV and cervical cancer, rotavirus disease and shingles. Then, as CEO of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, McGlynn helped to progress vaccines into human testing to prevent this devastating illness.

In honor of her sisters, she also founded the Hempling Foundation for Homocystinuria Research, which funded the proof-of-concept study of a treatment that was then licensed by a biotech company and has shown up to a 67% reduction in homocysteine in the first phase of human testing. It recently entered the last phase of testing and, if successful, patients will soon have access to this groundbreaking new treatment. 

“I went to college at UB and studied in the joint pharmacy/MBA program. I learned the skills that enabled me to work in the pharmaceutical industry, where I thought I could have the greatest impact. I believe I did have an impact bringing new medicines and vaccines to the market to prevent or treat diseases like HPV, cervical cancer and AIDS. But there were no leads for homocystinuria to develop. So, after 26 years I decided to retire early and set up a research fund to make sure no children in the future had to endure what my sisters did. ”
Screen capture of an awardee being interviewed in the video series.

Visionary Thinking: During their campus visit, the nine winners of the Centennial Achievement and Impact Award sat down with faculty members Mary Ann Rogers and Dorothy Siaw-Asamoah to discuss the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead for businesses and organizations in the next 100 years, share their thoughts on leadership and more.

To see the videos and learn from these high-level executives, visit the School of Management YouTube channel at youtube.com/ubschoolofmgt.

Tunney S. Murchie, BS ’75, MBA ’76
Owner, Lackawanna Products Corp.

Tunney Murchie is truly a self-made man. He exemplifies what hard work and commitment can lead to. The extraordinary success of the companies he has founded is proof.

Lackawanna Products began with three employees, three desks and three telephones. Today, the company and its startup spinoff, LPC Logistics, employ 160 and serve the 48 contiguous United States and Canada.

Murchie learned the fun­damentals of commodities trading at The Pillsbury Company Feed and Grain Trading Division, where he worked alongside the country’s top commodity traders. Just four years into the job, he established a new office in London. Tunney and his family are staunch supporters of UB Athletics.

“It takes a lifetime to build a business from the ground level up. There are numerous highs and lows and even if you’re fortunate to be successful, there is a great deal of personal sacrifice in the mix. Failure is not an option. Over the past 15 years my approach to business has changed. I tend to reflect on our accomplishments, something I had never done in the past. It used to be always full speed ahead. The routine at home has changed as well. Before I hit the sack, I pass through the kitchen for a little snack that’s usually not very healthy. Then I go to my bedroom to gather my thoughts and say a little prayer, to offer my thanks for a great life. ”

Bob Swan, BS ’83
Former CEO, Intel
Current Partner, Andreessen Horowitz

eBay, GE and Intel — household names to all of us. Bob Swan was in chief financial officer roles for all of them. Much of his success and impact is based on his advanced understanding of the role of finance. According to Swan, it’s not about counting the beans; it’s about helping the beans grow.

Swan moved from chief financial officer of Intel to CEO where he led a team of 110,000 to create world-changing technologies that enrich the lives of people everywhere. Along the way, he has nurtured more than 50 individuals to CFO roles. Today, Swan is an operating partner on the growth investing team at Andreessen Horowitz, where he shares his wealth of knowledge and experience with growth-stage companies as they scale their businesses. Swan also sits on the board of directors for Nike, GoTo, Flexport, Kearney and the American Heart Association.

“I am here today because I embraced the power of teamwork: where the leader’s role is to ensure the whole of the team’s performance is greater than the sum of the individuals on the team. Where work ethic matters, and you come prepared to play. Where the leader does not spend time and energy displaying their greatness but spends time illuminating the greatness in others. Where you leave it all on the field and you have each other’s back. I learned a great deal about team sport here on the UB campus, both in the classroom and on the rugby pitch. ”

Judy Vredenburgh, MBA ’75
Former President and CEO, Girls Inc.

As president and CEO of Girls Inc. for nine years, Judy Vredenburgh created an enduring legacy — a generation of girls that will grow up to be strong, smart and bold.

This extraordinary nonprofit helps girls navigate gender, economic and social barriers through research-based programming and long-lasting mentorship. Under her leadership, Girls Inc. expanded to reach more than 156,000 girls annually.

Vredenburgh was appointed to the advisory council for President Barack Obama’s Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. She previously served as president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, where she helped grow the organization’s annual revenue and double the number of children they served.

“After more than ten years in a position I loved, I decided to move back to New York to live with my husband and where our married daughter had settled. As in the past, I made the move without a position but with optimism. I landed the perfect career culminating role, CEO of Girls Inc. There, I enacted my lifelong commitment as a feminist through our mission to develop strong, smart and bold girls. After nine successful years, I retired. During my long career, I have been able to define changes as opportunities. I summoned the courage to pursue my values. And, I recognize I have been fortunate. ”
Centennial lunch.

Nearly 200 alumni, faculty, staff and students toast to the centennial during a celebratory lunch.

In-Class Impact

The day before the Centennial Celebration, six of the honorees served as guest speakers in on-campus presentations, where they shared lessons from their careers and made connections with current School of Management students.

In Larry Sanders’ Technology and Innovation Management class, Jeff Jacobson, Ridzki Kramadibrata and Bob Swan discussed innovation, leadership and organizational strategy. They touched on such topics as strategies for fostering innovation, the importance of leadership and talent, and the challenges of aligning new ideas with market and organizational dynamics.

Later that day, George Chamoun, Tunney Murchie and Swan participated in an interactive discussion during Celine Krzan’s Entrepreneurship and Small Business class. The panelists shared their entrepreneurial journeys, pivotal moments in their careers and the books that shaped them along the way.

Judy Vredenburgh was part of the day’s final speaking engagement, where she met with students from the school’s Women’s Empowerment and Leadership Club. There, she and a panel of fellow UB graduates discussed the many paths to career success, as well as the opportunities and challenges women face. Vredenburgh was joined by Rosanna Berardi, JD ’97, of Berardi Immigration Law and High Wire Woman; Kathleen Chiavetta, CEL ’20, of Chiavetta’s Catering; Lisa Coppola, CEL ’20, of The Coppola Firm; and Anna Shurmatz, MSW ’08, CEL ’23, of Shurmatz Counseling.