April, 2008 | Mays Impacts

There was a priceless expression of surprise on his face when Mays Business School Distinguished Professor of marketing Leonard Berry turned away from his students to find Elsa Murano, president of Texas A&M University, had entered his classroom. President Murano interrupted Berry’s lecture to present the speechless instructor with one of the university’s highest recognitions, the Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence award.

Established five years ago by former university president Robert Gates, the award recognizes the best in Texas A&M’s faculty. The prestigious title, given to two professors annually, follows recipients for the duration of their teaching career. Berry will formally receive the award at this year’s commencement ceremonies on May 10, along with a check for $25,000.

Berry and Murano at award presentation
President Murano made a surprise visit to one of Dr. Berry’s classes to give him the good news.

When presenting the honor, President Murano said to Berry, “You were selected by a committee of peers for your outstanding achievements and for the service you provide for these young people who will be running the world one day. We are here to reward you for your efforts and to thank you.”

This kind of recognition is nothing new for Berry, who has been honored for the excellence of his instruction and research many times in his career. His accolades began in 1970 when he received his first teaching honor, the Cecil Puckett Award, at the University of Denver. Since then, he has collected many impressive honors, including the Association of Former Students’ University-Level Distinguished Achievement Award in teaching, and at the national level, the highly prestigious Academy of Marketing Science Outstanding Teacher Award.

According to Jeff Conant, marketing department head, “Len Berry is simply one of the best teachers I know. He is a dedicated and innovative educator who has excelled in the teaching of undergraduate, MBA, Executive MBA, Ph.D., and most recently medical school students. Len’s courses are fiercely popular and for good reason. His enthusiasm is contagious, his ability to integrate cutting-edge knowledge into his classes impressive, and his capacity for inspiring students legendary.”

An expert on healthcare service, in recent years Berry has focused his research efforts on improving the U.S. healthcare industry. He has done extensive field research in service delivery and service quality at the Mayo Clinic and he engages his students with relevant and captivating lectures based on his own experiences in healthcare. In his nomination for his most recent award, appreciative students mentioned Berry’s lessons as being motivational and a major contribution to their own success.

In addition to these achievements, Berry has the distinction of being the only faculty member to hold joint appointments with Mays Business School and the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, giving testimony to the integrative and valuable nature of his research.

“Dr. Berry has shown an extraordinary ability to communicate with our students with passion and enthusiasm. Lately we are using Dr. Berry to educate other faculty on improving their teaching skills because of his advanced and natural way to teach,” said Charles Sanders MD, Berry’s department head in the College of Medicine.

Berry’s reaction to the award sums up his constant involvement in his students’ lives. “I love these students…I’m proud to receive this award, and I’m especially proud to have them share it with me,” said Berry.

At Mays, Berry holds the title of M.B. Zale Chair in Retailing and Marketing Leadership. He has been on the faculty at Mays since 1982 when he helped to establish the Center for Retailing Studies and served as its first director.

Categories: Faculty

According to the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy, students from Texas A&M’s Mays Business School scored the highest overall pass rate in the state on the CPA exam (compared to other Texas schools with five or more candidates taking the exam). More than 83 percent of Mays students passed the challenging test, which is the gatekeeper for the field of accounting. The overall pass rate nationwide has been approximately 44 percent while the average in Texas (excluding candidates from Texas A&M) for this period was 50 percent.

This information is from the January/February 2008 test period (the four sections of the test are offered quarterly). In that period, Mays Business School had more candidates than any other college in Texas take the exam; 330 students from Mays took one or more sections of the exam as compared to 195 students from the next largest school, UT-Austin.

“I continue to be awed by the performance of the A&M candidates given the historical difficulty of the CPA exam,” said Jim Benjamin, head of the Department of Accounting at Mays.

Based upon a recent compilation of exam results for 2006 by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, Texas A&M University ranked 3rd nationally in first time candidates with advanced degrees passing all sections and 7th nationally for first time candidates without advanced degrees passing all sections.

“It is very important to our employers to have their new hires with the exam completed before starting work,” said Benjamin. “Since many new hires have not completed the exam, this gives A&M graduates an early career advantage over others.”

Benjamin attributes the students’ success on the exam to Mays’ curriculum, which is structured to include time to prepare for the exam, and the quality and motivation of the students.

Categories: Departments

Mays doctoral graduates are counting down the final days of their extended education this spring, preparing themselves to share their business acumen with the nation’s brightest minds. With Mays’ placement among the top U.S. business schools, it is only fitting that many of its doctoral graduates have been offered teaching positions at acclaimed institutions with high-ranking business programs.

This fall, Anup Srivastava, graduating with his doctorate in accounting, will begin his career at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. Kirsten Cook, Roy Clemons, and Janell Blazovich will also begin their careers as accounting faculty at the University of Arizona-Tucson, Florida Atlantic University, and the University of St. Thomas, respectively.

From the finance department, Phillip Illeditsch will begin his career at the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania; Juan (Julie) Wu is set to take on her position at the University of Georgia—Athens; Brooke Stanley will head to Winthrop University; and Semih Tartaroglu will begin at Wichita State University.

In management, Mary Triana will begin her career at the University of Wisconsin—Madison; Toyah Miller will take on her position at the University of Oklahoma—Norman; R. Michael Holmes is headed to Louisiana State University; Brian Connelly will begin at Auburn University; and Kwanghyun (Harry) Kim will be teaching at California State University—East Bay.

Sujan Dan and Paul Dwyer will represent the Mays marketing department as they begin their academic careers at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and Willamette University in Oregon, respectively.

“The recent placement success of Mays doctoral students is indicative of the outstanding quality of its doctoral programs and the students admitted to these programs,” said Rajan Varadarajan, associate dean for research and doctoral programs. Varadarajan added that the Mays Business School faculty members who are involved in the doctoral program are well aware of the competition they face for attracting the best doctoral candidates to Mays, which is why he and his colleagues are constantly striving to improve the quality of the already successful program.

Categories: Students

He has three degrees in marketing and an extensive body of marketing research to his name, so it may seem surprising that Stephen McDaniel, assistant department head, masters advisor, and marketing professor at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School would enjoy studying ancient civilizations in his free time. There is another side to “Dr. Mac,” as students know him: his leisure time is filled with articles about artifacts and excavation as he pursues his hobby of biblical archeology.

McDaniel and wife along seashore with ships in background
Steve and Nancy McDaniel outside Haifa, Israel, on the Mediterranean coast.

How does a marketing professor become involved in archeology? McDaniel says that his religious conversion is largely responsible for sparking his interest in the field. After becoming a Christian during his graduate school years at Texas A&M, McDaniel’s desire to learn more and gain empirical evidence for his beliefs inspired him to “dig deeper” into the religion. With guidance from his father-in-law (a professor of biblical archeology), McDaniel and his wife made their first trek to Israel. They toured several sites over a two-week period, including the ancient biblical city of Bethesda, where it is believed that Jesus performed miraculous works. The experience brought McDaniel confirmation that he had in fact found his “other” calling.

McDaniel says that his favorite excursion involved a visit to the Qumran caves, located between the Judean Desert and the Dead Sea in Israel. The site is the location of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which in McDaniel’s opinion reinforce the validity of the Bible’s Old Testament scriptures as well as give evidence to the life and works of Jesus, both significant aspects of Christianity. “The scrolls show that the prophecies of Christ in the Bible were written at least a hundred years or so before he even came—things like where he would be born, how he would die, where his ministry would take place—all empirical evidence for Christian beliefs,” offered McDaniel.

McDaniel and wife on camels
Steve and Nancy McDaniel at the pyramid Khufu (also known as “The Great Pyramid”) outside Cairo, Egypt.

His explorations didn’t stop there. McDaniel and his wife later visited Jericho, another well-known biblical locale. “There are a lot of things they have found at Jericho that support the Bible stories exactly. The fact that the walls did fall, and it was during a time of harvest is so intriguing. Archeologists actually found buried containers that still had remnants of food in them,” said McDaniel.

Though archeology and marketing share an emphasis on research, McDaniel says that they are two distinct subjects, and he enjoys the ability to grow in both areas. “Everybody has interests in fields that may not be their primary field of study, and this is my interest on the side. They do interact some through their investigative origins, but it’s nice to get away sometimes,” he added.

Today, McDaniel tries to fit his archeological interests into his busy schedule by reading biblical archeology journals and keeping up with current digs, as well as presenting on the topic at churches and on campus. He plans to embark on another journey to Qumran in the near future, but his duties as the marketing study abroad faculty leader has limited his archeological traveling at present.

McDaniel’s hobby has even carried over to the classroom, where he encourages students to note the importance of sound empirical research, and always remain tedious, precise, and patient in the search for information. “The more we research, the more we find,” he said.

Categories: Faculty

Tony Weber ’84 returned to the Texas A&M University campus recently with a mission: to let Mays Business School students know about the highly profitable opportunities available in private equity. Weber, who has worked in the energy industry since graduation, and specifically in the private equity industry for the past six years, says it’s an area more students at his alma mater need to know about. “I just don’t see many Aggies in this field,” he says. “Aggies are bright. Aggies are smart. They can execute very well…That’s the reason that I’m here, to make people aware that these jobs are out there.”

Weber talks to students
Tony Weber ’84 wants to see more Aggies in the private equity industry.

Weber himself was unaware of this industry when he graduated with his BBA in finance 24 years ago. During his college years, he had the opportunity to intern with Chase Manhattan Bank and Bank of America. These experiences led him to a lengthy career as a commercial banker to the energy industry. He eventually attained the position of senior vice president and manager of Union Bank of California’s energy division in Dallas. He had planned to stay in that job and continue to climb the ladder of succession, but when he was offered a CFO position with one of the bank’s clients in the energy sector, he couldn’t pass it up.

In addition to private equity, Weber counseled students to look into the energy market as they make career plans. “I think that the energy industry is likely to remain hot in the coming years,” he said, also mentioning the shortage of qualified young people in that industry. “It’s a great market place.” Weber currently works as the managing director and director of corporate finance for Natural Gas Partners, a $6.9 billion private equity complex. He says that his firm is proud of the fact that they have created more than 200 millionaires in the 18 years they have been in operation. “It can be a very lucrative business,” he told students.

Weber is married to his high school sweetheart and fellow Aggie Cynthia (Green) ’84. They have one daughter, who plans to attend A&M and participate in the Mays business honors program this fall. Weber and his family reside in Dallas.

Categories: Executive Speakers, Former Students

Ring Day is a rite of passage for every Aggie and a time of celebration for every Aggie family. For the Easterwoods, the Ring Day held on April 4 had special significance: As Jeff Easterwood ’07 accepted his ring and looked forward to finishing his degree at Mays Business School in a few weeks, his father, Terry ’80, was celebrating the start of his studies there.

Terry, a purchasing manager for worldwide aluminum producer Alcoa, Inc., will begin the Mays Executive MBA program this fall. When he graduates, he will follow in his children’s footsteps, as both his son and his daughter have degrees from Mays.

Easterwood family on Ring Day
Terry Easterwood ’80 (left) and Laura Stanley ’03 (right) celebrate with Jeff Easterwood ’07 (center) on Ring Day.

“I knew I wanted my children to go to Texas A&M for the quality of education that would benefit them soon after graduation. I’m proud that I’ve been able to see both of them get through their studies and find jobs that actually put what they’ve learned to practice,” Easterwood says. Son Jeff will complete the Professional Program in Accounting this May and has accepted a job with global accounting firm Grant Thornton. Easterwood’s daughter, Laura Stanley ’03 achieved her BS in Marketing and now is a marketing director with Freebirds World Burrito.

Easterwood’s original A&M degree was in mechanical engineering and led him to a career in the power generation industry. He started out as an engineer and has moved through progressive supervisory positions over the years. He is excited about starting his own program at Mays this August and says that he is “looking forward to working with other outstanding students and learning from each other,” in the Executive MBA program. “I think it’s going to be a tough undertaking at this stage of my life, but I appreciate the opportunity that I’ve been given,” he says. Easterwood and his wife, Renee, reside in Victoria.

Categories: Former Students, Students

Texas A&M University and The Association of Former Students has announced the recipients of the 2008 Distinguished Alumnus Award. One of the four men honored with this distinction is Neal W. Adams, who received his BBA in marketing in 1968.

The other 2008 Distinguished Alumni are Charles H. “Charlie” Weinbaum, Jr. ’47, of Beaumont; James D. “Doug” Pitcock, Jr. ’49, of Houston; and Arthur R. “Artie” McFerrin, Jr. ’65, of Kingwood.

Adams
Adams

Established in 1962, the Distinguished Alumnus Award is the highest honor bestowed upon a former student of Texas A&M University. Since its inception, 284 individuals have been recognized for their significant contributions to their professions, Texas A&M University and their local communities.

“Each and every one of the more than 300,000 former students of Texas A&M has a special place in our university’s history, and every year we recognize only a few with the prestigious Distinguished Alumnus Award,” said Elsa A. Murano, president of Texas A&M University. “This award recognizes some of the most dedicated former students, whose service to Texas A&M and lifetime personal and professional achievements truly exemplify the Aggie Spirit. I applaud this year’s recipients for their leadership and selfless service, and would like to also express my appreciation to their families for their continued support.”

The recipients learned of their honor when surprised in their places of business and other locations by a group of university and Association representatives, including Murano; The Association of Former Students’ 2008 President General Hal M. Hornburg ’68 (USAF, Ret); Association Executive Director Porter S. Garner III ’79; Association Assistant Executive Director Marty Holmes ’87; and a Ross Volunteer.

The Association of Former Students will further honor Texas A&M University’s 2008 Distinguished Alumni in formal events and ceremonies throughout the year.

As a student, Neal Adams was a member of the Corps of Cadets, the Student Senate, served as head yell leader, and was honored as a Distinguished Military Graduate and Distinguished Student. Upon graduation, Adams attended Baylor School of Law, receiving his juris doctorate in 1970.

He served as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army from 1971 to 1972, receiving the Distinguished Service Medal. He began his professional career in 1972 as president of Neal W. Adams, P.C. Since 1987, he served as president, principal attorney and co-owner of Adams, Lynch & Loftin, P.C.

In 2001, Governor Rick Perry appointed Adams to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, where he served six years and, in July 2005, Governor Perry appointed him as vice chairman of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, a position he held through August 2007.

In October 2002 and 2007, Texas Lawyer magazine named Adams as the “Go-To Lawyer” for school law in the state of Texas. Each year beginning in 2003 through 2007, Adams has been honored as one of the Texas Super Lawyers in school and education law by Texas Monthly magazine. He is a past chairman of the State Bar of Texas School Law Section. A Paul Harris Fellow of Rotary International, Adams was named “1994 Man of the Year’ by the Northeast Tarrant County Board of Realtors.

Adams is a loyal supporter of Texas A&M. He is a member and chair-elect of the Chancellor’s Century Council, a member of The Association of Former Students’ Leadership Council, the A&M Legacy Society, the Corps Development Council and the Corps of Cadets Association. Adams also serves as a member and past chair of the President’s Board of Visitors for the Corps of Cadets, a member of the 12th Man Foundation’s Board of Trustees, and a member and past president of the Former Yell Leaders Association. He is a regular Muster speaker and a life member of the Fort Worth-Tarrant County A&M Club. In addition, he is a frequent contributor of his time and talents to various civic, church and community organizations.

Adams and his wife, Sonja, reside in Euless. They have two daughters, Marti Morgan ’93 (son-in-law, Craig Morgan ’93) and Paige.

Categories: Former Students

Matt Rubel, president and CEO of Payless ShoeSource, says there’s one unique bonus to his job: when he tells people his title, he’s often rewarded with hugs from happy customers. This kind of emotional response is precisely what Rubel is trying to instill in each of the 600 million shoppers that visit one of his stores each year. “Some people want to teach the world to sing. We’d like to teach the world to love shoes,” said the energetic shoe visionary. “We want to inspire people to have fun with footwear.”

Rubel speaking to students
Matt Rubel joined Payless ShoeSource in 2005.

Rubel spoke to students during a recent visit to the Texas A&M campus about his mission to “democratize fashion” through reasonably priced footwear. He was the guest of Mays Business School’s Center for Retailing Studies, which recognized Rubel with the 2008 M.B. Zale Visionary Merchant Award for his efforts to reinvent the Payless brand.

In 2005, Rubel jumped from the top management spot at luxury brand Cole Haan to the same position at the opposite end of the shoe spectrum, economy chain Payless. In the three years that followed, he has given the company an extreme makeover, changing its structure, its strategy, and its image.

A major shift for the company in the last few years has been the addition of nationally recognized brands such as Dexter, Airwalk, American Eagle, and Champion. They have also nabbed up-and-coming designers such as Lela Rose, Abaeté, and Alice + Olivia right off the runway. Where once Payless specialized in private label, they now are a “house of great brands,” says Rubel.

“We’ve taken Payless and turned it into a much bigger idea. A bigger idea, not just for Payless stores, but we’ve turned it into a new company,” Rubel said, talking about creation in 2007 of Collective Brands, Inc., the holding company for Payless. Under this umbrella, Rubel has worked to reposition not just the Payless image, but also each individual brand sold in its stores.

Payless used to be focused solely on retail, but with the recent reorganization, Rubel says they are now looking at the global market through multiple channels: retail, wholesale, e-commerce, and licensing. Today, Payless has a presence in 15 countries.

Rubel on stage with shoes
“Some people want to teach the world to sing. We’d like to teach the world to love shoes,” Rubel told students.

More noticeable to consumers is the new look of Payless. Where the store once was defined by economy, sometimes to the detriment of style, Rubel’s Payless is, in a word, sexy. In the commercials Rubel showed his student audience, tanned and fit twenty-somethings danced, flirted, surfed, skated, and shopped to energetic music while displaying their designer shoes.

Rubel says the idea is to forge an emotional connection between consumers and their footwear, hence the store’s new tag line: “I love shoes,” the word love replaced with a funky, orange heart. On the Payless website, shoe-philes can be a part of a web community, posting their own conclusion to the statement, “I (heart) shoes because…” Rubel must be pleased to see the customers’ emotional responses to this prompt, such as, “they are an expression of my style and personality—and sometimes even my mood!” (Katy, Tampa); “the right pair can make you feel good,” (Angelica, Canyon Lake); and “they make me feel cute,” (Lexi, Shreveport).

Rubel’s presentation was the highlight of the Center for Retailing Study’s annual M.B. Zale Visionary Merchant Lecture Series, which this year was part of the center’s 25th anniversary celebration. The event brought senior executives from more than 20 sponsoring companies into the classroom to address business students over a two-day period.

Categories: Centers, Executive Speakers

Want to know what’s on the minds of today’s Mays students? Check out the student blogs posted each week to read about classes, relationships, and “the other education,” from the perspectives of four outstanding business students.

Spring break was a busy time for the Mays bloggers. From a service trip to Mexico, to a visit at the nation’s capital, to a relaxing week at home, they’ve chronicled their adventures for you to enjoy!

Categories: Students

“Put yourself in good places, surrounded by good people, work hard, and good things will happen.” This was the career advice Robert McBurnett ’78 had for current Aggie business students when he spoke recently to a large audience of freshman at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School as an executive guest lecturer.

McBurnett drew on experiences from an unusual career in accounting: he has spent the last 21 years working in professional sports, first with the Houston Astros and then with the Tennessee Titans. Currently he is the vice president of finance and CFO of the Titans.

McBurnett lecturing to students
Robert McBurnett ’78 has spent 21 years working in professional sports and is currently the vice president of finance and CFO of the Tennessee Titans.

McBurnett says he’s not the typical accountant. “I’m a stubborn, go against the flow, swim upstream kind of guy. I’ve never done anything normal in my life,” he told students. He says he was drawn to the field of accounting not because he was thrilled by numbers, but because he “wanted to find out what makes a business tick,” and he wanted to learn to become the person in a business making the important decisions.

He has accomplished that goal in his current position, where his responsibilities include treasury, financial reporting, budgeting and internal controls for the major NFL franchise. Prior to joining the Titans, McBurnett worked with the Houston Astros as controller, chief financial officer, and eventually vice president of finance. Before joining the sports world, McBurnett held financial positions at several Houston-based companies, beginning his accounting career with Deloitte (then called Deloitte, Haskins & Sells).

McBurnett says his current focus is planning for disaster. Though it might not strike the U.S. first, “I’m convinced a pandemic is going to happen,” he told students. And when it does, the Titans will be prepared for the consequences, if McBurnett’s plans are successful. He says he was inspired to work on these future disaster models after seeing how Hurricanes Katrina and Rita impacted the New Orleans Saints. “If there is a pandemic, they’re probably not going to let us get 60,000 people together in one place to watch a football game,” he said. That’s why he’s examining ways to keep the franchise, and the sport, alive through extreme circumstances.

His resume is filled with success, but McBurnett says some of the best opportunities he’s had during his career have come from failure. He shared with students about the lessons one can take from being fired, and reminded them that each position is an important stepping stone to the next. He also stressed the value of the “other education” as he told students that the first job he landed in professional sports was due in large part to his experience as a trainer for baseball teams in high school and college—a hobby he eventually gave up because he thought academics were more important.

McBurnett and his wife, Christy, live in Sugar Land, Texas and have two adult children, Jaclyn and Robby.

Categories: Executive Speakers, Former Students