September, 2012 | Mays Impacts

Rafael Alvarez ’90 says he is on a crusade to prove a successful business can also have a social purpose. He was recognized for those efforts Thursday when he was given the Entrepreneurial Leadership Award by the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship at Mays Business School.

In his previous career, Alvarez was a corporate strategist. He used those skills 10 years ago to start Genesys Works, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that helps inner-city high school students land internships in the corporate world. This year, 800 students were served in Houston, the Bay Area, Chicago and the Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Rafael Alvarez '90
Rafael Alvarez ’90

“Being in a nonprofit is not just doing social work, though that is an important aspect of it. It is also helping the less fortunate by helping them find opportunities in thriving corporations,” Alvarez explains. “It is something that can making a lasting impression on a young person and that will change lives for generations afterward.”

The Entrepreneurial Leadership Award honors a business leader who has been instrumental in the establishment and growth of a successful new venture — either a start-up or an entrepreneurial effort within an existing company.

While the primary purpose of the award is to honor a successful entrepreneur, the secondary purpose is to give students and faculty an opportunity to interact with and learn from the honoree. In addition to being honored at an awards ceremony, recipients speak to classes and host smaller roundtable discussion sessions while on campus.

Alvarez gave a lecture in the Ray Auditorium of the Wehner Building, then spoke at a luncheon in his honor. In the afternoon, he attended a roundtable with several students.

“There is a still a long way to go before my vision of Genesys Works comes true, but I take this award as a sign that I am truly on the right path,” Alvarez said before calling his wife Stephanie to the front of the room to join him in raising the glass statue. “She is the unsung hero who stays in the background. This is your award as much as it is mine.”

Genesys Works enables high school students to work in meaningful internships during their senior year in high school at major corporations where they discover that they can succeed as professionals in the corporate world.

Genesys Works’ innovative model has received wide recognition across the globe. Earlier this year, Forbes Magazine named Alvarez to the publication’s inaugural “Impact 30” list of the world’s top social entrepreneurs. When President Obama launched the White House Office of Social Innovation, Genesys Works was profiled as an example of social innovation that should be replicated across America. Alvarez has spoken about the Genesys Works model across the U.S. at universities, including Harvard and Rice, and has been the guest of government and educational leaders in Ireland to discuss solutions to some of the world’s most pressing issues.

The Entrepreneurial Leadership Award, established at Mays in 2000, is named after the former president and chair of Conn Appliances, Inc. Carroll, Jr. and Dorothy Conn have made lasting contributions in the business and civic worlds, including support for the Conn Award through an endowment. The award honors those entrepreneurs who have the courage and the vision to launch companies that make a lasting impact on their communities and among their employees.

Past winners include L. Lowry Mays ’57 of Clear Channel Communications, Erle Nye ’89 of TXU, Pizza Hut co-founder Frank L. Carney, Administaff co-founder Paul J. Sarvadi and Jason’s Deli founder Joe Tortorice ’70.

The mission of the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship is to provide education and assistance to entrepreneurs and Texas A&M students and faculty.

Categories: Executive Speakers, Former Students

Three men who personify the mission of Mays Business School were honored at a dinner that celebrated their contributions: Craig C. Brown ’75, Jeffrey A. Miller ’88 and Craig R. McMahen ’89.

(L to R) 2012 Mays Outstanding Alumni Award honorees Jeffrey A. Miller '88, Craig C. Brown '75 and Craig R. McMahen '89
(L to R) 2012 Mays Outstanding Alumni Award honorees Jeffrey A. Miller ’88, Craig C. Brown ’75 and Craig R. McMahen ’89 (view more photos)

Mays Dean Jerry Strawser called the recipients role models. “Living the Mays mission of creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society is simple to say, but difficult to do,” he said. “Tonight, we are honoring three men who do that every day.”

Texas A&M University President R. Bowen Loftin echoed Strawser’s congratulations, saying the honorees “have impacted their places of employment very deeply.” He said Mays graduates have helped build the brand of Texas A&M. “The graduates of schools like this are prepared to make a difference the first day on the job. They don’t need special favors, they just get to work.”

CRAIG C. BROWN ’75

Brown credits his parents with instilling in him the qualities that have led to his position as president and CEO of Bray International, Inc., a Houston-based global control valve company and actuator manufacturer.

Craig C. Brown '75
Craig C. Brown ’75

He says his parents and his younger brother taught him to live life to the fullest. His mother passed away when he was 21, and his father lived for 19 years as a dialysis patient — at the time of his death, the longest survivor on a dialysis machine of anyone in the United States.

Brown says he defines success this way: “It’s not what you take with you, but what you leave behind that counts.”

He also mentioned the teachers who taught him along the way, saying they all had one common trait: They showed him respect.

Brown says he chose to attend Texas A&M because the spirit and values were similar to what he learned from his family. He received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and an MBA from Texas A&M. He served in the Corps of Cadets, lettered in track and served on the Ross Volunteers and Engineering Student Council. He received a President’s Endowed Scholarship, was a recipient of the College of Engineering Faculty Outstanding Senior Award, and graduated with a 4.0 grade point average.

At the awards banquet, Brown lauded Mays’ recent rise in undergraduate program rankings among both overall and among public universities in the 2013 U.S. News & World Report. He noted the 12-place jump among public schools — the largest of any school included in the rankings — as well as the advancement to 24th from 36th overall. “I sense a horse race, and Mays Business School is Secretariat and Sea Biscuit rolled into one.”

He is also chairman of the board of the Craig and Galen Brown Foundation — named for Brown and his father — which was created in 1988 to provide scholarships to deserving students and to support educational and medical organizations. In 1984, Craig was awarded the Outstanding Young Houstonian by the Houston Junior Chamber of Commerce. In 2006, he was chosen the Outstanding Alumni for the College of Engineering at Texas A&M.

CRAIG R. MCMAHEN ’89

Craig R. McMahen '89
Craig R. McMahen ’89

The dreams of Mays students to work in investment banking have become realities thanks to McMahen, whose firm has hired and trained numerous Aggies over the years. After identifying the need from his own experience, he helped create the Aggies on Wall Street program — a highly selective program designed for exceptional students to receive a broad overview of the high finance world, as well as opportunities to network with former students who are working in the industry and obtain critical knowledge and skills needed to launch a finance career. McMahen has since supported the program in various ways, including underwriting dinners and events.

“It is extremely rewarding to work with these students, seeing the gleam in their eyes and the fire in their bellies,” he says.

Craig is a managing director in the Investment Banking Department of Keefe, Bruyette and Woods, Inc. — a New York Stock Exchange listed, full-service investment bank that specializes exclusively in the financial services sector.

Craig specializes in the commercial banking industry and his current responsibilities involve mergers and acquisitions, capital raising (including initial public offerings), follow-on equity offerings, recapitalizations and debt for banks in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. He is also a member of KBW’s Capital Commitment Committee.

Craig joined KBW in 1989 after receiving a bachelor’s degree in finance from Texas A&M. He has remained active throughout his professional career with Mays and interacts regularly with its students.

He has been on the Advisory Board of the Department of Finance for 10 years and endowed the Craig R. McMahen Fund for Excellence in Teaching and Research.

JEFFREY A. MILLER ’88

Miller has sought roles throughout his business career that allow contribution through leadership, insight and analysis, building and improving business, making important changes to organizations and developing staff. He enjoys working with organizations that want to change the way they do business.

Jeffrey A. Miller '88
Jeffrey A. Miller ’88

His celebration of his award was amplified when he received a promotion a few hours before the banquet to Chief Operating Officer of Halliburton. He had started that day in his previous role — as the company’s vice president of global business and development. From his base in Dubai, he oversaw strategic account management, sales, marketing, commercialization, global business and technical solutions for Halliburton.

He began his career with Halliburton in 1997 as director of financial reporting and says he and his wife consider the company “extended family.”

Before joining Halliburton, Miller worked for Arthur Andersen LLP for eight years. He received a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and business from McNeese State University and an MBA from Texas A&M University. He is a certified public accountant and a member of the Texas A&M University Look College of Engineering Advisory Board.

He says his wife supported his master’s degree with her job as an assistant to the student government president. “Her “Aggieology’ is exceptional,” he says. Their son is a freshman in Texas A&M’s Corps of Cadets, which he says shows the ultimate level of commitment: “I am trusting my own child to the place I love.”

Categories: Featured Stories, Former Students

“Today, I want to tell you what’s involved in building a great company,” Arch “Beaver” Aplin ’80 told a group of Business Honors students in a recent visit to Mays Business School. No stranger to Texas A&M University, the Buc-ee’s founder offers nuggets of wisdom each time he visits—this time, divulging principles that he has used to build the Buc-ee’s empire.

  1. Develop brand recognition— A strong brand establishes trust, says Aplin. The friendly bucktoothed beaver of Buc-ee’s has come to represent an “emotional connection” for customers, and loyal patrons of the convenience store chain associate the character with Aplin’s long-standing goal of maintaining a “clean, friendly and in-stock” store.”If customers trust the Buc-ee’s brand, I can introduce them to things like Beaver Nuggets, camo popcorn and other Buc-ee’s branded products,” Aplin says.

  2. “No one starts at the top,” Buc-ee’s founder Arch Aplin ’80 told students. “You must start at the bottom to build a great company, then a great brand.” (view more photos)

  3. Don’t focus on the size of the company — “No one starts at the top. You must start at the bottom to build a great company, then a great brand,” Aplin tells students, using the example of Sam Walton’s story of Walmart to describe the effectiveness of starting small and differentiating oneself before expanding. Recalling his own experience, Aplin tells students he had no idea his small convenience store in Lake Jackson, Texas would evolve into what Buc-ee’s is today.
  4. Focus and consistency — According to Aplin, most great companies never had a “wow” moment or specific event that propelled them to recognition. Using the example of the “Flywheel Effect” from Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, Aplin describes that great companies are built from a collective series of small, yet strong, efforts. Each miniscule “push” contributes to the momentum of the spinning flywheel.”It’s more fun to talk about all the possibilities of the company and go off on tangents,” Aplin says, “but I always have to go back and ask myself, “Does this keep my flywheel spinning?'”
  5. Exceed customers’ expectations — This is the mantra Aplin has devoted his business to. “We have marketing people in this room and we have finance people … But it doesn’t matter what field you go into, exceed customers’ expectations.” Aplin advises entrepreneurial students to “find a reason to be better than mediocre,” and once they’ve done this, they’ll expand their business’ radius of influence.
  6. “Take care of your goose” — The goose, Aplin says, is one’s assets and capital. “Maintain your balance sheet so you can react when something good happens and survive when something bad happens,” he advises students.

A proud Aggie, Aplin pulled out a recent article for the students to read. Written by a Florida Gators fan in his visit to College Station for a football game, Aplin says the article identifies a key point of Texas A&M’s values —”Genuine friendliness and hospitality. It was pervasive and natural. It was culture.” The Buc-ee’s head honcho says he goes back to this whenever he is sitting in stressful, sometimes frustrating meetings. “I have to remember — I’ve gotta stay Beaver, I’ve gotta stay Buc-ee’s, I’ve gotta stay Aggie and I’ve gotta stay who I am.”

Categories: Executive Speakers, Former Students

The Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship, housed in Texas A&M’s Mays Business School, will honor Genesys Works Founder and CEO Rafael Alvarez ’90, on Thursday for the success and vision it took to launch Genesys Works, a non-profit corporation that changes the life trajectory of underprivileged high school students. Alvarez is the winner of the Entrepreneurial Leadership Award, which he will collect this week in a visit to the Texas A&M campus.

The award honors a business leader that has been instrumental in the establishment and growth of a successful new venture. A “new venture” may be a start-up or an entrepreneurial effort within an existing company.

Rafael Alvarez '90
Rafael Alvarez ’90

“For a proud Aggie like myself, there are few things more gratifying than being honored by your alma mater,” said Alvarez. “But what is especially gratifying, is the fact that Texas A&M recognizes and values companies like Genesys Works, that are making a real difference in our education system and fundamentally changing communities in this country for the better.”

Thursday’s program will begin with a presentation and lecture by Alvarez at 9:30 a.m. in the Ray Auditorium of the Wehner Building at Texas A&M.

While the primary purpose of the award is to honor a successful entrepreneur, the secondary purpose is to give students and faculty an opportunity to interact with and learn from the honoree. In addition to being honored at an awards ceremony, recipients speak to classes and host smaller roundtable discussion sessions while on campus. Local business community leaders often join in, adding to the real-world flavor of the event.
Genesys Works enables high school students to work in meaningful internships, during their senior year in high school, at major corporations where they discover that they can indeed succeed as professionals in the corporate world.

Genesys Works’ innovative model has received wide recognition across the globe. Earlier this year, Forbes Magazine named Alvarez to the publication’s inaugural “Impact 30” list of the world’s top social entrepreneurs. When President Obama launched the White House Office of Social Innovation, Genesys Works was profiled as an example of social innovation that should be replicated across America. Alvarez has spoken about the Genesys Works model across the U.S. at universities, including Harvard and Rice, and has been the guest of government and educational leaders in Ireland to discuss solutions to some of the world’s most pressing issues.

The Entrepreneurial Leadership Award, established in 2000, is named after the former president and chair of Conn Appliances, Inc. Carroll, Jr. and Dorothy Conn have made lasting contributions in the business and civic worlds, including support for the Conn Award through an endowment. The award honors those entrepreneurs who have the courage and the vision to launch companies that make a lasting impact on their communities and among their employees.

Past winners include L. Lowry Mays ’57 of Clear Channel Communications, Erle Nye ’89 of TXU, Pizza Hut co-founder Frank L. Carney, Administaff co-founder Paul J. Sarvadi and Jason’s Deli founder Joe Tortorice ’70.

About Genesys Works

Genesys Works, established in Houston in 2002, and now with locations in the Bay Area, Chicago and the Minneapolis/St. Paul, is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that engages inner-city high school students to break through barriers and discover through meaningful internship experiences that they can succeed as professionals in the corporate world.

About the Entrepreneurial Leadership Award

The award is presented each year by the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship, whose mission is to provide education and assistance to entrepreneurs and Texas A&M students and faculty. To learn more about the center’s efforts and programs, visit cnve.tamu.edu.

Categories: Centers, Executive Speakers, Former Students

As Stephanie Anderson ’89 and Bob Manz spoke with Business Honors students in a recent lecture and luncheon, a prevalent thought was evident in the students’ attentive eyes—”They have the coolest job ever.”

Anderson (Managing Director) and Manz (Director) work for AlixPartners, a global consulting firm that specializes in turnaround management. The two work in the forensic accounting sector, and Anderson admits that they often feel “like spies on a mission” with many of their job duties.


AlixPartners Managing Director Stephanie Anderson ’89 told students that employee fraud often starts out on a small scale. “But eventually, their perception of right and wrong swings farther and farther away from our perception of right and wrong.” (view more photos)

Anderson and Manz used a recent case their team handled as an example of what forensic accounting entails, describing the process as the “anatomy of a covert investigation.”

“The beginning of the process is pretty quick,” says Manz. “We get a phone call from the whistleblower, the allegations are presented, and we make immediate decisions on the next course of action.”

Anderson and Manz said after this first spark of a potential case, the team sifts through the allegation details—examining the credibility of the company’s whistleblower and separating allegations that are “just noise” (inappropriate office relationships, bitterness towards management, etc.) from claims that are based on monetary fraud. As soon as Anderson’s team has probable cause of improper use of company resources, an office raid is conducted.

“Bob was the leader of the SWAT team,” Anderson jokes of Manz. Manz explained that in their recent case, he led a team of data collectors, IT specialists and even a locksmith to legally break into the company’s office one weekend and comb through electronic and paper documents. The team worked for more than 48 hours straight, collecting data and meticulously putting the office back to exactly how the employees had left it.

After the office raid is complete, the AlixPartners team members prepare the evidence for review, conduct interviews with the involved parties and present their findings to the auditors and lawyers.

With more than 20 years of experience in forensic accounting, Anderson says she has seen a common theme in employee fraud— it starts small. “It’s just a little shift in their moral compass. But eventually, their perception of right and wrong swings farther and farther away from our perception of right and wrong.”

Anderson received her undergraduate in accounting from Texas State University before earning her MBA in business management from Texas A&M University in 1989. Prior to joining AlixPartners, Anderson held positions at Arthur Andersen and PricewaterhouseCoopers, working in countries such as Kuwait, Mexico and Russia. Manz , received an accounting degree from “that other school,” as Anderson describes it: the University of Texas at Austin.

Despite their accounting backgrounds, Anderson and Manz echoed many Mays business professors when they told the Business Honors students that they’ve got to learn sales, regardless of their major. “I never wanted to go into sales,” Anderson says, “But the further and further you climb up the ladder in a company, the more you have to learn how to sell your products or services in order to drive revenue.” …Even in a forensic accounting firm.

Categories: Executive Speakers, Former Students

“More value, lower price”—While the phrase may sound like a gimmicky slogan used by companies to lure you in their store, it’s actually the profound and substantial mantra of Vijay Govindarajan’s revolutionary concept, “reverse innovation.”

Dartmouth's Vijay Govindarajan spoke about his concept of
Dartmouth’s Vijay Govindarajan spoke about his concept of “reverse innovation” during the 2012 Dean’s Distinguished Scholar Lecture Series. (view more photos)

Govindarajan, widely known as VG, spoke at Mays Business School as a part of the 2012 Dean’s Distinguished Scholar Lecture Series. Dean Jerry Strawser states the purpose of the series is “to bring speakers here to change the way we think and look at business”—and VG is the world’s trailblazer of disruptive thinking.

Currently the Earl C. Daum 1924 Professor of International Business and the Founding Director of the Center for Global Leadership at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, VG has come a long way from his humble beginnings in a poor family and small village in India. He is the 2008 Professor-in-Residence and Chief Innovation Consultant for General Electric, and has worked with 25 percent of the Fortune 500 corporations including: Boeing, Coca-Cola, Colgate, Deere, FedEx, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, J.P. Morgan Chase, Johnson & Johnson, New York Times, Procter & Gamble, Sony and Wal-Mart as a strategy coach. In addition, the innovation maven has a portfolio of prestigious accolades, including a ranking of #3 on the Thinkers 50 list of the world’s most influential business thinkers.

VG has published several award-winning books on strategy and innovation, his most recent being the New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling book, Reverse Innovation. In his lecture, VG described the avant-garde concept of “reverse innovation” as “innovating in poor countries and selling in rich,” unpacking the idea with several thought-provoking examples.

“In America,” VG says, “an ECG machine costs about $25,000. How can rural India afford this?” He explained that GE recently set out to create a more efficient, $500 portable ECG machine that cost five cents a scan, “conquering rural India.” VG discussed other examples of innovating for the poor, including an Indian hospital that reduced the cost of open-heart surgery from $50,000 to $2,000, increasing the quality of the procedures by “mass-producing heart surgery” and allowing surgeons to specialize in specific operations. VG also used the example of Thailand’s Dr. J, who developed a more durable $30 (versus the U.S. average cost of $20,000) artificial leg made from recycled plastic yogurt containers. “Amputee technicians approached the job with passion, not as work,” VG says.

Vijay Govindarajan (left) and Mays Dean Jerry Strawser
Vijay Govindarajan (left) and Mays Dean Jerry Strawser (view more photos)

VG’s examples all point back to his original idea — companies must develop products with “a lot more value, at a lot lower cost.” If companies were to adopt this idea, VG says, they would tap into new, much more populated markets of poor, yet fully capable and intelligent people. “Not even Apple can deny the billions of dollars in sales from creating a $10 iPod Nano and selling it to the millions in poorer countries.

VG took the concept of reverse innovation and applied it to housing. “A house should be a human right,” he says. He developed the idea of a “$300 house”—a house for the poor and homeless that cost $300, including labor and materials to build it. What started as a brief blog post for Harvard Business School, the idea of a $300 house has expanded into its own website and has picked up followers from around the world. Passionate people have submitted numerous plans for the house concept and multiple influential leaders and businesses endorse the idea.

According to VG, poor people have the same desires and needs as the rich, “So why can’t they have access to the same things?” The “American dominant logic” in poorer markets is no longer working, Govindarajan says, and reverse innovation is no longer optional for American companies. “It’s no longer, “What can America create for these countries?’ The new question is, “How can India help you?'”

Categories: Executive Speakers, Featured Stories

One of the core values of Texas A&M University is that of selfless service. John and Mary Jane Vandegrift have established an endowed scholarship to honor their son, 1st Lt. Matthew Vandegrift ’03, who exhibited the ultimate ask of selfless service while serving his country in the military. Just four days after turning 28 in 2008, he was killed while conducting combat operations in Basrah, Iraq.

1st Lt. Matthew Vandegrift '03
1st Lt. Matthew Vandegrift ’03

Matthew was a Marine who had been stationed in Iraq since 2007 and was part of a team responsible for training Iraqi security forces. His decorations include the Purple Heart, the Iraqi Campaign Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the National Defense Medal.

The 1st Lt. Matthew R. Vandegrift’ 03 Business Honors Scholarship will support a student from his hometown of Austin who is graduating from the high school named in his honor. Recipients of the scholarships will be graduating seniors from Vandegrift High School who are accepted to Mays Business School’s Business Honors Program.

Matthew’s father says he was a proud Aggie. He served in the Marines ROTC outfit H-1 Raiders at Texas A&M University and graduated summa cum laude with a degree in international business. “He had a great time and was proud to have gone there,” he recalls. “He was an excellent individual who I would have thought highly of even if he weren’t my son.”

“Matthew Vandegrift is an outstanding role model for our current students,” said Mays Dean Jerry Strawser. “Through this scholarship, Matthew’s service to our country and leadership will be a visible example to our students for many years to come. We feel fortunate that we can honor his life in this way.”

In September 2012, the Capital City A&M Club hosted the Matthew Vandegrift Memorial Scholarship Golf Tournament to raise funds for the scholarship. The Center for Executive Development at Mays will match up to $50,000 in funds to endow this scholarship.

About Mays Business School

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,000 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. Its mission is to create knowledge and develop ethical leaders for a global society.

Categories: Donors Corner, Former Students

Mays Business School at Texas A&M University moved up significantly both overall and among public universities in the 2013 U.S. News & World Report undergraduate program rankings, moving up to 14th from 22nd among public schools and to 24th from 36th overall. This 12-place jump represents the largest move of any school included in both years of rankings.

In the business specialty rankings, the management program at Mays ranked 9th among public schools and tied for 15th overall.

“We are obviously pleased with our movement forward in the recent U.S. News rankings,” said Mays Dean Jerry Strawser. “To be recognized among the top business schools in the country is an honor, and reflects the high quality of our students and faculty and the success of our students upon graduation.”

The undergraduate business program rankings are based on a survey of deans and senior faculty at each business school accredited by the AACSB.

Categories: Departments, Featured Stories, Programs

Mays Business School is hosting Vijay Govindarajan on Friday as a part of the Dean’s Distinguished Scholar Lecture Series.

The event, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. to noon in Ray Auditorium in the Wehner Building, is open to the public.

Dartmouth's Vijay Govindarajan will speak at Mays this Friday as a part of the Dean's Distinguished Scholar Lecture Series.
Dartmouth’s Vijay Govindarajan will speak at Mays this Friday as a part of the Dean’s Distinguished Scholar Lecture Series.

Govindarajan is the Earl C. Daum 1924 Professor of International Business at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business and the founding director of Tuck’s Center for Global Leadership.

Govindarajan has been ranked #3 on the Thinkers 50 list of the world’s most influential business thinkers and is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading experts on strategy and innovation. Govindarajan’s recent New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling book, Reverse Innovation, examines innovation within the scope of rapidly changing markets and globalization.

Govindarajan has been identified as a leading management thinker by influential publications including: Outstanding Faculty, named by Bloomberg Businessweek in its Guide to Best B-Schools; Top Ten Business School Professor in Corporate Executive Education, named by Bloomberg Businessweek; Top Five Most Respected Executive Coach on Strategy, rated by Forbes; Top 50 Management Thinker, named by The London Times; Rising Super Star, cited by The Economist; and Outstanding Teacher of the Year, voted by MBA students at Dartmouth.

Categories: Executive Speakers

Fresh out of eye surgery and driving 1,600 miles to College Station, Texas, Willie T. Langston II ’81 says he wouldn’t have missed talking to Mays Business School Business Honors students for the world. With an instant charisma that lights up a room, Langston shared wisdom on a topic that hit close to home: vision.

“How much vision do you need to have during the interview process?” Langston asked the students. “What do you have to know about what you want to do when you’re sitting in that interview chair?”


“Be humble enough to admit that at 21, 22, or 23 years old you don’t have absolute certainty about what it is that you want to do for the rest of your life,” Avalon Advisors co-founder Willie T. Langston II ’81 told Business Honors students during a recent visit. (view more photos)

Graduating with an accounting degree from Texas A&M University and an MBA from Stanford, Langston says he didn’t have his career path nailed down before interviewing in the business arena. He took a job in public accounting after graduating, and says that although it wasn’t his dream job, he quickly learned that didn’t mean it wasn’t the right job. “For me it was boring, I was no good at doing it, and it was still one of the best career decisions that I could have made,” he says. Langston claims his two years in public accounting taught him how to be organized and structured – two skills that propelled him to later success at companies such as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and his own company he co-founded in 2001, Avalon Advisors.

Langston claims that landing the “right job,” rather than the dream job, hinges on approaching the job search with an open, truthful frame of mind.

“Be humble enough to admit that at 21, 22, or 23 years old you don’t have absolute certainty about what it is that you want to do for the rest of your life,” the Palestine, Texas native told students about sitting in an interview chair. He explained that too many college graduates are programmed to believe they should know every detail about a job, even when they’ve never worked the position. “Truth is right, but truth requires preparation,” Langston adds, encouraging students to thoroughly learn their DNA and what they want out of their careers. “Press yourself to be more prepared than your peers so that you can be fully truthful and allow truth to fully work for you; leading you to the job that you should have, not could have.”

Langston also spoke to the students about maintaining the right mindset after getting the job. Referencing a recent sermon by Gregg Matte ’92, Langston says, “Perspective determines priorities, which dictate practice. … For example, my family means more to me than my career,” he says, “and that perspective determines my priorities and practice.” Langston also cautions the students on trying to maintain a perspective in a company that cultivates a contrasting one. “Trust me, at 22 and the low person on the totem pole, it is far more likely that your firm influences your priorities than you’re shifting its culture,” he says.

Langston is the first in a series of speakers who will come talk to the Business Honors students, and he was quick to commend the Aggies on their obvious hard work. He closed with Luke 12:48: “To whom much is given, much is required” – a challenge for the students to maximize the rich knowledge they’ve received at Texas A&M.

Categories: Executive Speakers, Former Students