AJ Oben

In 2008, A.J. Oben ’10 became the father of a newborn son. With his wife needing medication to help recover from a C-section, Oben was troubled by having to leave his new family to wait in line at a pharmacy. He thought there had to be a better alternative. Six years later, he is the president and CEO of GoldStar Pharmacy Group, a pharmacy with the distinctive service of home, office and hospital delivery.

Oben began his professional career at General Electric (GE) in 2003 after obtaining an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from the University of Kansas. Always a problem solver, the native of Cameroon quickly rose through the ranks at GE, eventually leading a global Fulfilment & Productivity team that generated an additional $38 million in annual sales revenue and delivered $40 million in annual productivity savings. Despite his success, Oben realized that he would never be “given the keys to the business” if he didn’t understand business. In 2007, he began exploring MBA programs across the country in hopes of acquiring the necessary skills and knowledge to advance his career. He selected the Full-Time MBA Program at Texas A&M University for several reasons, including high return on investment, strong career services, cost, the Aggie culture and available scholarship dollars.

After graduating into a declining job market in 2010, Oben once again proved his abilities and quickly achieved success with TD Bank Group; first as VP, Management Associate, Middle Market Commercial Lending and later as VP, Productivity, Strategy and Risk Leader – Deposit Operations. In addition to overseeing risk management, his team managed a department of 600 people along with an $80-million budget and five-year strategic plan. He credits much of his success to something he learned in the MBA program—the value of building relationships and unwavering integrity. “If you want to go fast, go alone,” he said. “If you want to go far, go with others.” He is guided by his faith in God, driven by his biggest role model (his Dad, James Oben) and motivated by his will to win.

Although he was in leadership positions with both GE and TD Bank Group, Oben had the desire to lead his own organization. With another promotion on the horizon, one that would require a minimum two-year commitment and relocation to the East Coast, Oben decided it was time to pursue his dream. Oben and his wife and business partner, Dr. Bessem Oben, and their two boys, J.P. (six years old) and Sean (three years old), decided to move back to College Station to start GoldStar Pharmacy. With key differentiators in cost, quality and service such as home delivery, onsite compounding of medications into alternative forms for consumption and application, and 15-minute prescription fill times, GoldStar strives to deliver one-stop shop convenience of pharmacy services for the whole family. Patients can see their doctor and go home while GoldStar delivers the meds, eliminating the extra stop and additional wait time. However, the company isn’t content to just serve College Station. Oben’s goal is to grow outside of College Station to include 10 pharmacies over the next decade. He knows that he will be able to recruit talent from the Mays Business School to help him continue to grow his company, just as he did when he was employed at TD Bank Group.

For Oben, GoldStar is not just a business venture, it’s a way for him make a difference in the lives of others and improve the health of the community. Whether it’s a lack of mobility or transportation that hinders patients from visiting a pharmacy, he wants to make sure that those in need of pharmaceuticals receive them. At times, he even delivers medications himself. Oben’s commitment to service doesn’t stop with his customers. As an alumnus of Mays, he is giving back to the program that he recognizes for so much of his success. Most recently, he engaged a group of Professional MBA students as a product champion for their Capstone Project. Oben recounted his MBA Capstone experience with Waste Management and cited two reasons why he wanted to engage current students. “I wanted to give students the opportunity to learn some of the real world lessons I learned from the Waste Management project,” he said, “but I also owe a lot to this program and wanted to give back.”

The Capstone Project will give the Mays Professional MBAs firsthand knowledge of how a new company operates, while providing GoldStar with actionable insights that will help the company grow. For Oben, it’s all about paying it forward, and that’s what makes him a GoldStar alumnus.

Categories: Mays Business, Spotlights

Chris Orth

As vice president of sales at Tidewater Marine, LLC, a leading provider of large offshore service vessels to the global energy industry, Chris Orth ’80 knows a thing or two about selling. But even though his bottom line is tied to customer-generated revenue, he has always recognized the importance of selling your organizational culture to your employees. In many ways, this is what Orth does through his volunteer efforts at the Mays Business School. Whether he is mentoring MBA students, hiring them for internships or full-time positions or serving on the MBA Advisory Board, he is committed to instilling Texas A&M’s culture and the Mays brand of leadership in the next generation of graduates.

“Because of the relatively short time our Full-Time MBA students spend in College Station, many of them don’t get a full appreciation for what it’s like to be an Aggie,” Orth said. “I feel like it’s my responsibility, as a former student, to make sure our MBAs know that living honorably, leading by example and keeping your word are just as important to your success as studying hard and making good grades.”

Orth comes by his evangelical fervor honestly. “I was born into a family of six boys with parents who were always volunteering their time to help a wide range of organizations in the Dallas and Houston communities,” Orth said. “My mother used to tell us: ‘With life’s gifts come responsibilities!’” So when it came time for Orth to select a college, Texas A&M was a natural fit, with its values of selfless sacrifice, leadership, excellence, integrity, honesty and loyalty.

During his time at College Station, Orth recalled a class with Dr. Gerry Keim as one the most influential experiences of his college career. “Here was an incredibly intelligent and accomplished person who chose to educate young men and women when he could have been making far more money doing any number of things in the business world,” he recalled. “He opened our eyes to the way things really happened in the world beyond college and made it clear to all of us that we had to be accountable for our own destiny.” In addition to the valuable lessons Orth learned in the classroom, a number of the friends he made during his time at the Mays Business School continue to be among the closest and most trusted people in his life today.

After graduating from A&M, Orth recalled living for a period of time in the “I and me” stage of life, concerned primarily about taking care of his own needs like so many recent college graduates. But the bonfire tragedy in 1999 proved to be a turning point in his life. “I was driving in my car when I heard the awful news,” he said. “I was so moved that I had to pull over to the side of the road, where I listened to the radio with a numbing heartache for the students and my school. I took my daughter, who was six years old at the time, to services for several of the students who had died. What overwhelmed me was seeing so many Aggies turning out to support the grieving families of other Aggies they didn’t even know.”

The experience served as a wake-up call to Orth, reminding him of how unique and special the Aggie culture is, and what it means to be a member of the Texas A&M family. “I am totally convinced that as former students, we have an obligation to lead by example in our communities. And when we can, we must remain actively engaged and passionately committed to working with current students to instill in them that special set of A&M values that go hand in hand with the great formal education they’re receiving.”

In the wake of the bonfire tragedy, Orth focused more intently on putting his mother’s words of wisdom into action. Even as he built a successful professional career, he made time to volunteer at Big Brothers and Big Sisters, KIPP, YES Prep, The Children’s Beginning Experience and Hospice at the Medical Center in Houston as well as at the Board of Visitors for the Texas A&M Maritime School in Galveston.

His first foray into alumni engagement happened when he came to campus to recruit MBAs for a new accelerated program that Tidewater had started to develop country managers for its worldwide operations. More than 90 percent of the company’s business takes place around the globe in places such as Nigeria, Brazil, Singapore, Mexico, Norway, Australia, the Arctic and the North Sea as well as in the United States. Since Tidewater started interviewing at Mays, the company has hired several students and it is in the final stages of endowing a scholarship for the Full-Time MBA Program with a specific focus on leadership through serving others.

“After getting to know Jim Dixey and his great staff in Graduate Business Career Services, I learned about additional ways that former students can support the school and its students, including mentoring,” Orth noted. Vibhanshu Garg ’12, who is now working for Tidewater in Dubai, was one of a number Mays students that Orth has mentored. Dixey, director of GBCS at Mays, commented on a unique aspect of Orth’s contributions to his team’s efforts. “Chris has been more than willing to provide some professional ‘tough love’ to our students and refocus them on the essentials of their career efforts,” he noted.

Orth has also served on the MBA Advisory Board since 2007, offering guidance to the Full-Time MBA Program on a number of issues, ranging from curriculum and career services to alumni engagement.

“As with all charity work, the irony of volunteering at Mays is that I receive far more benefit than I give,” Orth stated. “Every time I interact with a student or staff member, my batteries get recharged, and I’m reminded of why I started down the professional path I’ve chosen. It is truly a privilege to help develop the Aggie leaders of tomorrow, and I cannot wait to see the impact they will make in both their local communities and on the world stage in the years to come.”

Categories: Mays Business, Spotlights

Jim Stolarski

In 2014, Amy W. ’83 and James “Jim” R. Stolarski ’83 made a $100,000 gift to Mays Business School to endow a scholarship for students in the school’s MBA programs. The generous investment in the future of Mays represented the latest act in Jim Stolarski’s long history of alumni engagement and selfless service to the school.

In 1983, Stolarski graduated from Mays with a BBA in finance. During the next 27 years, he built a successful career at Accenture (beginning at Arthur Andersen & Co., from which the consulting part of the firm became Accenture), where he became a partner in 1999. In 2011, he retired from Accenture and later began providing consulting services as founding principal at Nextesse LLC.

Since graduating from Mays, Stolarski has spent more than 30 years consulting with clients on everything from business strategy and operations reengineering to mergers and acquisitions—and he attributes much of that success to the skills he developed as a student of Mays. “I built a strong foundation in financial analysis and accounting, learned how to really understand corporate financial statements and gained a serious appreciation for the details,” he said. “I also learned that doing the ‘extra credit’ homework is always really important if you want to succeed in competitive environments.”

Stolarski also expressed appreciation for the softer skills he acquired at Mays, such as learning to develop a professional network, as well as the lifelong friendships he began to forge while in school. “A&M was all about character and what we now refer to as ‘core values,’ but it just wasn’t as out in front as it is today,” he recalled. “Your character is your currency and if trust is ever lost, it is extremely difficult to regain.”

Since his first recruiting trip with Arthur Anderson & Co. in 1985, the skills, knowledge and values Stolarski learned at Texas A&M have compelled him to stay engaged with his alma mater. He has served as a guest speaker for current students on several occasions, including a making a presentation to graduate management students in 2012 as part of the Dean’s Distinguished Executive Speaker Series. He also serves as president of the Northern Nevada A&M Club, and is a member of the Dean’s Development Council for the George Bush School of Government and Public Service.

Today, Stolarski focuses most of his alumni energies with the Full-Time MBA program, serving as chair of the MBA Advisory Board. He travels to College Station from his Nevada residence several times per year to meet with the board and Full-Time MBA Director Patti Urbina. “Jim tirelessly promotes the development of the board and has overseen the introduction of a number of networking events to promote mentoring and address content needs of the students in areas such as sales skills, choosing a career or changing careers,” Urbina said. “He makes a point of giving his business card to each student he meets, and invites them to email or call him.”

Stolarski and his wife had been planning to make a major gift to Mays for some time; but it was the announcement of Former Dean Jerry Strawser’s departure to become CFO of Texas A&M that provided the final impetus for the Amy W. ’83 and James R. Stolarski ’83 Endowed MBA Scholarship. “Jerry did so much for Mays during his tenure as dean, and we wanted to honor him for that, especially since he’s a fellow member of the Class of 1983,” Stolarski said.

While Stolarski earned his BBA from Texas A&M, he explained his interest in and devotion to the school’s fulltime MBA program. “MBA programs are the flagships of nearly every university with a business school,” he said. “As goes the reputation of the MBA program, so goes the reputation of nearly all of a university’s business programs, deserved or not. That’s why I chose to rejoin the MBA Alumni Advisory Board when I found myself with the capacity to do so.”

For Stolarski, serving on the board is about more than writing a check, it’s about giving back in a personal manner, having the opportunity to mentor students, to build relationships and help the leadership achieve their mission. His return on this investment of time comes in the form of lasting friendships he has developed and his sense of staying connected to the university.

Stolarski offered some advice to fellow Mays alumni who are considering getting involved in the life of the school: “Pick up the phone and call somebody; a professor, an administrator, or the dean. That’s how I ended up back on the MBA Advisory Board. The opportunities for alumni to engage directly at A&M are many and widely varied.”

Categories: Mays Business, Spotlights