Fisher’s Philanthropic Voices - Putting Students First
Fisher’s nationally-renowned reputation is nurtured thanks to the college’s diverse philanthropic “voices.” These successful leaders serve as trusted voices inside the college. Their financial support and influence often help to attract top researchers and teaching talent. Their commitment to the university’s Students First, Students Now initiative ensures that Fisher’s focus and priorities remain student-centered.
Dean’s Advisory Council member Christopher M. Connor, chairman and CEO of Cleveland-based Sherwin-Williams Co., is one such voice.
Connor has funded the Undergraduate Cohort Pilot Program, targeted at pre-business majors in their sophomore year. The program allows smaller student groups to get more one-on-one attention from some of Fisher’s leading professors, yet they also remain grounded in traditional classroom experiences.
“I am amazed at the young men and women at Fisher who are being selected to participate in these programs,” says the Ohio State alumnus. “I would say these kids are the rock stars of college today.”
Two groups of 40 students completed the program in the 2008-09 academic year. Based on the program’s success, the college is now considering ways of making this type of personalized student experience a featured part of Fisher’s undergraduate program.
Connor’s interaction with Fisher students only reinforces his belief in their talent and bright career prospects. “It’s clear that you are speaking to an incredibly bright student who is going to be remarkably successful. Most of us are just hopeful we can get them to join our company after we meet them.”
For Connor, helping students and the college comes natural. All three of his children are graduates or currently attend Ohio State.
Family ties to Fisher also run deep for New Jersey-based real estate executive Charles Klatskin, managing director of Jones Lang LaSalle. He and wife Lynne funded the college’s first real estate and finance chair honoring their son, Neil M. Klatskin, a 1982 Ohio State business graduate who died in 1989 of pancreatic cancer.
“We wanted to set something up that would live a long time. That’s why we chose this particular chair. Our son was special and he got unlucky,” says Klatskin of his reason for his latest gift to the college. “I think he would be very appreciative (of our efforts to build a legacy in his memory). He loved the university.”
The family previously established a scholarship in real estate in memory of their son and a student lounge in the undergraduate building was named in his honor.
Lorraine Guzman, MBA 2009 and Klatskin Scholarship recipient, is one of many Fisher students who have benefitted from the generosity of donors like Klatskin over the years. “Without the help of the Klatskin scholarship, I would not have been able to afford the opportunity to expand my Fisher education beyond the classroom and get a first hand feel of how truly global business is today.”
Klatskin hopes through their educational experiences at Fisher, students become “first class, successful citizens.” He says the early benefactors of the college, including the college’s namesake, Max Fisher, can serve as role models to emulate.
He enjoys mixing with MBA students and teaching them the finer points of business networking etiquette at his annual wine tasting event hosted on Fisher’s campus. At those events, Klatskin emphasizes to students that public speaking is essential, especially when they join the business world, regardless of whether they are before large groups or in small settings like a board meeting.
Servant leadership is a concept valued by Columbus, Ohio, executive Ed Overmyer and wife Mary Jane, two philanthropic voices who helped fund Fisher MBA Fellowships, the Dean’s Leadership Conference, and efforts to recruit and retain key faculty. Their latest gift establishes a Dean’s Innovation Fund that will support strategic projects at the college.
“It is important that this is non-budget money and allows the dean to have a little more financial freedom and flexibility to take advantage of timing,” explains Overmyer, who has met Dean Poon, and envisions the fund enabling her to implement special projects to accomplish key strategic objectives at the college.
“Fisher needs to focus on developing leaders who teach people how to reach their potential through learning,” he says, explaining that leaders inspire other leaders who help others reach their potential. “Good leaders are also servants who serve the business and the people they lead,” he says.
Meeting with students through his role on the Dean’s Advisory Council, Overmyer has found them inquisitive, articulate, and confident. “They have a desire to learn from other leaders. I think there’s always going to be a need for educated, bright young people who want to work hard, and want to apply their abilities,” he concludes.