June 5, 2012

Fisher alum receives Nationwide's Volunteer of the Year award


After Nathan Hurd lost Will, his two-month-old son to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), he never imagined that utilizing his Fisher education would help his family cope with their monumental grief. 

However, Hurd found himself falling back on entrepreneurial skills he gained at Fisher to navigate the lengthy and difficult process of establishing a charitable organization that now bears his son’s name, Baby Will (BabyWill.org). Within hours after Will’s funeral, Hurd, his wife Michelle and other family members came up with the idea to start a charity that would help local families and support SIDS research.

“I never expected to use my entrepreneurship experience in this way,” said Hurd, sitting in a conference room at Nationwide, where he works as a senior consultant in marketing management. “It’s beyond belief what you have to go through to establish a 501 (C) 3 (the legal-name for a charity); I found it multiple times more difficult than starting a for-profit business.”

Baby Will, now in its third year, is a thriving organization that raises money to help local families and to support SIDS-related research.  The success of the organization led Nationwide to name Hurd the company’s “On Your Side Volunteer Network” 2012 Volunteer of the Year.

“When friends at Nationwide reached out to me to tell me that he was being recognized with the Volunteer of the Year of Award, my response was: 'I am happy for him, but I am not surprised,’” said Rich Langdale, founder of NCT Ventures, who helped launch the Center for Entrepreneurship at Fisher. “When I met Nathan Hurd 10 years ago as a student at Ohio State, it was obvious he was going to do exceptional things.”

Hurd struggled tremendously with grief and the feeling that he could not function. Yet he would not allow the family’s bereavement and the complexity of establishing Baby Will to hinder the effort.  In fact, all the hard work proved to be a source of solace and healing.

“I think in the beginning our charity was a welcomed distraction, but as we progressed it has helped us find meaning in why this might have happened,” Hurd said.  “The more we learned, the more we believed we could help others. We became passionate about what we were doing, which definitely kept us going and gave us strength and hope for the future.”

Through annual Golf Outings and SIDS 5k races, the charity has raised over $40,000 since its founding in 2010.  More than 500 people participated and volunteered in last year’s SIDS Awareness 5K, drawing runners and walkers from all over central Ohio, and donations from all over the country. Baby Will awarded its first research grant to SIDS researcher and physician Dr. Hannah Kinney at Boston Children’s Hospital. The hospital has a research laboratory in partnership with Harvard Medical School.

This year’s SIDS 5K will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday, July 28 in downtown Columbus, Ohio at Geona Park on the riverfront right in front of COSI. Registration for the event is now open at www.babywill.org/5k.

Even during the charity’s developmental stage to this year's award from Nationwide, Hurd says Baby Will received support from the Fisher community each step of the way. “This charity and recognition would not have happened without the support of my network from Fisher,” Hurd said. “When we first started, Professor Judy Tansky’s social entrepreneurship and honors undergrad classes took on our start up as a class project offering amazing strategic advice.” 

Fisher MBA classmates provided assistance, including Matt Eisenacher, a founding board member of Baby Will, who played a critical role in getting the charity off the ground. He credits his co-workers, among them two Fisher MBA alums, Ryan Stalzer and Jon Yoon, for his nomination.

The recognition Hurd received at Nationwide, where he has worked for six years, wasn’t the first time he has been the recipient of accolades and honors. During his Fisher years as both an undergraduate and MBA student, Hurd was a standout. As an undergraduate in the marketing program, Hurd founded the Business Builder’s Club and served as the organization’s first president. Ohio State also featured him in “Do Something Great.

He was a recipient of a Pace Setter award, as well as one of fifteen from a graduating class of 6,250 recognized with the Ohio State President’s Most Distinguished Senior award. As an MBA-candidate, Hurd worked as a teaching assistant for Business Administration 499.

“Even as a first year MBA student, Nathan stood out as someone committed to making a difference,” said Karen Hopper Wruck, Dean’s Distinguished Professor of Finance and Associate Dean of Graduate Programs. “His energy and entrepreneurial spirit are extraordinary.  What is even more impressive is his ability to harness this positive energy in the midst of a tragic life situation and make a difference.”