Alumni in Business: Leadership
Thursday, Sep. 17, 2009
The Eccles Business Building at Utah State University is home to the Huntsman School of Business. It's a landmark on USU’s campus and is the tallest building in Cache Valley.
USU business alum Charlie Denson '78, president, Nike Brand.
It’s always been hard to ignore the outside of the Eccles Business Building at Utah State University, the tallest building in Cache Valley.
Lately, though, it’s become increasingly difficult to ignore the inner workings as well. Not only has the high-rise turned out some of the world’s most powerful captains of industry, it’s home to the Huntsman School of Business, one of the West’s most dynamic new institutions.
Not that the school itself is new. In fact, it’s the oldest university business school west of the Mississippi, dating back to 1889. But in 2007, when philanthropist Jon Huntsman announced a donation of more than $25 million specifically for the College of Business, it was born again. Since then, the college has incorporated new technology, brought in even more outstanding professors and developed student opportunities like the Huntsman Scholar Program.
The program is an intensive global education curriculum that fuses business, politics and economics. And travel. Each year, the Huntsman Scholars spend at least three weeks abroad in Europe, Asia or South America, gaining first-hand experience in modern borderless commerce. Recently, business students toured the main headquarters of the European Union in Brussels, spent time with high-ranking Swiss executives and developed a micro-loan program to encourage small business ventures in Peru.
As decreed by Huntsman himself, the purpose of all that goes on at the college is to build tomorrow’s corporate leaders and to impress upon them the global vision, ethical leadership, entrepreneurial spirit and analytical rigor necessary not only to succeed, but to make a difference. Of course, USU students have accentuated those areas for decades, which is precisely why they are where they are today.
Alumni spotlight: Charlie Denson ’78: President of Nike Brand
You might wonder how one rises from assistant manager of a local shoe store to become co-president of its entire $19 billion corporation. Charlie Denson of Nike answers that one quickly: leave the country.
Soon after graduation from Utah State, Denson found work in Portland at the first retail store of a young company called Nike. But the real turning point in his career didn’t come until 20 years later, when partly out of “curiosity,” he took a position in Amsterdam as GM of the company’s European operations.
Upon entering his new conference room for the first time, Denson was floored.
“There were about 40 people speaking about 25 languages,” he remembers.
As a member of the majority in America, he had never felt uncomfortable in his work, he says, but in the Netherlands, he was at a “significant disadvantage.” Denson’s European assignment taught him sensitivity to other cultures and philosophies, which he maintains as paramount to his further success.
“I learned there’s more than one way to skin the proverbial cat,” he says. “My way wasn’t always the right way.”
USU Business Leader Legacy
-Charlie Denson ‘78: President, Nike Brand
-James Quigley ‘74: CEO, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu (Deloitte), one of the “Big Four”
international auditors/accounting firms
-Abbas Ghaffari ‘50: President, National Iranian Oil Company
-Jason Lindsey ‘95: President/COO, Co-Founder of Overstock.com
-Scott Watterson ‘79, CEO and Gary Stevenson ‘79, COO: Founders of ICON Health and
Fitness, world’s largest marketer and manufacturer of fitness products
-James Sanford ‘75: Chair, Los Angeles Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco;
former VP of Treasury, Northrop Grumman
-Lars Peter Hansen ‘74: economist, University of Chicago; developer of the GMM (Generalized
Method of Moments) technique; Frisch Medal; 2006 Erwin Plein Nemmers Prize; 2008 CME
-Ajit Nair ‘96: Founder, CEO of ProV International; finalist for Best Executive in North America, 2007 International Business Awards
-Brad Rich ‘85: CFO, SkyWest Inc., SkyWest Airlines and Atlantic Southeast Airlines
-Jim Ryan ‘71: former President/CEO, Volvo Commercial Finance; former VP, General
-Morgan Cox ’09: Bureau of Economics, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, DC; admitted
to Stanford University MBA Program