Four Business Superstars Share Their Career Wisdom, Advice
The four new inductees into the School of Business Hall of Fame all shared career advice and wisdom—as well as a bit of levity—during the March 22 celebration at the Hartford Marriott Downtown.
Among their suggestions: Become the person everyone enjoys working with because you have a great attitude; always continue to learn; keep an open mind and embrace change; and never lose your inner Husky.
The inductees, all business icons and UConn alumni, were honored by some 250 people in attendance, including UConn President Susan Herbst and Connecticut Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz. The 2019 Hall of Fame celebration is the school’s premier event and recognizes alumni who have achieved professional success, have given generously to the community, and are of outstanding character.
This year’s inductees included:
• George A. Barrios ’87, ’89 MBA, co-president of the WWE, a $7 billion global media company. Since joining WWE in 2008, he led the company’s transformation to a multi-platform media business and contributed to the company’s 800 percent market capitalization. The son of Cuban immigrants, he previously was vice president and treasurer of the New York Times Co.
• Robert Chauvin ’78, is the retired president of SimplexGrinnell, a $2.5 billion commercial fire and security business. Chauvin, who earned his bachelor of science magna cum laude, was instrumental in architecting the sale of Simplex to Tyco in 2000. Currently Chauvin is a senior business advisor to McKinsey and serves on several boards of prominent companies.
• Mary Laschinger ’92 EMBA, is chairman & CEO of Veritiv Corp. of Atlanta, a business-to-business solutions company. Laschinger is one of only 24 women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. A first-generation college graduate and one of eight children, Laschinger is also a member of UConn’s first graduating class of EMBA students.
• James Whalen ’82, is a partner at TA Realty. Since its founding in 1982, TA Realty has managed $29 billion of real estate assets. Whalen graduated cum laude and was an Honors Scholar. He currently serves on the Dean’s Advisory Cabinet for the School of Business.
Advice: ‘Don’t Lose Your Passion As You Find Your Path’
Laschinger, who had spoken with EMBA students earlier in the day, said her best advice is to continue to learn, which she described as a pivotal career accomplishment.
“It will lead to a broader way of thinking about things and a perspective that is critical in business today,” she said. “I believe my advanced education was a very big part of my success.”
“I also tell students to take risks and get outside their comfort zone. These are the things that lead to success,” she said. “Don’t lose your passion as you find your path. Be excited and driven and manage your career while balancing your personal life.”
Lastly, Laschinger, who didn’t start her bachelor’s degree until she was 21, said education is key to achieving economic freedom, health and wellness. “I would tell students to value their education. It’s a gift in so many ways,” she added.
Be Open Minded, Resilient, Help Others
Chauvin said his path in college took a few unexpected turns and that students should be flexible as they pursue their degrees. He started out as a psychology major and a member of the football team. By his second year he was a business major and had sacrificed football for better grades, that ultimately led him to graduate magna cum laude.
“My advice would be open minded and be resilient,” he said. “Whatever you think you came to UConn for might be very different. Being resilient, and embracing the ability to change, are so important. Remember you always have options. People who aren’t willing to embrace change have a lot of bad days.”
Chauvin credited the many people who helped him become successful including the teachers who prepared him for life, mentors and colleagues in his business career, and his wife of 37 years, Debbie, who was “CEO of the family.”
“I’m grateful for UConn and what it gave me,” he said. “To the students, don’t forget where you came from—your school, your community, your family. Take time to help someone who needs a hand.”
Everybody Notices a Great Attitude
Barrios said young graduates cannot control all of the challenges they face, but he had two suggestions for those who wish to rise to the top.
“Be passionate about what you’re doing, so that it doesn’t feel like ‘work,'” he said. “And remember, everybody notices a great attitude, and loves to work with someone like that. If you have it, you’ll do well.”
Meanwhile, Whalen said he would urge students to stay connected with UConn long after they hang up their diplomas.
“UConn has been a big part of my network, from golfing with friends to doing business with UConn colleagues. Share your knowledge, experiences, and advice with other Huskies,” he said.
“I found the UConn faculty to be passionate, enthusiastic and accessible. It was a hall-of-fame lineup in the accounting department. What impressed me was that little extra that they put into their jobs. [Professor] Larry Gramling required us to have public speaking skills. Years later, Warren Buffett said the same thing, and I thought ‘We heard that from Larry years ago!'”
Acceptance Speeches Sprinkled with Humorous Comments
In one of the most light-hearted moments, Whalen described how he selected UConn.
“I grew up in Wallingford and in high school we took a field trip to the Jorgensen. I saw women sunbathing on campus. There were probably only five of them but in my 17-year-old mind, it seemed like thousands!” he said. “I thought UConn would be a good school to attend.”
Barrios also told the audience that his arrival at UConn was a bit unconventional.
“I wasn’t a model student in high school and wasn’t sure I needed college,” he said, then confessing that his mother filled out his UConn application. “It wasn’t my first choice, it was hers.”
Not only was he successful academically, but he met his wife, Carol, at UConn. Five other men in his dorm also met their spouses at UConn, he said.
“This kid from Queens has been to Shanghai, Dubai and sat across from a Saudi Arabian prince debating the merits of Hulk Hogan,” he said. “You need a foundation to build upon and mine at UConn was as good as anyone else’s. If I could go back and do it all again, what would I do? UConn would be my No. 1 choice!”