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“UMass Amherst and Isenberg are now investment grade,” remarked Edward D. Shirley ’78, principal honoree at Isenberg’s annual Business Leadership Awards gathering on June 14. “When Mark Fuller became dean in 2009, he developed a strong aspirational team culture with the faculty that will live beyond [him],” Ed told his audience of 450 alumni, students, and faculty at the Colonnade Hotel in Boston. Isenberg’s rebranding as a “driven” community was a powerful catalyst in its rise to national prominence, Ed continued.
Like Dean Fuller, Ed was a dedicated change agent—an Isenberg accounting graduate who embraced strategic marketing and cultural change early in his career. After graduating from UMass Amherst, Ed joined Gillette in accounting and finance. In 1991, he transitioned to general management at Gillette’s Oral B subsidiary. Next, he led a major restructuring of Gillette’s European and then its international operations. When Gillette merged with Procter & Gamble, Ed thrived as president of its North American operations and then vice chair in charge of its Global Beauty and Grooming business. After P&G, he was president of Bacardi from 2012 to 2014.
To illustrate the power of innovative branding and rebranding, Ed ran and dissected five iconic commercials that helped secure his strategic vision for Oral B, Gillette Atra and its descendants, complementary P&G grooming and beauty products, and Bacardi’s Grey Gosse Vodka. His work at P&G, he emphasized, called for significant cultural change. Under his leadership, former brand fiefdoms became team players.
“Ed Shirley plays to win and takes bold new steps. He has never forgotten to look back and to give back,” noted last year’s honoree, Earl Stafford 75, who joined Dean Fuller in introducing Ed. “Ed is my biggest mentor,” emphasized Fuller, who has periodically sought his strategic advice to Isenberg’s advantage.
A New Driven Award Honors Recent Graduates
Earlier in the program, Isenberg honored NBA Associate Manager of Business Operations Melcolm Ruffin ’13 with its first Driven Leadership Award. The honor recognizes the special Isenberg drive that recent graduates bring to their professions and their communities. Introduced by Deloitte Audit Senior Nick Markey ’13, the finalists also included Michele Equale ’13 MBA and Kyle Lawless ’12. Michele is Assistant Vice President of Strategy & Planning with MassMutual and founder and leader of the Women’s Leadership Business Resource Group’s Lean in to Learn program. Kyle is Assistant Director of EY’s Geostrategic Business Group, a member of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation’s New Frontier Network, and a fundraiser for Isenberg’s Careers in Accounting and Management Professions, a program for underrepresented high schoolers. The finalists were nominated by their peers and the winner was decided by voting over social media with the Isenberg community.
A sport management graduate, Melcolm is lead for marketing and content creation with the G League, the NBA’s official minor league. Last fall, he partnered with Isenberg’s sport management department to pair alumni mentors with underrepresented students. His objective: Create a more inclusive environment for minority students and offer them a network of mentors from similar backgrounds. “Give your time. That is one of your most valuable assets,” he told the gathering. “In choosing Isenberg, it took a lot of risk for me as a student to relocate from Chicago,” he recalled. “But the environment at the school allowed me to flourish.” Next fall, Melcolm joins the Harvard Business School’s MBA program.
Kudos for a Driven Dean
The program’s M.C., HTM alumna and former IBLA award recipient Denise Cole ’76, navigated the evening’s program with wit and grace. “Six years ago, Mark Fuller inaugurated this annual event as Isenberg’s principal alumni gathering,” she remarked. “As most of you know, June 30th will be Mark’s last day as Isenberg’s Dean. The good news is that he will continue to work with us as UMass Amherst’s Vice Chancellor of Development and Alumni Affairs.” Moving to the rostrum, Chancellor Subbaswami introduced Dean Fuller, applauding his strategic acumen and Isenberg’s role in UMass Amherst’s growing presence inside Route 128.
“I’ve come prepared,” remarked Dean Fuller, placing a box of tissues on the podium in anticipation of his own effusive emotions. Alumni generosity, he noted, drives the school. That begins with students. Witness, he said, the spectacular growth in participation by Isenberg’s seniors in their annual gift to the school. In his first year as dean, only 8% participated; this year, participation topped 70%.
Isenberg’s momentum, he emphasized, will continue under the leadership of Interim Dean Thomas Moliterno. Beginning in July, his one-year appointment will run in tandem with a national search to name Fuller’s successor. The Earl W. Stafford Professor in Entrepreneurial Studies and Isenberg’s Vice Dean, Dr. Moliterno has devoted his last four years to financial and strategic planning, organizational metrics, AACSB accreditation maintenance, and planning and supervision of Isenberg’s new Business Innovation Hub. At the evening’s end, Dean Fuller returned to the stage to accept an honorary Business Leadership award. It was a memorable affirmation of Isenberg’s nine years of progress and anticipation of its bright future.