Olin Business School presents annual awards

Alumni, faculty member and a company honored at annual dinner April 13

Friends, faculty, students and alumni gathered at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Clayton, Mo., April 13 for the 2010 Olin Business School awards dinner.

With more than 300 in attendance, Mahendra R. Gupta, PhD, dean and the Geraldine J. & Robert L. Virgil Professor of Accounting & Management, welcomed guests. Charles W. Cook Jr. (MBA ’68), president of the Olin Alumni Association, served as master of ceremonies.

Distinguished alumni and faculty were honored and the Dean’s Medal of Honor was presented.

2010 Olin Distinguished Alumni

Terence E. Block (MBA ’73), president, North America, Nestle Purina PetCare Company. Block is a 33-year veteran of Nestle Purina. He began his career in the former Ralston Purina marketing group, acquired by Nestle in 2001. Block has been instrumental in forming long-term business strategies and improved business processes that continue to contribute to the company’s growing market share as the leading U.S. pet foods brand. He personally led the development of Purina Pro Plan, Purina ONE and Purina Veterinary Diets pet foods. A native of Lakewood, Ohio, Block earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Earlham College in Richmond, Ind.

John G. Brunner (MBA ’89), chairman, Vi-Jon Inc. Vi-Jon is the nation’s oldest family-owned, private-label health- and beauty-care company. Founded by the honoree’s grandparents Viola and John B. Brunner in 1908, one of the company’s 7,000 private-label or branded products is Germ-X hand sanitizer. Brunner assumed the role of Vi-Jon chairman in 2010. He is an advocate of executive education and still takes courses at Olin, Harvard University and other schools. “For a company to grow, leadership must grow,” Brunner says. “The owner-entrepreneur must take the lead. I never want to be the guy holding everyone back.”

Alejandro Ruelas (MBA ’95), co-founder and managing partner, LatinWorks Marketing LLC. Prior to co-founding LatinWorks, Ruelas was director of ethnic marketing at Anheuser-Busch. There, he developed innovative advertising programs that put the company’s brands in an enviable leadership position both within their category and across the entire Hispanic marketing spectrum. LatinWorks now counts InBev A-B on its client roster, which includes Domino’s Pizza, Burger King and Mars (the Starburst-munching llama ads) among others. A native of Mexico, Ruelas immigrated with his family to Los Angeles at age 15.

J.J. Stupp (MBA ’83), co-founder and CFO, Exegy Inc. Stupp’s dual interests in science (she has a degree in physics) and business have helped forge her career. Stupp helped design and develop the St. Louis Technology Center and authored initial state legislation for the Missouri Innovation Center program, for which she served as its first manager. She later partnered in Laser Diode Products, an early-stage laser technology company. In 1992, she founded TableTalk, a premier publisher of more than 40 award-winning educational games. Stupp is the chief financial officer of Exegy Inc., which she co-founded in 2003. The company has commercialized high-speed database search technology developed at WUSTL’s School of Engineering & Applied Science and serves the financial industry.

Dean’s Medal: Edward Jones

The Dean’s Medal is awarded to “special friends whose dedication and service to the Olin Business School have been exceptional.”

This year, Gupta extended that honor to St. Louis-based investment firm Edward Jones.

James D. Weddle, managing partner at Edward Jones, accepted the award on behalf of the company. Edward Jones counts more than 30 Olin alumni as partners — including Weddle — and more than 75 WUSTL alumni among its associates.

Olin Award recognizes research that transforms business

The Olin Award, given this year to Judi McLean Parks, PhD, the Reuben C. and Anne Carpenter Taylor Professor of Organizational Behavior, honors research by Olin faculty that provides practical and performance-enhancing applications for business managers. It was initiated in 2007 by Richard Mahoney, executive-in-residence at Olin and former chairman and CEO of Monsanto Co.

Judi McLean Parks (left), the Reuben C. and Anne Carpenter Taylor Professor of Organizational Behavior, receives the Olin Award from Richard Mahoney, former chairman and CEO of Monsanto Co. Mahoney initiated the Olin Award in 2007 to encourage professors to pursue rigorous academic research that is relevant and useful to today’s business managers.

A panel of prominent business executives and educators review and judge a range of research papers submitted to the competition, which awards a $10,000 prize.

McLean Parks’ paper “Give & Take: Incentive Framing in Compensation Contracts” examines the relationship between compensation and fraudulent behavior.

The topic is not only timely in the wake of recent financial scandals, but judges also noted that every company must deal with compensation issues and how they affect employee behavior.

McLean Parks and co-author James W. Hesford, PhD, assistant professor at Cornell University, conducted a series of experiments to test this hypothesis: that the type of compensation plan — contingent versus non-contingent (and the form of that contingency, as a bonus or penalty based on performance) — might be related to fraudulent reporting and the misappropriation of assets.

McLean Parks sums up the results of the study this way: “If you pay someone contingent on their performance, you have motivated them to perform. However, if they are unable to perform well because the task is hard, because of economic conditions or whatever, you have also given them an incentive to cook the books!”

McLean Parks believes the study’s results have implications for CEO compensation plans and the financial difficulties many companies are experiencing today.

“For years, we have touted the basic mantra of pay for performance because that’s the way you get the best performance,” McLean Parks says. “Maybe you get the best performance reported, but what’s the underlying performance?”