25 years of the UW Foster School Business Leadership Celebration

The Foster School marks a quarter century of welcoming world-renowned leaders and celebrating local luminaries at its annual Business Leadership Celebration

Keynote Speaker, Margo Georgiadis
  • Event Details
  • Thursday, October 27, 2016
  • Sheraton Seattle Hotel
  • 1400 Sixth Ave, Seattle
  • Reception starts at 5:45pm
  • Learn more
  • Keynote Speaker: Margo Georgiadis
  • President for the Americas, Google
  • Board Member, McDonald’s

UW Foster School of Business 2015 Business Leadership Celebration

Foster School Dean Jim Jiambalvo with Distinguished Leadership Awardees John Jacobi (BA 1962), Steve Singh and Gary Furukawa (BA 1981), and Microsoft Chair John Tompson at the 2015 UW Foster School Business Leadership Celebration.

The year was 1992. The Seattle economy was beginning its ascent to national prominence.

Microsoft’s Windows operating system and Office software suite were steaming toward ubiquity in the computerized workplace. The newly public Starbucks was at the dawn of exponential growth. A strategic merger gave Costco a national footprint. Nordstrom commenced its eastward expansion. And an emerging tech industry was laying the groundwork for Amazon and a constellation of digital startups that would soon emerge.

That same year, the Foster School of Business also went big.

Its inaugural Business Leadership Celebration, held that year in the grand ballroom of the elegant Olympic Hotel, featured no less a keynote speaker than Alan Greenspan, the iconic chairman of the Federal Reserve.

The most powerful figure in finance “made the ‘dismal science’ of economics understandable and interesting for the audience,” according to Kirby Cramer (MBA 1962), one of the longest-serving members on the Foster School’s advisory board.

The celebration—formerly banquet—was conceived by then-dean Robert Leventhal and the board. Its intent was to honor the leaders who have shaped the region and to “raise the profile of the school by bringing in national speakers you wouldn’t normally see in Seattle,” recalls Cramer.

A keynote conversation with Disney CEO Robert Iger in 2014.

A keynote conversation with Disney CEO Robert Iger at the 2014 Business Leadership Celebration.

That certainly describes Greenspan. And Andy Grove of Intel (1997). Jeffrey Immelt of GE (2003). Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase (2011). Robert Iger of Disney (2014). Many of the preeminent names in American corporate leadership have headlined the Foster School’s biggest night over the past 24 years.

“Thinking through the list brings back a lot of wonderful memories,” Cramer says. “We’ve been blessed to have so many big names who have really participated in the event and delivered on some fascinating topics.”

Foster School of Business 2015 Business Leadership Celebration

A de facto reunion.

But big names aren’t the whole story. As the years have turned over, the UW Business Leadership Celebration has evolved into a de facto reunion of Foster alumni. It is a potent mechanism for raising scholarship funds. And it’s a golden opportunity for current students to mingle with the region’s movers-and-shakers. “You never know who you’re going to sit next to,” says Cramer who, as retired chairman of SonoSite, director of Immunex and CEO of Hazelton Laboratories, among a long career of ventures and investments, would be a fortuitous person to meet.

Foster School of Business 2015 Business Leadership Celebration

Perhaps paramount among these multiple impacts of the Business Leadership Celebration are the deep connections that the Foster School has forged with the business community, year by year. These bonds are represented in the Distinguished Leadership Awards conferred upon 66 of Seattle’s most influential civic and corporate luminaries.

Cramer, a Distinguished Leadership Awardee in 1997, takes pride in the rise of the Foster School and its signature event as it approaches its 25th birthday this October 27.

“The Business Leadership Celebration has boosted the school’s profile, raised money for scholarships, offered students exposure and solidified the Foster alumni network,” he says. “That’s four-for-four.

“And it’s provided so many great memories.”