Business Leadership Celebration honors remarkable leaders, powerful relationships


UW Foster Dean Jim Jiambalvo with 2015 Distinguished Leadership Awardees John Jacobi, Steve Singh and Gary Furukawa, and keynote speaker John Thompson

The University of Washington Foster School of Business welcomed the chairman of the board of Microsoft and honored three remarkable leaders—the driving forces behind iconic Seattle-based real estate, investment and business travel management firms—at its 24th annual Business Leadership Celebration on October 22 at the Sheraton Seattle.

“Leadership is about motivating a team to do more than they could imagine,” began keynote speaker John W. Thompson, the CEO of Virtual Instruments and chairman of the board of Microsoft.

Thompson touched on leadership, career, mentoring, diversity, patience and transformation in his keynote conversation with Jennifer Koski, a professor of finance and John B. and Delores L. Fery Faculty Fellow at Foster who is the only three-time winner of the PACCAR Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Thompson, who recalled being the “first African American this, that or the other at every place I ever went,” worked his way up the ladder at IBM from sales to senior management, and then to the CEO office at Symantec and the chairman seat on the Microsoft board. He said that he accomplished this by taking a measured approach, continually aspiring to his boss’s job rather than swinging for CEO right off the bat. “It’s a long path,” he said. “And if you have only that big aspiration from the start, you may not appreciate accomplishments and see progress along the way.”

Thompson counted many great mentors who helped him along in his career, but pointed out that mentor relationships have to be deeply rooted in personal connection to be productive.

And, when asked what advice he would give his 25-year-old self, he replied simply: “Patience… At 25 it’s hard to be patient. You’re in a hurry to get stuff done. But if you can be a little more patient in your early career, I think you can accomplish a lot more.”

Dean Jiambalvo with Foster undergrads

Dean Jiambalvo with Foster undergrads

Distinguished Leaders

“The Northwest is a very special place where new products and services are part and parcel of our heritage, and through the efforts of our students, will certainly be our legacy,” said Jim Jiambalvo, dean and Kirby L. Cramer Chair at Foster, in his opening remarks. “With economic growth comes opportunity, security, education, art, community, health and freedom. And growth only happens when great business leaders take bold actions that bring together financial and human resources to compete in new and innovative ways.”

This year’s three recipients of the Distinguished Leadership Award stand as exemplars of such “bold actions.”

John Jacobi (BA 1962) is retired chairman of the Windermere Services Company. After purchasing an eight-agent real estate office in 1972, he grew Windermere into the largest real estate firm in the Pacific Northwest and the Windermere Foundation into a major force in the fight to end homelessness.

But he didn’t do it alone. Windermere was built upon relationships. Jacobi counts Windermere colleagues as his closest friends, and he recently turned over management of the 300-office firm and its 7,000-plus associates to his family’s next generation, a source of enormous pride.

“They say, ‘Don’t run a business with friends or family,’ ” Jacobi remarked. “I don’t know who they are. That advice doesn’t resonate with me at all. My greatest success is seeing my kids and friends running the business. That’s a really cool thing.”

Gary Furukawa (BA 1981) is the founder and senior partner of Freestone Capital Management. Furukawa recalled his sense of resolve and resilience being shaped by his father’s untimely death when he was just seven, his work in the family dry cleaning business, and his tough Renton high school. In growing his company, Furukawa has strived to empower others to learn from their mistakes and celebrate their accomplishments.

He’s also learned some life lessons from his successful and seasoned clients. Among them, the observation that money doesn’t buy happiness. It takes a mix of passion and pragmatism. “I tell my children all the time that you have to find something in life that you love doing and that you have a chance to be good at,” says Furukawa.

For the one-time NBA dreamer who stopped growing at 5-4, that thing was wealth management. Not that he’s planning to stop there. “What I took away from the UW is that learning never stops,” he says.

Steve Singh is the co-founder and CEO of Concur, the business travel management firm, and a member of SAP’s Global Managing Board, as well as a member of the Foster School’s advisory board.

Singh shared three defining moments from his life. The first was when he visited his family’s village in India as a teenager and contemplated how strong of character his parents must have been to leave their life, their family and their friends in order to give their children opportunity in America. “From that day forward,” he said, “my parents could do no wrong.”

The second was the day his son was born (the profound feeling of love and responsibility that he promised was repeated when his daughters were born).

The third was a video of Steve Jobs waxing euphoric about how the world could be defined the way he wanted. “Moments like this come to all of us,” Singh said. “However we all got here, we’re here to create the world that we want, that’s fantastic for everybody. We owe this to each other.”

Dean Jiambalvo with Foster MBA students

Dean Jiambalvo with Foster MBA students

The business community

In a special memorial, Stein Kruse, CEO of Holland America Line and a member of the Foster School advisory board, paid tribute to 2004 Distinguished Leadership Awardee Stanley McDonald (BA 1943).

McDonald, the founder of Princess Cruises (now part of Holland America), passed away late last year at the age of 94. “It’s often said that we stand on the shoulders of giants,” Kruse said. “Stan McDonald was one of those giants. He was the founding father of the modern cruise industry. His lifetime achievements and legacy will live on forever.”

Major supporters of the 2015 Business Leadership Celebration are Microsoft (Reception Sponsor), Providence Health & Services (Keynote Conversation Sponsor) and Starbucks Coffee Company (Dean’s Table Sponsor).

Gold Sponsors include Alaska Airlines, Chuck and Linda Barbo, Dorrit Bern, Susan Bevan and Tony Daddino, The Boeing Company, Jason and Stephanie Child, Concur, Kathy and John Connors, Crowley Maritime Corporation, Deloitte, Neal and Jan Dempsey, Ken and Mary Denman, EY, Freestone Capital Management, GM Nameplate/superGraphics, Charles and Nancy Hogan, Holland America Line, Kemper Development Company, KPMG LLP, Philips Healthcare, Plum Creek, Premera Blue Cross, PwC LLP, Bruce and Gail Richards, Saltchuk, Singh Family Foundation, Wells Fargo, Weyerhaeuser Company, Windermere Real Estate, Gary and Barbara Wipfler, Zevenbergen Capital Investments.

Net proceeds from the Foster Business Leadership Celebration help create futures at the University of Washington.

Photos: Tara Brown Photography |

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