When three outstanding UW-Green Bay graduates received 2011 Distinguished Alumni Awards in a ceremony on campus April 30, each traced a different path to the occasion but shared a common bond: affection for UW-Green Bay and the faculty and staff members who helped them set a course.
The three Distinguished Alumni honorees were:
• Robert Cera ’84 managerial accounting, president and CEO of Baylake Corp. and Baylake Bank;
• Laura (Busby) Hollingsworth ’89 communication processes, group president for Gannett’s U.S. Community Publishing Division and president and publisher of the Des Moines Register;
• Daoud Abboud ’87 information and computing science, the founder and CEO of United Technology Solutions-UTS Group in Jordan, with branches in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia;
Also recognized was Jody Weyers ’96 communication processes, the volunteer and communications director for the American Red Cross, Green Bay, who received the outstanding recent-alumni award.
In his acceptance remarks, Cera said he has found that success starts with three things: relationships, perseverance and passion. He stressed that integrity must also be a given, especially in his current business. As CEO of a relatively small community bank, he said 99 percent of institutions operate conservatively and with a strong sense of obligation to clients and community, but the failure of a few large national institutions succeeded in tarnishing the entire brand. He said Baylake, started in Door County and 130 years old, is well-positioned nonetheless. “It’s about relationships,” he said. “I’m proud that we continue to operate with the understanding that there’s something noble about what we do, that we exist to serve our communities.”
Cera went on to credit favorite instructors including Kuman Kangayappan, economics, and Phil Clampitt, communications. “In four years here I never had a teaching assistant, and I had some truly outstanding professors,” he said. He said his most important career move arguably came just a few years out of UW-Green Bay. At age 26 and offered a significant promotion in the commercial banking industry, he instead resigned to become CFO of a publically traded financial management company headed by former Milwaukee athletes and all-stars Sal Bando and Jon McGlocklin. “I told them that, if given the chance, I would work as hard as anybody they had ever seen.” Both principals were famous not only for their sports careers (Bando a World Series champ with the Oakland A’s, McGlocklin an NBA champ with the Bucks) but for founding and operating their own charities for children. “I saw their passion for giving back,” Cera said, and carried that philosophy forward, himself.
Hollingsworth opened her Alumni Awards Night speech by sharing memories of her own campus days, including work at the Fourth Estate student newspaper and in the university bookstore. A native of Sturgeon Bay who had members of her extended family in attendance, she noted that her sister, Linda, also graduated from UW-Green Bay (in 1991, also in communication, pursuing a career track in creative design). Hollingsworth said the personalized attention at UW-Green Bay was a plus. “I got a truly high-quality education here, and 20 years later I appreciate that even more,” she said.
She talked about her career, and joked proudly about the respected newspaper she heads, the Des Moine Register, and its outsize role in American politics. “We see the candidates before anyone else, and do the hard work of narrowing the field,” she said, referring to the Iowa caucuses and the obligatory editorial-board visits to the region’s largest newspaper. “There’s probably about 18 of them waiting in our office right now, and some of them… well… Let’s just say we’ve got to start narrowing the field.”
Hollingsworth also spoke of the tremendous pride she felt several years ago in being invited back as a UW-Green Bay commencement speaker. The moment was particularly special, she said, because she was able to share it with her father. “That’s something I’ll treasure for the rest of my life. I was greatly humbled,” she said. “I feel great passion for UWGB today. It’s great to be reconnected.”
Abboud, unable to travel to the United States because of business demands in Jordan and a late change in plans, provided a statement to be read. He wrote that he was happy to have contributed to his alma mater’s expanded partnerships in recent years involving the Middle East. Delegations of faculty, staff, college students, American high school students and Wisconsin school teachers have been able to take advantage of the newly developed Green Bay-Jordan exchange programs. Young entrepreneurs from Jordan and Israel have likewise traveled to Green Bay to gain insight on capitalism in America. Abboud praised UW-Green Bay and the initiatives as a valuable “force for good.” His statement was read by Jay Harris, the University’s director of international projects.
Weyers, the American Red Cross official and winner of recent-alumni honors, expressed appreciation to Communication faculty members Tim Meyer and Phil Clampitt, who were in attendance, although she cited unique motivation for her choice of that major. “I searched the course catalog and that seemed to be the only program where I wouldn’t have to take statistics,” she laughed, “so that was it.” The event’s emcee, Mark Brunette of Alumni Relations, introduced Weyers by citing her dedicated involvement with the University, from serving as a guest speaker in classes, as adviser and mentor to student interns, and engaged participant at job and volunteer fairs for students.