A U.S. Navy fighter pilot, a best-selling novelist, a medical instrument inventor, and the founder of an underwater logging company (who got into the program even though he didn't finish high school) were on hand to demonstrate the diverse makeup of the Stanford Sloan Program alumni during a 50th anniversary celebration.
The four Sloan alumni, who spoke at the September 14 forum discussion, "The Road Less Traveled," recalled the uncommon paths they each took to and from the Stanford program, describing how it transformed the way they viewed business and the broader world. "I've had quite a road less traveled," said Jesse Kingg, Sloan '05, who is director of quality at Abbott Labs.
Kingg grew up in Pittsburgh and lived in Liberia before returning to the United States to go to college. He later served as a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy, and was known as first submariner-turned-fighter pilot. After retiring from the Navy in 2004, he decided to plunge into the business world and sought more training "to learn the business of business."
That experience led him to Stanford where he said he cherished the diversity of his class and the entire campus, meeting people from different countries and backgrounds, many of them bilingual or even trilingual.
Wayne Dunn, Sloan '97, who is president and CEO of Clark Sustainable Resource Developments in British Columbia, Canada, grew up in rural Saskatchewan where he began his career in the logging industry "on the grunt end of chainsaws." Even though he dropped out of school after the 11th grade, that didn't stop him from pursuing higher studies at Stanford and aiming big in the business world.
"It was an absolutely transforming year," he said of his experience as a Sloan fellow. "I came here feeling so fortunate. We had the great fortune of having a class that really came together."
In 2005, Dunn and former Canadian Prime Minister Joe Clark cofounded Clark Sustainable Resources Developments, which extracts hardwoods from submerged forests left by the creation of a hydro dam in Africa. His company also works closely with local communities, including indigenous groups.
Francis Edward Wintle, Sloan '83, is best known by his pen name, Edward Rutherfurd. Wintle has written several bestselling historical novels, including Sarum, about the ancient monument of Stonehenge and Salisbury, England, and London.
He said being a Sloan fellow was "a time of personal reevaluation" for him, when he received "the gift of confidence" highlighted by "the California blue sky that tells you that all things are possible."
William New, MD, PhD, and Sloan '81, who is chairman of The Novent Group in Palo Alto, already had a successful career as a physician, engineer, and academic before he entered the Sloan Program. Physicians and engineers were always struggling to find better ways to treat illnesses, he said.
"I knew there was an interesting spot that could be productive in the middle. I understand the technology. I understand the medicine. But you have to make a business out of it. That was the part I was missing. That was what attracted me to Sloan ... You learn the vocabulary of business. You learn the culture of business, the values of business."
His skills as a doctor, engineer, and entrepreneur led him to found Nellcor, which developed the pulse oximeter, a device that helped medical professionals monitor oxygen levels of anesthetized patients. New also founded Natus Medical Inc., which makes a low-cost device to screen newborns for hearing loss.
"I wanted to do well by doing good ... to take technology, take business, and take the two together and make the world a better place," he said
Founded in 1957, the Sloan Program is named for Alfred P. Sloan, the philanthropist and longtime chairman and CEO of General Motors.
Sloan's grant was used to launch the program that today attracts roughly 56 mid-career managers for a 10-month academic program leading to a Master's of Science in Management degree. More than 700 Sloan alumni and family members attended the reunion held September 13-15.
By Ben Pimentel