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The 20 Most Notable American University Alumni in Business

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The American University was established in the District of Columbia in 1892. Initially conceived as the training ground for public servants, the university welcomed it first group of undergraduates in 1925. Today, American University offers over 160 programs, including 71 bachelor’s degrees and 97 master’s degrees, to its body of 13,000 students. Its notoriously selective admissions process is clearly paying dividends; among its ranks of past students are TV’s Judy Sheindlin (Judge Judy), suffragette leader Alice Paul, and acoustic guitarist John Fahey. Outside of entertainment and politics, American University graduates have perhaps shown the most success in the business sphere. Finance, real estate, technology, marketing… American University students have worked them all. Let’s take a deeper dive into the most notable American University Alumni in business.

1. Charles T. Akre

Investor, financier and businessman Charles T. Akre obtained his BA in English from American University before starting his career in the securities business. Over the following years, Akre gradually worked his way up the ladder, taking in positions as shareholder, director, CEO of the Asset Management Division and Director of Research at Johnston, Lemon & Co. In 1989, Akre decided to go it alone, founding his own firm Akre Capital Management, a long-term value investment firm that has made numerous investments of note in companies such as American Tower, Dollar Tree, Mastercard, and Markel Corporation.

2. Adrienne Arieff

Since graduating from American University, entrepreneur and author Adrienne Arieff has written numerous books, but is perhaps best known for her highly controversial work, The Sacred Thread. The debut memoir, which follows the story of a San-Francisco couple who hire an Indian surrogate to help in their struggle to become parents, sparked debate about the legalities and ethics of paying economically disadvantaged women to serve as surrogates. In addition to her efforts as an author, Arieff is also a successful businesswoman, having launched her own PR and marketing business, Arieff Communications, in 2002.

3. Jordan Belfort

Jordan Belfort graduated from American University with a degree in biology before briefly enrolling at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry. After dropping out of Maryland, Belfort worked for a short time as a door- to- door salesman before founding Stratton Oakmount. At the height of its success, Stratton Oakmount employed more than 1000 stock brokers and managed more than $1 billion in stocks… not always scrupulously, as it later turned out. After years of intense scrutiny, Belfort was indicted for securities fraud and money laundering in 1999. The entrepreneur subsequently served 22 months in prison. Since his release, Belfort has established himself as an in-demand motivational speaker and author; his 2007 memoir, The Wolf on Wall Street, went on to become one of the biggest film releases of 2013.

4. Walter E Boomer

After graduating from American University with a master’s degree in Technology of Management, Walter E. Boomer served a long and distinguished career in the military before leaving the forces in 1994. After retiring from duty, Boomer transitioned into civilian life with a position as executive vice president of McDermott International. On leaving McDermott in 1996, Boomer joined international manufacturing company, Rogers Corporation, acting as president and CEO from 1997, and as chairman of the board from 2002-2004. These days, Boomer serves on the board of directors for several companies, including Rogers, Cytyc Corporation and Baxter International.

5. Alan S. Chartock

Since obtaining his MA from American University, Alan S. Chartock has served in numerous functions, including president and CEO of WAMC/ Northeast Public Radio, professor of political science at SUNY NEW Paltz, professor emeritus of the Communications at SUNY and executive publisher and project director for the Legislative Gazette. Chartock’s efforts in business, media and teaching have been duly recognized over the years, with his stack of awards including the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching and the SUNY Council of University Affairs and Development Award for Educational achievement. He’s also the recipient of numerous honorary degrees, including an honorary doctorate for public service from the Sage Colleges and an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Westfield State College.

6. Michael Chasen

Michael Chasen obtained his BS in computer science from American University in 1993. Since graduating, he’s carved out a remarkable career in technology, starting with a consulting position in the Higher Education Group of KPMG. In 1997, Chasen left KPMG to launch consultancy firm, Blackboard LLC,, alongside former KPMG colleague, Matthew Pittinsky. In 2013, Chasen expanded his industry reach with the launch of SocialRadar, a mobile startup focused on developing a social location app. During the first wave of investments alone, Chasen managed to secure a hefty $12.75 million – the app was subsequently launched in 2014 to massive success. On a personal front, Chasen has achieved widespread recognition for his achievements, including a place on Forbes’ list of “America's 15 Most Powerful CEOs 40 And Under’ and the honor of being named Young Innovator by the Kilby Foundation.

7. Richard Clark

American University graduate Richard Clark served briefly as a lieutenant in the US Army before joining Merck & Co in 1972. After serving as CEO of the pharmaceutical company between 2005 and 2010, president from 2005 and 2009 and chairman from 2007 to 2011, Clark retired from the company in 2011. He continues to serve on the Board of Directors for Project Hope, a non-profit foundation that offers health care in developing nations.

8. Gary Cohn

American investment banker Gary Cohn graduated from American University’s Kogod School of Business with a BS in Business Administration in 1982. After leaving education, Cohn served a brief stint at U.S Steel before entering the New York Mercantile Exchange as an options dealer. In 1990, Cohn was headhunted by Goldman Sachs. After several years climbing his way up the ladder, Cohn was named president, director and COO of the company in 2006. Cohn left Goldman Sachs in 2009, and subsequently served in President Trump’s administration as Director of the National Economic Council (a position that earned him the title of “economic-policy powerhouse" by The Wall Street Journal, until his resignation in the spring of 2018.

9. Louis Dubin

After receiving a law degree at Washington College of Law at American University, Louis Dubin followed in the footsteps of 4 generations of Dubins by entering the real estate business. As the founding partner of real estate company Redbrick LMD, and former owner of development firm Athena, Dubin has been responsible for overseeing the conversion of multiple landmark sites into luxury condominiums, earning a mention by New York Magazine as one of the "new generation of uptown A-listers" in the process.

10. Sulaiman Al-Fahim

Sulaiman Al-Fahim earned his bachelor’s degree in marketing from UAE University before graduating from American University’s Kogod School of Business with a master’s in finance and real estate. He’s subsequently built a successful career in real estate as CEO of Hydra Properties Real Estate Development Company and the President of Arab Union for Real Estate. Outside of real estate, Al-Fahim is a successful author, reality TV show creator and host, and humanitarian, serving as a Goodwill Ambassador for the Intergovernmental Institution and playing an active role in the International Renewable Energy Organization.

11. Jeffrey Gedmin

Since earning his BA in music from American University, Jeffry Gedmin has developed a successful career as a scholar, author and businessman. In addition to serving 6 years as director of the Aspen Institute in Berlin, Gedmin has also served as resident scholar and executive director of the American Enterprise Institute’s New Atlantic initiative, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, president and CEO of the Legatum Institute from 2011-2014 and president of Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty from 2007-2011. Gedmin currently serves as Editor-in-Chief of The American Interest, a bi-monthly publication focused on foreign policy and international affairs.

12. Avram Glazer

Avram Glazer graduated from the Washington College of Law at American University after receiving his BS in business administration from Washington University in 1982. Since leaving education, Glazer has followed in the footsteps of his father, Malcolm Glazer, by becoming a major shareholder in various sports teams. Currently, the businessman serves as both the owner of the Tamper Bay Buccaneers of the NFL, and a major stakeholder in British premier league football club, Manchester United.

13. Marco Gobbetti

After earning a degree in business administration from the American University, Gobbetti transferred to the Thunderbird School of Global Management to complete his education with a master’s degree in international management. After graduating, Gobbetti took on the position of commercial director to Italian luxury brand Bottega Veneta. Since leaving the company in 1989, Gobbotti has enjoyed positions of rank with such brands as Valextra, Moschino, Givenchy and Celine. In 2016, Gobbetti joined designer label, Burberry, serving as CEO and, as of July 2017, member of the board of directors.

14. Patricia Harrison

In 1973, American University graduate Patricia Harrison co-founded PR agency the E. Bruce Harrison Company with her husband (and company namesake) E. Bruce Harrison. Since the company was sold in 1996, Harrison has served on George H.W. Bush’s President’s Export Council, acted as chair of the Republican National Committee, and served as Assistant Secretary of State for Education and Cultural Affairs. In 2005, Harrison was selected as president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a position she holds to this day.

15. Wilbert Hopper

Wilbert Hopper graduated with a Bachelor of Science in geology from the American University and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Western Ontario. He followed up his educational success with a stellar career as a civil servant and business executive. After several years as the assistant deputy minister of energy policy in the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, Hopper became involved in the creation of the state-owned Canadian oil and gas firm, Petro-Canada. Hopper served as chairman and CEO of the business from 1979- 1993, when the company was privatized. In 1985, Hopper’s achievements in the energy industry was recognized when he was made an Office of the Order of Canada.

16. Jesse Itzler

After earning his bachelor’s degree from American University in 1990, Jesse Itzler enjoyed a successful career as a rapper and songwriter. After earning Emmy success for “I Love this Game” and international acclaim for writing and singing the New York Knicks theme song “Go NY Go”, Itzler left the music industry to try his luck in business. After co- founding the record company Alphabet City Sports Records with Kenny Dichter, Itzler launched Marquis Jet. Since its inception, Marquis Jet has grown into one of the largest private jet companies in the world, given Itzler (who would later find similar success as owner of brand incubator, 100 Mile Group, and co-owner of basketball team Atlanta Hawks) a personal fortune worth an estimated $250 million.

17. Shahal M. Khan

Shahal M. Khan gained his bachelor’s degree in economics from American University before earning his master’s degree in international development from the Johns Hopkins University Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. Since graduating, Kham has achieved phenomenal success as the executive chairman of Global Data Sentinel and chairman of the board of White City Ventures. Prior to his current position, Khan served as CEO of French software company Centile and vice president of solar energy company Zebasolar. Of all his accomplishments, Khan is perhaps best known for his multi-million dollar acquisition of the Plaza Hotel in New York. The deal, which was part financed by British real estate investors David and Simon Reuben, was worth a reported $600 million.

18. Robert P. Kogod

Business executive and philanthropist Robert P. Kogod is best known as the late head of leasing and management at Charles E. Smith Companies, the real estate company responsible for the development of Crystal City, an urban neighborhood in the southeastern corner of Arlington County, Virginia. In addition to his business activities, Kogod was a renowned art collector and philanthropist whose various charitable donations included a $50 million gift to the Smithsonian Institution.

19. Steven M. Rales

After gaining his J.D. from American University in 1978, Steven M Rales worked briefly with his father’s real estate company before leaving to found Equity Group Holdings. Over the following few years, he and his brother went on to acquire several businesses, including Diversified Mortgage Group (later renamed Danaher), and the then largest aluminum extrusion manufacturer in the US, Easco Corporation. In 2018, Rales’ successes in business earned him a place on the Forbes 400, and, in 2019, an entry on their “Billionaires’ list.

20. Melville Peter McPherson

Melville Peter McPherson received his undergraduate degree from Michigan State University in 1953 and his law degree from American University in 1969. He subsequently built a career in politics, serving in an administrative capacity under several presidents, including Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. After leaving the public sector, McPherson joined the Bank of America as Group Executive Vice President. In 2006, he was appointed president of the Association of Public and Land- Grant Universities, and in 2007, chairman of Dow Jones & Co.

Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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