The 20 Most Notable Arizona State University Alumni in Business

Arizona State University Campus

Since its establishment in 1885, Arizona State University has become one of the largest seats of higher learning in the country. With its offer of 350 undergraduate degree courses and 400 postgraduate options, it’s easy to see why it’s such a popular choice among the nation’s youth. As of fall 2018, the university had a total of 80000 students… while we can safely assume not all will go on to glory, quite a few just might (if the University’s past students are anything to go by, at least). With an alumnus rich in entrepreneurs, architects, financial experts and CEO’s, Arizona State is clearly doing something right… to find out more, let’s take a look at which of its alumni have done best in business.

1. Peterson Zah

Peterson Zah graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education from Arizona State University in 1963. As a politician (Zah was the first President and last chairman of Navajo) and as a businessman (Zah has served as executive director of the DNS People’s Legal Service and chairman of the Navajo Tribal Council), few graduates can match his accomplishments. His success in resolving a long standing conflict between the Navajo and Hopi tribes, along with the fruits of his fundraising efforts with Save the Children and the Navajo Education and Scholarship Foundation, have been recognized with multiple honors, including honorary degrees from Colorado College and the College of Santa Fe.

2. Ryan Wood

Ryan Wood graduated with a B.A. in History from Arizona State University in 1996, and subsequently went on to carve out a hugely successful career in business. Wood initially started out in football, playing fullback for the Dallas Cowboys for a number of years. However, his real success started when he traded his jersey for a business suit. In 1996, Wood co- founded Under Amour, which would go onto become one of the biggest casual attire brands in the world. He subsequently built a fortune in the cattle industry, before turning his hand to food production with the launch of his dried meats and jerky company, Sweethouse Smokehouse.

3. Robert Bigelow

Since graduating from Arizona State University in 1967, Robert Bigelow has developed into one of the country’s foremost businessmen. After developing a successful career in commercial real estate, Bigelow took a change in direction in 1999 when he founded Bigelow Aerospace, a space technology startup in Nevada that produces expandable space station modules. Having already launched several experimental space modules, Bigelow’s next project is an inflatable “space hotel” in partnership with United Launch Alliance, which he plans to launch in 2022.

4. Michael R. Burns

Michael Raymond Burns graduated with a B.S, degree from Arizona State in 1980. His first job after graduating was as a sales representative for IBM. He then moved on to Prudential Securities, where he served as Managing director and Head of Office. After departing Prudential, Burns worked for 18 years as a Wall Street executive. In 1999, Burns was appointed to the board of directors at Lionsgate. He currently serves as the company’s vice chairman; under his leadership, the company has transformed from a small independent studio into an entertainment juggernaut which in 2015, generated the 7th highest gross revenue of any company in America.

5. Kathleen King von Alvensleben

After graduating from Arizona State University, Kathleen von Alvensleben began her career in architecture in London. Following the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Alvensleben relocated to Berlin, and was subsequently instrumental in several renowned projects, including the redevelopment of the International Trade Centre and the Kosmos Movie Theater. In 1992. Von Alvensleben launched the Berlin City Palace Sponsoring Association, a foundation that raises funds for the restructuring of the Berlin City Palace. Von Alvensleben’s fundraising efforts have attained international recognition, garnering support from the likes of President George W. Bush, Nobel prize laureate Gunter Blobel, and various senior politicians and aides.

6. Christopher Cohan

After graduating from Arizona State University, Christopher J. Cohan achieved success (or at, least fame) as the owner of the professional basketball team, the Golden State Warriors. Despite being instrumental in the renovation of the Warrior’s arena, Cohan’s tenure as owner was regarded as a failure: under his leadership, the team enjoyed only 2 winning seasons out of a total of fifteen, leading Sports Illustrated to name Cohan as the 4th worst owner across all basketball teams. He fared slightly better outside of NBA: by 1998, the company he’d founded in 1998, Sonic Communication, had become one of the most successful independently owned cable outlets in the country. It’s sale in 1998 bought in a very happy $200 million, and, slightly less happily, a $160 million tax evasion charge.

7. Vince Ferraro

American business executive Vince Ferraro graduated from San Diego State University with a B.A. in business administration before earning his MBA from Arizona State University. Fresh from graduation, Ferraro secured a senior financial analyst position at Hewlett- Packard, and spent the next few decades steadily climbing the ranks until attaining his final position as vice president for the LaserJet division. Since leaving HP in 2008, Ferraro has worked for Eastman Kodak: his successful management has bought in multiple awards for the company from the International Association of Printing, and a vice presidency position for Ferraro. In addition to his success in the printing industry, Ferraro has co-authored 2 successful books, 2012’s In It To Win It and 2015’s Brand To Sell Masterplan.

8. Ira A. Fulton

Ira A. Fulton has achieved remarkable success since graduation, achieving recognition for both his successful business activities and prolific philanthropy. Although primarily a land developer, Futon has worked in a number of industries over the past 5 decades, owning factories, insurance companies and most profitably of all, the men’s clothing company, Big and Tall. Fulton purchased the company in 1976, and in just 2 years, had radically transformed its fortunes by increasing outlets from 2 to 33, and driving sales into the multi-millions naming him as one of their “50 Most Generous Philanthropists” in recognition of his sizable donations to educational establishments and charitable causes.

9. Bennie Gonzales

After graduating as one of the first 2 students of Arizona State University’s architecture degree program, Bennie Gonzales carved out a career as one of the nations foremost architects. His signature style of southwestern architecture is as evident on a global level as it is in his home state of Arizona: as well as developing hundreds of private and municipal buildings in Arizona, Gonzales was instrumental in the design of a $1.5 billion residence for the Saudi Royal Family. Other notable projects include the hospital in Chinle, Arizona, Scottsdale City Hall and the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

10. Derrick Hall

After attaining his bachelor’s degree in Broadcasting and Journalism from Arizona State University, Derrick Hall enjoyed a brief stint as senior vice president of corporate communications for KB Home before joining professional basketball team, the Arizona Diamondbacks, as senior vice president of communications. Hall subsequently served in a number of positions with the team before achieving his current position as president in 2006 and CEO in 2009. Under his leadership, the Diamondbacks have won multiple championships and been named “the best workplace in sports” by Forbes. For his efforts, Hall has been rewarded with a place on Rise Global’s list of 100 Most Influential CEO’s.

11. Robert Hecht-Nielson

Arizona State University graduate Robert Hecht-Nielson made his fortune with HNC Software, a provider of analytics and decision management software and tools, and latterly, as vice president of R&D at Fair Isaac Corporation, a data analytics company that acquired HNC in 2002. Outside of his activities with Fair Isaac, Hecht-Nielson serves as a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of California.

12. Howard Lindzon

Canadian Howard Lindzon received his M.B.A from Arizona State University after graduating from the University of Western Ontario with a Bachelor of Commerce. Lindzon has since gone on to carve out a successful career as an author (credits include The Wallstrip Edge: Using Trends to Make Money – Find Them, Ride Them, and Get Off (2009) and The StockTwits Edge: 40 Actionable Trade Set-Ups from Real Market Pros (2011)); hedge fund manager; managing partner of the holding company Social Leverage; super angel investor (significant investments have included stocks in rent.com, Ticketfly, Uservoice, Klout and BlogTalkRadio); and co-founder of StockTwits, a social media platform that has been named by Fastcompany as one of the “top 10 most innovative companies in finance”.

13. Allison Maslan

After studying journalism at Arizona State University, Allison Maslan went on to build a successful career in homeopathy. In 1996, she attained the position of CEO at the Homeopathy Wellness Center in San Diego, and 3 years later, she was instrumental in building the Homeopathic Academy of Southern California. During her career, Maslan has founded numerous companies, including a full-service advertising and public relations firm in 1981, a real estate investment company, and a jewelry and accessories business. Maslan currently serves as CEO of business mentoring company, Blast Off!, and presents her own weekly online television series, Allie & You.

14. Kate Spade

Prior to her death in 2018, Arizona State University graduate, Kate Spade, was one of fashion’s foremost designers. As founder and former co-owner of Kate Spade New York, Spade bought fashionable, affordable handbags and accessories to a very receptive public: during the 1990’s, her handbags achieved such popularity that they became a status symbol across the country. By 2006, Spade had sold on her stake in the business to Neiman Marcus Group, and had launched a line of luxury handbags and footwear under her new brand, Frances Valentine.

15. Ted Sarandos

American businessman Ted Sarandos majored in journalism at Arizona State University before leaving his studies to manage a video store. From those small beginnings, Sarandos has developed into one of America’s leading businessmen; in his position as chief content officer for Netflix, Sarandos was responsible for the company’s first round of original programming (which included the hits LilyHammer and House of Cards) and its subsequent success at Awards season… in the 2018 Emmy’s, Netflix beat off the competition to claim a total of 23 awards, showing that Sarandos’ policy of investing the company’s bucks in content is clearly paying off.

16. T. Allan McArtor

Trusten Allan McArtor graduated with an MSE from Arizona State University after achieving his BSE from the U.S Air Force Academy. McArtor has held numerous positions during his career, including founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Legend Airlines, along with multiple leadership roles in the military and government. His most recent role is as chairman of the multinational aerospace corporation, Airbus North America Holdings Inc. Outside of overseeing the operations of Airbus, McArtor serves on the Board of Directors of EADs North America, the US Chamber of Commerce, the Committee for Economic Development, and GKN Aerospace Technologies (among others).

17. Ioanna Morfessis

Since obtaining her PH. D from Arizona State University, Ioanna Morfessis has excelled as an economic development strategist. During her career, Morfessis has founded four economic development organizations, including the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (at which she currently serves as president and CEO). Morfessis’ accomplishments were recognized in 2011, when she received the International Economic Development Council Lifetime Achievement for Excellence in Economic Development Award. She was also named as the Maricopa Community College Foundation’s Hero of the Year in 2017, in recognition of her contribution to Arizona public education.

18. Barbara Barrett

Since graduating from Arizona State University, Barbara Barrett has achieved phenomenal success as a businesswoman and diplomat. By the time she was 30, Barrett had already obtained executive roles at two Fortune 500 companies. She’s since gone on to found and chair Valley Bank of Arizona, obtain a partnership at a law firm, and run as the first female Republican candidate for Governor of Arizona. Barrett currently serves as chair of Aerospace Corporation, a California based non-profit, and holds board positions with multiple companies, including Lasker Foundation, RAND Corporation, and Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

19. Doug Ducey

Arizona State University graduate Doug Ducey spent a brief spell in sales and marketing with Procter & Gamble before joining Cold Stone Creamery as CEO and partner. After leaving the firm, Ducey became the lead investor and chair for iMemories. He’s subsequently served on numerous boards, including the Banner Health Foundation and St. John’s Jesuit High School Council, but saw his greatest achievement to date in 2014, when he was elected the 23rd governor of Arizona.

20. Aaron Matos

Since leaving Arizona State University, Aaron Matos has developed a reputation as a consummate entrepreneur. Having previously served on the committee for the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, the board of the Dean’s Council at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, and the Board of Governors for the International Association of Employment Websites, he now serves as CEO and founder of Paradox, a startup that aims to transform the recruiting sector through artificial intelligence. Matos’ success in business has resulted in numerous awards, including the prestigious 2008 Arizona Business Leadership Award.


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