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The 20 Most Notable Northwestern University Alumni in Business

Northwestern University opened its doors on January 28th, 1851, and has subsequently welcomed 19 future Nobel Prize laureates, 38 Pulitzer Prize winners, 2 Supreme Court Justices, and a string of boys and girls who would go on to become some of the most influential business men and women in the country. From tech to real estate, from food delivery to pharmaceuticals, you’d be hard pushed to find a sector that doesn’t bear the footprint of a Northwestern graduate. To discover more, let’s look at 20 of the University’s most notable graduates in the field of business.

1. Gwynne Shotwell

American businesswoman and engineer Gwynne Shotwell graduated with honors from Northwestern University with a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mathematics. After a brief flirtation with the automotive industry, Shotwell took on a position at the Segundo research center of The Aerospace Corporation, where she worked largely in the area of military space research and development. After 10 years with the company, she left to become director of Mirocosm Inc. a rocket builder in El Segundo. 4 years later, she joined SpaceX, a space exploration founded by Eton Musk in 2002. Shotwell’s progression through the ranks has been rapid, and she now enjoys the position of company President and COO. Outside of SpaceX, Shotwell is active in STEM, and currently leads the Frank J. Redd Student Scholarship Competition, which in just 6 years, has raised more than $350,000 in scholarships.

2. Christine Poon

American business executive Christine Poon earned her B.S. from Northwestern University before competing her studies with an M.A. at Saint Louis University, and an M.B.A from Boston University. After completing her education, Poon joined New York based pharmaceuticals company, Bristol Myers Squibb, and steadily advanced through the ranks until she attained the position of President of the international medicines division. After departing Bristol Myers Squibb in 2002, Poon joined Johnson & Johnson in the dual- role of vice chairman of the company, and worldwide chairman of J&J's Pharmaceuticals Group. During her tenure with the pharmaceutical giant, Poon won multiple accolades, including Healthcare Businesswomen's Association "Woman of the Year" in 2004, Wall Street Journal’s “Business Leader of the Future” in 2005, and a mention as one of Forbes "100 Most Powerful Women” in 2008.

3. D. Cameron Findlay

Donald Cameron Findlay is an American attorney who currently serves as the senior vice president, general counsel and secretary of global food processing and commodities trading corporation, Archer Daniel Midland Company. Prior to his current role, Findlay (who graduated first in his class at Northwestern University), held multiple positions in law, politics and business, including a partnership position at law firm Sidley Austin, senior aide to George H. Bush, Deputy Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush and senior vice president, general counsel and secretary at Medtronic.Inc. Findlay’s achievements have been recognized with multiple accolades, including the "William Avery Award" in 2014 in recognition of his endeavors in pro bono legal services, and the “Scales of Justice” award from Equal Justice Works for his commitment to public service.

4. Bill Cook

American entrepreneur William Cook graduated from Northwestern University in 1953 with a degree in Biology. On leaving University, he served a brief stint in the army as a surgical technician, before co-founding the company that would go onto to become the Cook Group with his wife, Gayle. The company started out as a small-time producer of medical devices, but after partnering up with some of the founders of Interventional Radiology, it quickly expanded into one of the largest manufacturers of medical devices in the world. Outside of running the daily operations of the business, Cook had a keen interest in historic preservation; his endeavors to restore and preserve Indiana’s heritage sites were honored in 2007 when Indiana Landmarks unveiled an award in his name.

5. Sue Castorino

Since graduating from Northwestern University in 1975 with a Bachelor of Science in Speech, Sue Castorino has carved out a successful career as a broadcast journalist, news anchor, and most recently, as founder and president of The Speaking Specialist, a Chicago- based operation that delivers public speaking, conflict resolution and media training services. In 2000, The Speaking Company pulled in one of its biggest contracts to date when Castorino was offered the chance to deliver media training to Team US at the Sydney Olympic Games- the training proved so successful Castorino has been in hot demand with Olympic athletes ever since. In addition to her day job with The Speaking Company, Castorino is a professor at the Loyola University School of Communication, where she lectures in Broadcast Journalism, Public Speaking and Critical Thinking, and Ethics and Communication (among other things).

6. Lisa Caputo

Northwestern University graduate Lisa Caputo has enjoyed a stellar career in business, taking in an executive vice president position at Citigroup; chairman and CEO at Citi’s Women and Co.; deputy assistant to President Clinton and press secretary to the First Lady during Clinton’s first term in office; and latterly, executive vice president and chief marketing and communications officer for The Travelers Companies, Inc, one of the largest Insurance companies in the US. In addition to her day-to -day activities with Travelers, Caputo regularly features on TV shows as a commentator on topical events and politics.

7. Arthur E. Anderson

After graduating from Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management with a bachelor’s degree in business, Arthur Edward Anderson began working with US manufacturer, Allis-Chalmers. After developing an interest in accountancy, he became a Certified Public Accountant, and in 1913, bought out the Audit Company of Illinois to form Andersen, Delaney & Co. (later to be known as Arthur Andersen & Co.). The company proved hugely successful, and by the time of Anderson’s death in 1947 at the age of 61, Arthur Andersen & Co was one of the biggest accounting firms in the world. In 1953, he was inducted into the Accounting Hall of Fame, and in 1979, Northwestern University dedicated the Arthur Anderson Hall to his memory.

8. James L. Allen

James L. Allen graduated from Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management in 1929 with a B.S. degree in Economics. After graduating, Allen joined Edwin G. Booz, a consulting firm that had been founded 15 years earlier by its namesake, Edwin Booz, with the aim of delivering consulting and engineering services to both private companies and non-profit organizations. Allen enjoyed a stellar rise through the company ranks, and in 1934, he was named partner. Allen led the firm under its new name, Booz Allen Hamilton, from 1944 to 1970. Under his leadership, the company experienced transformative growth, expanding into new locations and diversifying its service offerings. In the 1950’s, the firm’s success inspired Time Magazine to name it "the world's largest, most prestigious management consulting firm."

9. Alfred Steele

Alfred Nu Steele graduated from Northwestern University in 1923 and was immediately taken on as vice president of marketing for The Coca-Cola Company. Steele impressed from the start, and by 1949, he was rewarded with the position of CEO at the Pepsi-Cola Company. During his tenure, the company saw remarkable growth, with sales more than tripling between 1955 and 1957. Sales increased further still when Steele expanded the customer base by introducing Pepsi products to developing countries. As well as being remarkable for his business achievements, Steele is also noteworthy for his choice of wife: in 1955, Steele became the fourth (and last) husband of legendary actress, Joan Crawford.

10. Lee Styslinger

Alabama native Lee Styslinger earned his undergraduate degree from Northwestern University before advancing his studies with an MBA at Harvard University. After graduating from Northwestern in 1983, Styslinger took on a position at his family firm, Altec, Inc. Styslinger’s rise through the ranks was rapid, and by 1994, he was president. 3 years later, he was named CEO, and as of 2019, he acts as both CEO and chairman of the company. In recent years, Styslinger has become active in politics, serving on the Presidents Export Council between 2006 and 2008, and President Trump’s Manufacturing Council since 2017.

11.Robert Wayman

Robert Wayman graduated with a bachelor’s degree in science and engineering and a Master of Business Administration degree from Northwestern University in 1967. Shortly after graduation, Wayman joined Hewlett-Packard Company, one of the largest information technology companies in the world. Wayman enjoyed a stellar career at HP, becoming CFO in 1984, and executive vice president a few years later. He also served briefly as intern CEO, following successor Carly Florina’s forced departure from the company in 2005.

12.Will Shu

After receiving his bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University, William Shu took on a position as an investment banking investor with multinational investment bank and financial services company, Morgan Stanley. He subsequently enjoyed positions with S.A.C Capital Advisors and ESO, before launching his own online food delivery business, Deliveroo, in 2013. The company, which Shu co-founded with childhood friend and software engineer, Greg Orlowski, experienced rapid growth in its first 2 years, and quickly expanded its London base to take in operations across Paris, Dublin and Berlin. Today, the company operates from 200 cities across 12 countries, and as of 2017, was valued at more than £1.5 billion.

13. Scott J. Freidheim

Since graduating with a B.A. in economics from Northwestern University in 1987, Scott Jon Freidheim has built an impressive resume, which includes vice chairman and CEO positions at global corporation, Investcorp, board membership at N&W Global Vending and Icopal, executive vice president at Sears Holding, and CAO and executive vice president at Lehman Brothers. In 2005, Freidheim’s successes were recognized by the World Economic Forum, who awarded him the prestigious title of Young Global Leader.

14. Divya Narendra

After graduating A.B. cum laude in applied mathematics from Harvard University, Divya Narendra attended Northwestern University, where he earned his J.D. and MBA in 2012. Despite his relative youth, Narendra has already launched 2 hugely influential business: SumZero, an application based online community which serves as a hosting platform for capital introduction services, job opportunities and investment research, and ConnectU (formerly HarvardConnection), a social networking site purported to be the precursor of Facebook.

15. Christopher Galvin

Christopher Galvin earned his B.S. in political science and his M.B.A. from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. During his studies, Galvin held several part time positions at Motorola, the multinational telecommunications company founded by Galvin’s grandfather, Paul Galvin, in 1928. After graduating, Galvin joined the company on a full-time basis, and steadily climbed the ranks with positions as marketing director and general manager of the company’s Tegal unit, vice -president and director of its paging division, chief corporate staff officer and senior vice president. In 1998, he achieved the title of CEO and in 1999, he was named chairman of the board. Despite stepping down from the company in 2004, Galvin’s impact on the company’s fortunes still resonates today, with a study by Monitor-Global Business Network placing his turnaround of Motorola as one of the top five large high tech turnarounds of all time.

16. Louis S. Kahnweiler

Louis S. Kahnweiler graduated with a B.A. in business from Northwestern University before briefly serving in the U.S. Navy. After returning to public duties, Kahnweiler co- founded the real estate development company, Bennett & Kahnweiler alongside business partner, Marshall Bennett. During his time with the company, Kahnweiler developed a portfolio that included 26 industrial parks around the US, including Centex Industrial Park in Elk Grove Village. In 1985, the company diversified into investment counselling, office brokerage and property management. Until his death in 2017, Kahnweiler was noted for his philanthropy, and served on the board of directors for various foundations, including the Highland Park General Hospital and Roosevelt University.

17. David Kabiller

Since graduating with a B.A. in economics and an M.B.A from the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management, David Kabiller has achieved remarkable success in business, culminating in the launch of AQR Capital Management alongside partners, Cliff Asness, John M. Liew and Robert Krall. The investment management firm offers investment vehicles to both institutional investors and financial advisers. Under Kabiller’s leadership, the company has grown into a truly global concern, with 1000 employees over 10 locations, and over $203 billion assets under management.

18. Ginny Rometty

Virginia Marie Rometty graduated with high honors from the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University in 1979 and has since gone on to carve out a career as one of the country’s most successful businesswomen. Rometty joined IBM as a system engineer in 1981, and went on to head up the company’s global sales, marketing and strategy divisions before achieving her current position as chair, CEO and president. As the first woman to lead the company, Rometty’s achievements have been recognized (and applauded) across the business community, with Bloomberg naming her as one the “50 Most Influential People in the World," and Time calling her one of the “20 Most Important People in Tech."

19. Andrew Mason

After graduating from Northwestern University with a degree in music, Andrew Mason found work as a developer at Innerworkings. With the financial backing of Innerworkings founder, Eric Lefkofsky, Mason launched social initiatives platform, The Point. While The Point proved unmarketable in its original form, Mason worked on the concept and eventually relaunched it as global e-commerce marketplace, Groupon. Groupon has seen remarkable success since inception, but the fortunes of Mason have been slightly less buoyant: in 2012, Mason was named “Worst CEO of the Year” by CNBC’s Herb Greenberg, and in 2012, he was dismissed from his position as CEO.

20. Hugh Hefner

Northwestern University drop-out, Hugh Marston Hefner, worked as a copywriter for Esquire before founding the publication that was to make his name in 1953. The first copy of Playboy, which featured iconic actress Marilyn Monroe in a nude calendar shot, sold over 50,000 copies. Hefner would go on to develop the Playboy name into a global brand, and by the time of his death in 2017 at the age of 91, Hefner was worth a reported $50-110 million.

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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