20 Most Notable University of Washington Alumni in Business

University of Washington

There is a time when parents used to tell us that education is the key to success, and while the roots are bitter, the fruits are sweet. At the time we did not understand what they meant, but once we saw how successful some of the people who went to school were, we aspired to be like them. Here is a list of some of the most notable University of Washington alumni in business that might encourage someone to get a degree.

1. Donald Petersen

Donald wanted a job that offered him a sense of stability after watching his father struggle to find work. Therefore it is no surprise that when he got one with Ford Motor Company, he stuck with it for 40 years. Donald joined Ford Motor Company in 1949 as a developer and product planner and rose the ranks to become its CEO and chairman by 1990 when Donald retired. Donald’s management style was different from the rest since he was interested in what his employees thought and it is for this reason that he was elected president of the company in 1980.

2. James Sun

Perhaps the first time we saw James on television was during “The Apprentice” when he became the first native from Seattle to become a finalist on the show. James was among those selected for the “Wondrous 100 Alumni Award” from the University of Washington which goes to show how much the institution appreciates his efforts in the real world. James founded GeoPage.com, and his work experience has been gathered in some of the leading firms in the country; he was a database programmer at Intel and management consultant at Deloitte Consulting. James currently is the CEO of PIRQ INC. and is often invited on television shows to speak on topics such as entrepreneurship, international business, and social media.

3. Ivar Haglund

Some people see a gap in the market and fill it, leading to a profitable business, and that is what Ivar did in 1938. Ivar opened the first aquarium in Seattle on Pier 54, and people queued to catch a glimpse of the sea life, but they had to pay a nickel. Ivar noticed the aquarium viewers were getting hungry, so he opened a restaurant where he served fish and chips and red clam chowder. He advertised his business through his folk songs which he performed in nearby schools and attracted more customers by inviting them for a clam eating contest or watch octopus wrestling.

4. William S. Ayer

William was the chairman and CEO of Alaska Air Group and Alaska Airlines and now sits on the board of various organizations. He is a member of the BOD at Honeywell International and The Museum Flight and a board member at VICIS. William was a member of the board of directors of Puget Sound Energy for a decade from January 2005 and later became the chairman of the BOD.

5. Edward Carlson

Edward began his career as a bellboy at Benjamin Franklin Hotel in Seattle and despite eyeing the pageboy position he did not get it but he kept pressing on, and by 1946, he had become the assistant to the president of Western Hotels. In 1960, he was heading the entire chain of Western International Hotels and when the hotels merged with United Airlines. Edward became the president, CEO, and Chairman. He, however, retired from all positions in 1983 but his input was still crucial, so he was asked to rejoin the board of Allegis, the company that succeeded UAL.

6. David Bonderman

David is a billionaire with a net worth of $3.3 billion as of 17 May 2019 and the company he founded TPG along with Jim Coulter in 1992, is now worth $84 billion in assets. David met with Jim when they were working for Robert Bass, and they left together to found TPG. The duo landed their first major deal worth $66 million with Continental Airlines, and it made them a profit of $640 million eventually. Bonderman also started Bonderman Travel Fellowship at the University of Washington which sponsors fellows to travel for eight months to at least six countries.

7. Jeff Brotman

Jeff learned from his childhood that money was the solution to your problems, but you had to work for it. Therefore he and his brother Michel started a men’s store and women’s jeans shop and treated his employees like family; something that his parents had taught him. Later on, when Jeff traveled to France, he came across a hypermarket that combined a department store with a discount grocery store; hence, the idea of Costco was born. He sought Jim Sinegal, and together they used their own money to fund the business which today operates in 8 countries.

8. Chris DeWolfe

Chris is the man behind the world’s first networking and social media through his creation, MySpace, in 2003. After two years News Corp bought the business for $580 million, and Chris resigned from his CEO position in 2009, but it was not to relax but to seize another business opportunity. He teamed up with Colin Digiaro, Aber Whitcomb and Josh Yguado and together they created a new gaming platform, Jam City. Jam City has worked with leading brands such as Disney’s Frozen and Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, which became the fastest game to amass $100 million in the company’s history.

9. Yoshihiko Miyauchi

Yoshihiko began his way to the top as a salaryman before heading Orix for more than 30 years. For a man who admits that being a leader is tiring, he still upholds creativity in business and the sense of achievement when they created a new product is what he enjoyed most during his tenure at Orix. Although he does not have a management policy and does not quite have anyone he looks up to for their leadership abilities, Yoshihiko admired some of the business leaders such as Konosuke Matsushita, founder of Panasonic Corp.

10. Steven Rogel

Steven must have been viewed as a traitor when he led the takeover bid for Willamette Industries, a company he had worked for, yet was leaving it for Weyerhaeuser. William Swindells had been Steven’s mentor for 25 years, and he felt like Steven was betraying their friendship when he announced his plans to leave the company; so bitter was William that he wanted Steven to resign immediately. However, Steven had the bigger picture that included the welfare of his friends at Willamette Industries. Today, Steven is the president, chairman, and CEO of Weyerhaeuser, one of the largest forest-products companies in America.

11. Orin Smith

Orin is the kind of man who believed in the phrase “slow but sure,” and maybe that is what earned him the nickname “Tortoise.” Orin’s leadership was very methodical; he was never in a rush and always took the time to listen and find a way to make things happen, with such a leadership style, it comes as no surprise that during his time as the CEO of Starbucks, the store increased from 45 stores to outlets scattered in 33 countries.

12. Irvine Robbins

Irvine’s father had an ice-cream parlor, where Irvine started his ice-cream selling experience. Later on, Irvine joined hands with his brother in law, Burt Barskin to create their own ice-cream business called Barskin-Robbins. So much was Irvine’s passion for ice cream that he had a pool dug in the shape of ice cream in his backyard while in his kitchen, he installed a full-service ice-cream counter. By the time of his death in 2008, the business operated in 34 countries in 6,000 locations and is famous for 31 flavors of ice-cream, each dedicated to every day of the month.

13. Nate Miles

Nate is the Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at Eli Lilly and Company who believes growing up without money but in a house full of love and good family values is growing up broke, not destitute. His mother was a bus driver and domestic worker and one day as she prayed for God to make a way for her son to go to college, the owner of the house she had cleaned overheard, and they offered to pay Mile’s tuition for the first year. His professors told stories so well that Miles decided to pursue advertising and it has paid off handsomely.

14. Manick Sorcar

Manick, born in Bangladesh, is an Indian-American entrepreneur, engineering and artist. He is the CEO of Sorcar Engineering but is mostly known for his artistic skills. Manick’s father was a magician, and Manick would paint the backdrops and design the stage lighting which ignited his desire to pursue a career in lighting. As the CEO of his company, he works on large-scale technical projects during the day while at night, he continues with his artistic passion.

15. Peter Adkison

Peter owns Gen Con, which is a major annual game convention in the Midwest. He also is the founder and was the CEO of his company, Wizards of the Coast from 1993 to 2001. Peter loved games a child, and Terry Campbell, his friend suggested that they should start a company. However, it was not until Peter went to work for Boeing as a system analyst that he took the idea seriously and he, therefore, discussed the idea with his friend Ken McGlothlen, leading to Wizards of the Coast being started on May 23, 1990. He, however, sold the company to Hasbro in 2001 and then purchased Gen Con from Hasbro in 2002.

16. Donald Bren

Bren graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor’s degree in business, paying for the tuition from his own funds and a skiing scholarship. Soon after in 1958, he started Bren Company, a property development firm that constructed houses in California’s Orange County. His first construction was enabled by a $10,000 bank loan, and the business flourished with Bren reinvesting the profits into new developments. In 1970, International Paper Co. acquired Bren Company for $34 million, but the recession hit and Bren repurchased his company for $22 million. Donald continued making his fortunes in real estate, and by 2017 his net worth was $15.2 billion.

17. Leonard H. Lavin

Leonard was born in 1919, and his breakthrough in business came when he bought regional beauty supply producer, Alberto Culver, and made it into a market leader whose presence could be felt in over 100 countries. Albert Culver became not just a manufacturer of beauty supplies but also for household goods, food and toiletries. He took the company public in 1961 and later sold it to Unilever at a time when it was turning over $3.5 billion in annual sales.

18. Mike McGavick

Mike admits that most of the jobs he has had are those that no one wanted because they were too much of a challenge for the others and maybe they felt like they were being set up to fail. However, Mike is not one to back down from a challenge, and it is the persistent critical thinking that led to him leading the turnaround of companies such as Safeco and XL Group. He was surprised that those he thought were better qualified to run the companies had turned down the offer. He attributes his confidence to the advice that Slade Gorton gave him that one must be willing to think deeply about a solution to a problem instead of using old methods.

19. Arthur Levinson

Arthur has been the chairman of Apple Inc. since 2000 and the chief executive officer of Calico LLC since 2013. He has a 0.024% stake in Apple Inc. through a shareholding of 1,147,283 units of stock that is worth $180,972, 420.

20. John Fluke

John founded Fluke Corporation, which manufactures electronic test Equipment, according to Wikipedia. Today Fluke Corporation is a leading company Fluke tools are renowned for their ease to use, portability, accuracy, and high standards of quality.


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