Eccles Alumni Spotlight

Alumni Profile: Christine Whipple (BS’12)

Christine Whipple doubted that she would ever go to college, let alone go on to fund a scholarship.

Her journey towards a college education was a bit different than most entering freshman. Her husband was out of work, and Christine, who was working as a lead forklift operator for Lowes, began looking for employment that offered health insurance. Her neighbor Carolyn Buma – an Eccles School employee suggested she apply for an Executive Assistant position that had recently opened.

“I wasn’t sure I should apply. I had no experience. I’d been a mom for most of my life. Under education on my resume I put MOM and MRS,” Christine said, “so when Associate Dean, Bill Hesterly, interviewed me he said ‘I understand the Masters of Operations Management, but what is the MRS degree?’”

Christine laughs as she reflects back at having to explain her “education”. Dr. Hesterly was impressed and brought her on board to help several directors and then-dean Jack Brittain.

Rich Kaufusi, director of the Opportunity Scholars program, encouraged Christine, at the age of 51, to apply to the University and achieve her dream of going to college. The program is designed to help first generation, under represented students with financial need have access to a college education. Kaufusi believed Christine had the work ethic, dedication and determination required to be an Opportunity Scholar.

“My husband, Bryan, and I talked about what it would take to get me through school,” Christine says. “Together we decided if it wouldn’t cost me anything, then I would attend the next semester.”

She began applying for scholarships, sending in 15 to 20 applications each year so that she would be able to cover the cost.

Attending class before work, at lunch and online, Christine graduated Cum Laude in Management in just three years. Her Opportunity Scholars co-hort became a found family on campus who provided tremendous support, mentoring, and encouragement.

“Rich’s door was always open. He was always available to talk, calm me down or give me advice. He was my champion and inspired me to finish,” Christine says, “the other students were just as hungry as I was for the degree. We valued the education and what it meant to our future.”

Meanwhile at home Bryan became “Mr. Mom”.

“My schedule was much more flexible and I was able to step in to help with the three youngest children still at home.” Bryan says.

Christine acknowledges all the sacrifices the family made in order for her to complete her degree.

“This is a family degree. I did it for my family,” Christine says. “We have a son and daughter that have both since graduated from college and another son pursuing a mechanical engineering degree. I don’t know if that would have happened if they hadn’t been on this journey with me.”

“Christine graduated high school as a Sterling Scholar in business. She should have gone to college, but found it necessary to start work right away,” Bryan explains proudly.

About nine months before Christine‘s graduation, Bryan secretly started to put away small amounts of money here and there in order to start a scholarship to honor all her hard work.

“I knew if I got her jewelry, it wouldn’t be meaningful.” Bryan says, “She wouldn’t have been able to complete her degree without the scholarships she received, so it made sense to give back so someone else could have that opportunity.”

Bryan surprised Christine with the Christine C. Whipple Opportunity Scholarship at the Eccles School staff and faculty awards ceremony just before her graduation in May of 2012.

“Shocked, surprised and was not expecting this type of recognition,” were her reactions, Bryan recalled.

“I was honored Bryan would put this together,” Christine says.

Together they’ve supported five students in the Opportunity Scholars program and are excited to see the first student they supported in 2012 graduating this spring. And they’re not stopping there. The scholarship support is scheduled out for the next several years. Christine sits on the Advisory Board and mentors current students.

Christine’s career has flourished because of her education. She currently is the Annual Fund Officer for the Central Region at Intermountain Research and Medical Foundation.

“Opportunity Scholars is changing lives student lives and their family’s lives. The program has grown from 25 students to over 100 because of Rich’s dedication and passion for helping student’s achieve their dream. There’s no other place I’d rather give.”

The program just celebrated 20 years of impacting lives of students. Students, alumni and friends came together to recognize the accomplishments of the program and see the powerful changes in each other’s lives at a recent anniversary celebration. Read more…

You too can change a life by supporting Opportunity Scholars at the Eccles School. Give now… (note your gift is designated to the Opportunity Scholars program).

Alumni Profile: Jeff Lewis

Jeff has a natural ability to make you feel at ease; as he draws you into a conversation, you feel his passion for life and the work he does at Northwestern Mutual.

His career began before he left campus. Northwestern Mutual offered Jeff an internship during his senior year which transitioned into a full-time position upon graduation. For the past 20 years, Jeff has grown a thriving business through building meaningful and lasting relationships with his clients. His career and personal satisfaction comes from helping people reach their goals. “There’s so much more to a career than sitting at a computer screen.” Jeff says, “It’s about making an impact, and the connection we make with people.” Delighted, he recalls a recent email from a long-time client who expressed his appreciation by saying “thank you so much for the work you’ve done. You’ve always given us sage advice.” That’s exactly what motivates him to continue connecting with clients.

Read More

Alumni Profile: Dave Decker (BA’03, MBA'05)

After close to six years of serving on the University of Utah Business Alumni Association (UUBAA) – ConnectU committee as a member and as committee chair, a generous supporter of the School, and longtime Utah sports fan, we are happy to announce David Decker (BA’03, MBA’05) as new co-chair of the University of Utah Business Alumni Association beginning January 2017. We’re excited to partner him with Chair Zack Clark (MBA’05) to grow the Eccles School alumni network.

As advice to current students, Decker urges them to take time for introspection as they look at potential careers.

“Challenge who you are. When do you find yourself the happiest?” Decker says. “These are the questions that should guide your career search. Find a career that incorporates as many of the things you are passionate about and success will follow.”

Read more

Alumni Profile: Christopher Aadnesen (BA’71, MBA’73)

Guitarist. CEO. Industry Leader. These are just a few of the titles that describe Eccles alumnus and donor Chris Aadnesen.

While attending the U and pursuing an English major, Aadnesen played lead guitar in a local band that had a #12 hit in Salt Lake City. His band played local venues and the Union Ballroom, earning money for college. . He continued on to get an MBA from the Eccles School with the intention of working for his dad after graduation. As he neared completion, he decided to pursue other opportunities, and the last company still recruiting that spring was Western Pacific Railroad. It was by happenstance, this musical English major was launched into a highly successful, four decade career in the railroad industry.

Read More