For the Bold campaign gifts of all sizes are making a tremendous difference in the lives of so many students and faculty members across campus. One such gift from Jeffrey R. Gardner M.B.A. ’97 and Christine Gardner — for $250,000 — is helping to fund teaching excellence and research at William & Mary’s Raymond A. Mason School of Business. Jeff and Christine’s gift will specifically enhance an endowed chair at the business school's Executive MBA program.
Professor of Marketing Larry Ring— who established the Executive Master of Business Administration program — has held the chair since 2001. In a recent press release announcing the gift, Ring said, “Executive education and the needs of professional students are unique. William & Mary was a pioneering entrant into executive MBA education…For 30 years, I have had the privilege to teach some extraordinary men and women. It will be incredibly rewarding to welcome them back to campus and see how their careers have advanced.”
The Executive MBA program has had nearly 1,000 graduates since its founding in 1986. Gardner will be the guest speaker on Sept. 11 during the 30th anniversary celebration.
Gardner is President & CEO of Monitronics — headquartered in Dallas, Texas — the second largest security and home automation company in the residential home security market.
We recently interviewed Jeff about the couple’s generous gift.
Why did you decide to give to William & Mary’s Executive MBA program?
I went to the executive program many years ago and it really did great things for my career. I wanted to do something that would recognize what I think is the secret sauce of William & Mary’s MBA program; the faculty. I’m very fortunate to have worked with Dr. Larry Ring, Dr. John Strong and Raymond A. Mason School of Business Dean Larry Pulley ’74 — amazingly they are all still involved in the school. There was just a solid group of core professors that really made the program special for us.
How did your Executive MBA set you up for a successful career?
Right after I graduated from William & Mary, the corporate office for the wireless company I was working for called me about a Chief Financial Officer job opening specifically because of the MBA program. I became a CFO for a Fortune 500 company at a very young age (36). What differentiated me from the other candidates they were considering was the financial acumen I acquired through the Executive MBA program.
Why is giving back to W&M important?
I think we all benefit from getting a good education and that’s what I received at William & Mary. Very good things have happened to me in my career because of William & Mary and I’m grateful for that. Since I benefitted it’s important for me to help students and faculty at the business school.
Can you talk about the access to networks of your professors and classmates through the program?
I was able to form a strong network and have stayed in touch with professors and classmates. Our MBA group all did very well as a result of the program.
What are attributes that make a good leader and how does education play a role in shaping leadership skills?
The attributes that make a good leader are somebody who is positive and who comes to work and understands that you have to make things happen every day. That is so important. If you’re going to be a great management team, you’ve got to have a smart management team filled with people who are committed to lifetime learning. You have to have people who are not limited by what they know today, but who are always anxious to learn more.