Upstate Owners Forum

Family businesses face unique challenges, as well as opportunities. To foster learning, dialog, and growth to address and understand these challenges, the Smith Family Business Initiative at Cornell is pleased to announce the formation of the Upstate Owners Forum for the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier of New York. However, all qualified members of a family business are welcome to attend, regardless of your geographical locale. The Upstate Owners Forum is reserved for owners and members of family businesses only. This on-going series seeks to connect owners of family and privately held enterprises to educate, network and inform.

Each forum will offer a featured speaker or content expert, as well as ample time for sharing from those individuals present. These forums are private and confidential gatherings of only your family business peers; no solicitors or outside participants. 

The Upstate Owners Forum is made possible in part with a generous grant from the Fred L. Emerson Foundation. The Fred L. Emerson Foundation continues the work of Fred L. Emerson, who invested in individuals and the community with such humility that very few people knew of how many lives were impacted by his generosity. Under the leadership of the Emerson family, along with independent directors, the Foundation continues Fred L. Emerson’s legacy as especially vigilant investors in select organizations where it believes it can make a critical and significant difference.

2018 Schedule 

March 23

Doug Box - A Legacy Lost

Cloyce Box, Doug’s father, was larger than life. He left his career as a Pro Bowl wide receiver for the Detroit Lions to rise to corporate fame and extravagant wealth in construction and the oil and gas industries. His sprawling estate in Frisco, Texas, was used as the original Southfork Ranch in the television soap opera Dallas. Cloyce ran both his companies and his family with a firm hand and inextricably linked the two by raising his sons in the business. When he finally passed, he left a wake of collapsing relationships at home and in the boardroom.

Doug will share the story of both success and failure in his family’s business a real-life example of the staggering impact that conflict can have on a family and relationships.

May 3

Tom Peters ’64, MEng'65 – “The Works” A Half-Century’s Reflections / 1966 – 2016

Born in Baltimore in 1942 “with a lacrosse stick in one hand and oars over my shoulder,” Peters resided in California, mainly Silicon Valley [where he was on a list of “100 most powerful people in Silicon Valley”], from 1965–2000. Tom is a civil engineering graduate of Cornell [B.C.E., M.C.E.], where he was included in the book The 100 Most Notable Cornellians, and he earned an MBA and a Ph.D. in business at Stanford.

His book, In Search of Excellence co-authored with Robert H. Waterman, Jr., was first published in 1982, and remains one of the biggest selling business books ever, selling 3 million copies in its first four years, and being the most widely held monograph in the United States from 1989 to 2006.

September 20

Fred Keller ’66 – The Role of Business in the Thriving of the Human Spirit 

Fred Keller is the Founder and Chair of Cascade Engineering, which he started in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1973. With a belief that you can have a successful business and still treat employees with dignity and respect, Fred began molding plastic parts with six employees in a 10,000 square foot building. Today, Cascade Engineering employs 1600 people across 15 facilities in six US locations and additional European operations in Budapest, Hungary.

Fred believes that business has the unique opportunity to complement its efforts on financial performance with important work in the social and environmental arenas. He has emphasized the key role business can play in building financial, social and ecological capital, often through partnerships with government and community agencies. His innovative management approach and work in advancing sustainability are featured regularly in business and industry publications.