Families in Business Conference Speakers

Families in Business Conference Speakers

Evan Cagner '95

Corporate Advisor

Evan Cagner

Evan Cagner is a Corporate Advisor who works with business on growth, efficiencies, and optimization. Previously, Cagner was CEO of Synclaire Brands, an industry leading company specializing in Footwear Licensing, Manufacturing, and Distribution. Some of the brands under management at Synclaire are: Michael Kors, Stuart Weitzman, Sam Edelman, Kenneth Cole, Frye, Badgley Mischka, Ash, and others. He was also CEO of FutureShoe, which owns and operates various Ecommerce storefronts (KidsShoes.com, ZeroTie.com, myChooze.com, Skicks.com). Prior to Synclair Brands, he worked in various industries all with a primary goal of having Information Systems and E-Commerce platforms serve business to drive sales. He graduated from Cornell University (Arts & Sciences) in 1994 with a degree in economics and computer science. Today, Evan lives in Oyster Bay Cove, NY with his wife and his two daughters.

Cathy Choi '93

Bulbrite

Cathy Choi

Cathy Choi is President and CEO of BULBRITE, a leading manufacturer of lighting products including LED decorative bulbs, patio string lights, and Bulbrite Solana® smart bulbs that have been featured in the Washington Post, Dwell, House Beautiful and Apartment Therapy.  Founded 50 years ago by her parents, Bulbrite is a family-owned business renowned for its commitment to innovation, education and exceptional service. 

A sought-after industry expert and leadership speaker, Cathy recently received the 2021 Women in Lighting Leadership Award and actively serves on several industry boards to deliver on her commitment to bring beautiful light to life.  Cathy is also passionate about leadership and culture and Bulbrite’s values based culture was featured in the New York Times Corner office.  As a second-generation family business leader, one of her proudest moments was being featured recently in Forbes with her father and founder, Andrew. 

Choi is a proud Cornellian (Theatre ’93) and serves on the President’s Council for Cornell Women (PCCW).  She also has an MBA from New York University is the Co-Chair of the Stern Women in Business Alumnae Group.  She serves on several corporate boards as well as the board for the Ridgewood Public Library Foundation.  She lives in Ridgewood, NJ with her husband, Ung-Joo Scott Lee (Cornell ’93), two teenage daughters, and their rescue pandemic puppy.

James Clement, Jr.

King Ranch

James Clement, Jr.

Mr. Clement graduated in 1979 from the University of Texas at Austin with a MBA in Finance and in 1976 from Tulane University with a B.A in Economics.  He then held various positions with First City National Bank of Houston (including the Corporate Finance department and, ultimately, the Petroleum and Minerals group). In 1984, he joined King Ranch, Inc. where he attained the title of VP/Treasurer. From 1989 until today he has acted in the capacity of an independent financial consultant. Since 1992 he has served on the board of King Ranch, Inc. and from October 1994 until May 1995, Mr. Clement acted as interim CEO of King Ranch, Inc. during its search for a full time CEO. From 1999 until today he has served as Chairman of the Board of King Ranch, Inc.  He serves on the boards of King Ranch, Inc.; Chairman of the Management Council of the King Ranch® Institute for Ranch Management; Houston Trust Company; and Merit Energy. He is a past member of the Madison Council of the Library of Congress, the Tom Lea Institute, The Kay Bailey Hutchison Center for Energy, Law & Business and Advisory Board of the University Texas Press.

James Clement III, MBA '21

King Ranch

James Clement

James Clement III is the Land Resources Manager for King Ranch, Inc. in which he works on surface management, title, and environmental issues on the historic ranches. James also manages King Ranch’s Horse Division and Media and Marketing. Under his management, King Ranch received the 2019 AQHA Best Remuda Award, the highest recognition awarded to a ranch horse program. Through James’ efforts, King Ranch has earned media wins in magazines and documentaries and grown their social media footprint. James was named a 2020 Next Gen to Watch by Family Business Magazine 

Both sides of James’ family are in generational business: his mother’s with Beggs Cattle Co. (est. 1876), and his father’s with King Ranch (est. 1853). James also founded and manages Bloody Buckets Cattle Co., and oversees the livestock, resources, and wildlife on Los Hermanos Ranch (est. 1967). 

James has served since 2008 in the Marines, currently as a reserve infantry officer. James has deployed to Afghanistan, Chile, and Mexico, and is currently a Captain and the Executive Officer for C Company, 1/23.  

James serves on the boards of the National World War II Museum, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Associationthe American Quarter Horse Associationthe National Ranching Heritage Center, the Equine Initiative at Texas A&M, and the Houston Private Director’s Association.

James graduated from Goucher College in Baltimore, MD, and recently graduated from the Executive MBA program with Cornell University. James is married to the former Miss Paige Shaw, from Kingsville, TX, and they have one son. 

Lisa Daniel

Intechgrate Systems; Lodge Cast Iron

Lisa Daniel

Lisa and her husband Jay live in Sarasota, Florida where they own and operate Intechgrate Systems, an IT services company that they founded together 21 years ago.   Their 3 children have been raised surrounded by both family & business values.  Their youngest daughter is now a college freshman, so Lisa uses her newfound “empty nest time” working on Family Council projects for Lodge Cast Iron.   

Lisa joined the Lodge family in 1994 when she married 5th generation family member Jay Daniel. She is very active with the Joseph Lodge Family Council.  The Family Council has spearheaded projects that include a secure family web portal, a digital interactive family tree, family archive videos, quarterly newsletters, online family happy hours and annual family gatherings. The group is currently working on an education plan that will include topics about both the family and the business.    

Lisa was born and raised in a small town in Pennsylvania as part of a very large family. She and her 8 siblings are very close and have found ways to stay connected even though they are now very geographically dispersed.  Family values have always been important to Lisa, and she is lucky enough to share those values with Jay’s family. 

Lisa is very passionate about open communication between family, celebrating the accomplishments of individual family members, bringing all generations of the family together and capturing family history. 

Jeff Dill

Michelle Duguid

Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management

Michelle Duguid

Michelle M. Duguid is Associate Dean of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging and an associate professor of management and organizations at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University. She received her MS and PhD in organizational behavior from Cornell University.

Professor Duguid has two broad, overlapping streams of research. Her primary area of research investigates the interplay of social status, power, politics, influence, and diversity in organizations, with a particular focus on the effect of social status, power, and inter- and intra-group relations on perceptions and interactions. Professor Duguid also does research which examines individual and group processes that affect creativity and the quality of decision-making. She serves on the editorial board of Organization Science, the Academy of Management Journal, the Academy of Management Review and Personnel Psychology.

Professor Duguid’s research has been published in numerous academic journals, including Administrative Science Quarterly, The Journal of Applied Psychology, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Organization Science, and Psychological Science. Her research has also been cited in many media outlets, such as Forbes, The New Yorker, Fast Company, NPR, the New York Times, and the Economist.

Kimberly Eddleston '95

Northeastern University; Cornell Family Business Fellow

Kim Eddleston '95

Kimberly A. Eddleston is the Schulze Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship and Professor of Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business, Northeastern University. Professor Eddleston received her Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut (2001) and her graduate degree from Cornell University and Group ESSEC (IMHI – 1995). Her research focuses on family businesses and the careers of entrepreneurs. She is particularly known for her research that explores how the family can be a resource or constraint to the family business and how family businesses can remain innovative through generations. Professor Eddleston is an associate editor of the Journal of Business Venturing and serves on the editorial board of multiple journals including Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice, Family Business Review, Journal of Family Business Strategy, and Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal. Professor Eddleston has won multiple awards for her research including best paper awards from the Family Firm Institute, Diana International Conference on Women’s Entrepreneurship, USASBE, Journal of Small Business Management, and Academy of Management. Her research has appeared in prestigious journals such as the Academy of Management Journal, Strategic Management Journal, Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of International Business Studies, Academy of Management Perspectives, Journal of Business Venturing, and Journal of Management Studies. Over the years, she has consulted with numerous family businesses and has led a consulting course at Northeastern University that has assisted more than 150 businesses to date. In addition, she has had various levels of involvement with several of her family’s businesses, which are in the real estate, construction, business services and hospitality industries.

Elgin Ford, Jr. MPA '19

Deloitte

Elgin Ford

Elgin Jr. is a Senior Strategy Consultant at Deloitte in their Strategy and Analytics practice. Elgin ’19 earned his Masters in Public Administration from Cornell Institute of Public Affairs. His background is primarily in developing strategies to address policies, regulation and overall operations in the auto industry and public sector. He received his Bachelors in Political Science and Economics from Drexel University, where he played basketball; go Dragons! Outside of work, Elgin spends his time learning more about the wine world and the art of wine making…from vine to glass with special attention to the Finger Lakes Wine Region. Through his new endeavor, ETVINTURES, Elgin hopes to expose and share the beautiful wines FLX has to offer with younger generations and different under-represented groups. 

Mark Hansen '79

Asian Leadership Institute

Mark Hansen '79

Mark Hansen (A&S ’79) is a Managing Director of the Asian Leadership Institute (ALI), Asia oldest executive coaching firm. Mark heads their business family advisory service. ALI’s services include helping Asian business families to develop family governance structures & charters, to resolve intra-family conflict and to advise on business strategy.

Mark brings a unique combination of capabilities to his family clients. He was a partner at a strategy consulting firm (Booz Allen Hamilton), where many of his clients were family-owned firms. He was also head of governance for Asia-focused Standard Chartered Bank. He has experience in business start-up investing and governance in Asia. He has lived and worked across Asia for over 35 years. In addition to his degrees in economics from Cornell and the University of California at Berkeley (MA ’83), he also holds a MA in counselling psychology with an emphasis in marriage and family therapy (Pacifica Graduate Institute ’19).

Jerry Inglet, Ed.D

Wilmington Trust

Jerry Inglet

As part of the Wilmington Trust Emerald Family Office & Advisory team, Jerry creates and facilitates customized family workshops for family members seeking engagement and preparation for the present and future roles within their families. These workshops are designed to assist families with communication, personal legacy planning, wealth transition, and financial education. Families exit this experience with a vision for what is possible for their family, including but not limited to a list of common values, a deeper understanding of one another, and most importantly a path forward for what they hope to achieve together.

Additionally, Jerry provides research-based information for Wilmington Trust’s clients on the many financial and non-financial choices and paths available during the education selection process. The educational roadmaps provided by Jerry to parents, grandparents, and students help to establish a sound educational foundation for young adults as they transition from scholarly students to productive members of the world of work and citizenry.

Jerry has more than 18 years of banking and finance experience. He also served as a director at a small private college in Buffalo for six years, where he was responsible for accreditation, enrollment management, event management, institutional advancement, marketing, and curriculum development. In addition, Jerry continues to maintain a strong pulse on high school and college students through over 16 years as both a high school and college football official and various posts as an adjunct college professor.

Jerry holds an Ed.D in educational leadership and administration from D’Youville College; two master’s degrees from SUNY Buffalo in urban policy and school counselling; and a bachelor’s degree as a University Scholar from Xavier University.

Stefanie Kyles

Cornell Family Business Mentor

Stefanie Kyles

Stefanie Kyles is a global executive with CEO and board-level experience. Trained and accomplished in sophisticated legal, securities, and international transactions, she possesses a rare combination of entrepreneurial spirit coupled with a world-class technical skill set.  Stefanie has devoted her career to developing a depth of knowledge across business operations, strategic planning, negotiation, corporate law, finance, and execution. With this background and her innate ability to connect with people of all cultures, Stefanie excels at stepping into new situations to quickly identify the issues, opportunities, and risks and to chart clear paths to growth.

A shipping industry veteran, Stefanie began her career after law school as an attorney with Norton Rose in Athens, Greece where she was recognized for her ability to handle complex matters in corporate and asset finance. Stefanie returned to the U.S. in 2005 following several foundational years abroad. She initially joined Jefferies & Company as Vice President of Investment Banking and specialized in public equity transactions in the marine transportation sector. Stefanie was later recruited by Poten & Partners, one of the world’s most prestigious brokerage and consulting firms in the international oil, gas, and shipping markets. She served as General Counsel for nearly a decade and developed and led the investment banking division, Poten Capital Services as President.

In 2015, Stefanie was sought out to lead John A. Vassilaros & Son, Inc. as 4th generation CEO, President, and Director amidst an unanticipated succession crisis. Known as Vassilaros Coffee, this NYC icon has focused on roasting and distributing quality coffee to thousands of food service establishments since 1919. Stefanie left her long career in shipping to salvage the coffee roasting and real estate businesses founded by her great-grandfather a century ago. Over five years, she painstakingly rehabilitated and restructured the family’s operating assets, unlocking multigenerational value.

Today, Stefanie heads the family office she established for real estate assets and serves as Trustee. She is a mentor and guest speaker at Cornell Business School Smith Family Business Initiative. She remains an advisor to Poten and Partners.

Beta Mannix

Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management

Beta Mannix

Professor Elizabeth Mannix is the Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Management at the Johnson Graduate School of Management. Her research and teaching is focused on effective organizational performance, and the factors that make individuals motivated, high-performing leaders and team members. Specific topics include: authentic leadership, principled negotiation and influence, the role of emotional intelligence in business settings, organizational change, women in leadership, and diversity.

Professor Mannix is the author of over 50 peer reviewed articles, published in such journals as Administrative Science Quarterly, Psychological Science in the Public Interest, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Journal of Applied Psychology, and the Academy of Management Journal. She is the co-editor of the 15-volume book series, Research on Managing Groups and Teams. Her work has been recognized by awards from organizations including the Academy of Management, Small Group Research, and the International Association for Conflict Management.

Mannix served as the associate dean for Executive MBA programs at Cornell University from 2012-2017. She also served as the director of the Institute for the Social Sciences from 2005-2008, established to promote interdisciplinary research and to increase the university’s prominence in the social sciences. Mannix is also the recipient of Johnson’s inaugural EMBA Globe teaching award, as well as the Faculty Research Award. She is a fellow of the American Psychological Society, the Society for Organizational Behavior, and The Academy of Management. She is currently an associate editor of the Academy of Management Review. Professor Mannix teaches and consults with firms, universities, and professional societies around the world.

Angela Mwanza, MBA '00

Evergreen Wealth Management

Angela Mwanza

Angela has over 20 years of experience advising substantial families on sophisticated investment strategies with implementation focused on helping to manage risk, liquidity and, where appropriate, socially responsible and impact investments. In addition, Angela brings a unique experience and skillset to families regarding family business succession planning, family governance, legacy and intergenerational wealth planning, and impactful philanthropy. Prior to joining UBS in 2008, Angela was a Private Banker at Lehman Brothers Private Investment Management having begun her financial services career at J.P. Morgan Private Bank (Morgan Guaranty Trust).

Angela serves on multiple boards. She recently joined the Board of Directors of Jumia, a for profit e-commerce platform operating in Africa. She is a Trustee of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (Chair Investment Committee for $1.8B endowment), on the Board of Directors of Grace Farms Foundation, Grassroot Soccer, and the Global Health Alliance, and was selected as a Founding Member of the United Nations Foundation Global Entrepreneurs Council (Emeritus). She also is an advisor to Beespace and One Community Films. Angela is active in the Cornell community most notably: Cornell Trustee Alumni Network, Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University, and Entrepreneurship@Cornell. She was awarded the Wilbur Parker Award for her work in diversity and was recently selected as the recipient of the Robert J. Swieringa Service Award. Angela has received various industry and community awards including the “Women of Power and Influence Award” by the National Organization of Women (alongside Janet Yellen), one of “46 Leaders in Sustainable Investing” by Forbes, one of the City and State New York Top 100 in CSR in 2017, and in 2015 one of the 50 Most Influential Women in Private Wealth by Private Asset Management Magazine.

Angela is a member of the Social Investment Forum and the Economic Club of New York. She earned an M.B.A. from Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University and an M.A. in Linguistics from the University of Konstanz, Germany. Angela lives with her husband and son in Brooklyn and Ithaca, is fluent in German, and enjoys pushing boundaries having run six marathons and scaled Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Michael Palumbos

Family Wealth & Legacy

Michael Palumbos

Michael is a second generation family wealth advisor serving business-owning families. Marty, his father, started the wealth advisory practice in 1973; he also served many family owned businesses. Michael is the father of seven, grandfather of two, and he is married to Victoria, a special education teacher in the Pittsford School district. Michael has three siblings and four nephews.

Michael has over 18 years of experience in the financial services industry and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of Rochester. He has earned the Certified Business Exit Consultant and Chartered Financial Consultant designations. Michael is also on the Board of Directors at Wayne Cooperative Insurance Company, a member of the Society of Financial Service Professionals, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, and the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors.

Karl Pillemer

Weill Cornell Medicine, College of Human Ecology

Karl Pillemer

Dr. Karl Pillemer is the Hazel E.Reed Professor in the Department of Human Development, Professor of Gerontology in Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, and Senior Associate Dean for Research and Outreach in the College of Human Ecology. Pillemer also directs the Cornell Legacy Project and is author of the book 30 Lessons for Living. His major interests center on human development over the life course, with a special emphasis on family and social relationships in middle age and beyond. He has a strong theoretical and empirical interest in life course transitions and the effects they have on family relationships. A major program of research is on intergenerational relations in later life, with a focus on determinants and consequences of the quality of adult child -older parent relationships. Dr. Pillemer has conducteda large-scale study of this issue, with funding from the National Institute on Aging, which focuses on within-family differences in parent-child relations in later life and on ambivalence in intergenerational relations among adults. He is currently examining the causes and consequences of estrangement in families. A second major program of research focuses on the nature and dynamics of family caregiving for impaired older people, which he has been carrying out over the past two decades with funding from the National Institutes of Health and other sources. A third area is in long-term care for the elderly, with a focus on the relationships between family members of residents with staff in long-term care facilities. Fourth, Dr. Pillemer has a long-term program of research on conflict and abuse in families of the aged, including several related studies of the domestic and institutional abuse of older persons. Finally, he is actively involved in intervention research and in policy analysis related to aging and health care, with an emphasis on evidence-based methods of developing a competent, caring long-term care workforce. His extension and outreach work involves translational research, exploring ways to speed the transfer of findings from basic research into scientifically tested interventions.

Sonja Sulcer '96

Alan Suna '76

Silvercup Studios

Alan Suna '76

Alan Suna is an architect, real estate developer and Chairman of Silvercup Studios in Long Island City and the Bronx.  In 40 years in the industry, he and his brother, Stuart, have developed hundreds of thousands of square feet of commercial, mixed-use and studio space, as well as hundreds of residential units.

In 1983, the Suna brothers launched a visionary redevelopment initiative that transformed the vacant Silvercup Bakery complex into NYC’s leading independent, full-service film/television production facility, which in turn, changed the perception and complexion of Long Island City. In 1999, they developed Silvercup Studios East in LIC. They have since expanded their studio business in the Bronx with the addition of Silvercup North in August 2016. On September 30, 2020, the Sunas sold their Silvercup Assets to a Joint Venture of Hackman/Square Mile which already were in the same business in Los Angeles and other venues around the world. Alan continues to work with his new partners to further the offerings of Silvercup Studios in New York City.

Alan received his professional degree in architecture from Cornell University and has also completed post graduate studies in architecture, business and real estate development at M.I.T., Harvard and Columbia Universities.

Jennifer Chaplin Tolkin

Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits

Jennifer Chaplin

Jennifer is Vice President Family Owned Brands, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, North America’s largest wine and spirits distributor, and the preeminent data insights company for alcoholic beverages.  In this role, Jennifer will oversee supplier relations with family-owned brands. She will be responsible for integrating suppliers of family-owned brands with SGWS’s consumer, trade and SG Proof™ platforms. She will continue to report directly to Executive Vice President, Supplier Management & Business Development (SMBD) Ray Lombard-who, in turn, will report to Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Gene Sullivan. Most recently, Jennifer was Communications and Events Manager in the Communications & Corporate Social Responsibility Department, working alongside the events team supporting corporate events, as well as the Southern Glazer’s social media team, helping build the Company’s following and expanding engagement with strategic suppliers.

Jim Taylor '83

ABARTA

Jim Taylor

Jim Taylor is Chair of the Board of ABARTA, Inc., and President & CEO of ABARTA Oil & Gas Co., LLC.  He is a third-generation owner and shareholder of ABARTA, Inc., a diversified family business with interests in Coca-Cola bottling and energy.  Jim joined ABARTA in 1985 and has held various positions in the publishing division at The Press of Atlantic City, in the beverage division at Buffalo Coca-Cola Bottling Company, and on the corporate staff prior to joining ABARTA Oil & Gas in 1995. 

In addition to the ABARTA Board, Jim serves on and consults with Boards of other privately-held businesses, and has spoken on various family business topics over the years.  He has held Board positions in YPO and YPO Gold, is a Director of Delabarta, Inc. and Treasurer of the Adams Foundation, a family philanthropic organization.  He is a member of ABARTA’s Finance & Audit, Governance, and Directors Compensation Committees.  Jim is a former Chair and Director of the Arthritis Foundation of Western Pennsylvania.   

Jim earned his BA in Economics from Cornell University in 1983 and his MBA, Beta Gamma Sigma, from the University of Michigan in 1992.  He and his wife Shelley live in Pittsburgh.  They have three grown daughters and one granddaughter. 

Shelley Taylor '83

ABARTA ; Aspen Family Business Group, LLC

Shelley Taylor '83

Shelley Taylor is a Family Business Advisor who works with business-owning families on matters pertaining to governance, structure, role clarity, next generation development, generational transitions, and family councils.  Shelley is an astute listener and a strategic thinker who fosters collaboration and promotes understanding and appreciation of the varied perspectives inherent in multi-generational families.

In 2018, Shelley became an Associate with the Aspen Family Business Group.   Until December 2017, she was the Peer Forum Director at the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence (IEE) at the University of Pittsburgh where she has worked since 2000, previously serving as both Education Program Director and Membership Director.  Shelley continues her affiliation with the IEE as their Family Business Consultant.

Shelley is the Family Council Chair for ABARTA, Inc., a third and fourth generation family business that owns and operates the tenth largest Coca-Cola distribution company in the United States.  The owning family of ABARTA began its strategic family process in 1990 prior to the leadership and ownership transition from the second to third generation. The family process is currently focused on educating the nineteen members of the fourth generation and planning for the next ownership and leadership transition.

She is an independent director for c3controls, a private family business in Beaver, PA; is a former Chair and currently serves on the board of the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre; and is past Chair and a board member of the Adams Foundation, a family philanthropy.  Shelley graduated from Cornell University (’83 Linguistics, with Distinction).  She holds an advanced certificate in family business advising (ACFBA) from the Family Firm Institute.

She and her husband Jim Taylor (’83) are the proud parents of three adult daughters, two of whom are also Cornell graduates.  They were thrilled to become grandparents in 2020.

Joseph Thomas

Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management

Joe Thomas

Joe Thomas is the Anne and Elmer Lindseth Dean Emeritus and professor of operations management emeritus at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management. He served The Johnson School as dean for five years and as the Interim Dean of the SC Johnson College of Business in 2018. Prior to his roles as dean, Thomas served in several leadership roles, including associate dean for academic affairs, responsible for all faculty-related matters at Johnson; director of the doctoral program; and director of executive education.

Professor Thomas is an award-winning teacher, having twice won the Stephen Russell Distinguished Teaching Award. This award is voted upon by members of the five-year reunion class, given to a faculty member whose teaching and example have continued to influence graduates five years into their post-MBA careers.

Professor Thomas’s teaching and research have focused on topics in operations management and supply-chain management. He has consulted with and led management-education programs for several Fortune-100 companies. Currently he serves on the board and executive committee of two non-profit organizations, The Food Bank of the Southern Tier and The Racker Centers.

With degrees in chemical engineering (BS, Carnegie Mellon) and operations research (PhD, Yale), and a long history of academic scholarship and publishing, Thomas is one the nation’s foremost experts in operations management and manufacturing. He was elected as a fellow of the Production and Operations Management Society in 2009. His work has been widely published on a variety of topics, including redesign of global manufacturing and supply networks, manufacturing strategy, inventory systems, human resources management, and worker motivation. He has also studied models for managing complex production-distribution systems and their effective implementation.

Professor Thomas has written four books and more than 50 articles in journals such as Management Science, Operations Research, Manufacturing and Services Operations Management, and Journal of Manufacturing and Operations Management. He was a departmental editor of Management Science for six years and has served on many editorial boards and committees for professional organizations.

Sean Tolkin, MMH '13

World Travel Holdings

Sean Tolkin

Travel is in Sean’s DNA and he has been with the World Travel Holdings’ family his entire career. He spent his first two years in a management rotation program circulating through every single department, including working as a travel advisor, and then gradually was promoted to Director overseeing private-label partnerships, Resort for a Day and Corporate Development for Dream Vacations. He currently leads Cruise Inc., the original host agency business opportunity, and Resort for a Day, the largest distributor of resort day passes. Sean earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Duke University and a Master’s in Management Hospitality from the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. Sean’s Dream Vacation is searching for the world’s best golf courses.

Margarita Tsoutsoura

Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management

Margarita Tsoutsoura

Margarita Tsoutsoura is an associate professor and Smith Family Business Professor of Finance at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management. She is also Faculty Research Fellow at the NBER Corporate Finance Program and Research Fellow at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Most recently, Tsoutsoura was associate professor of finance at the Booth School of Business, University of Chicago.

Professor Tsoutsoura has several research projects studying family firms and privately held firms. Her most recent project studies the effect of mandated pay transparency on the gender pay gap. She is also interested in corporate governance as well as the effects of corruption and tax evasion. Her work on tax evasion was awarded the 2013 Wharton School-WRDS Award for Best Empirical Finance Paper. The Fulbright Fellowship and the WFA Trefftzs Award are among Tsoutsoura’s other varied honors and fellowships. She is Associate Editor at Management Science and the Review of Economics and Statistics.

Her work has been published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, Journal of Finance, Journal of Financial Economics, and Review of Financial Studies. Her research has been covered extensively in print and electronic media, including The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, The Economist, New York Times, Washington Post, Guardian, BusinessWeek, International Herald Tribune, and CNBC.

Tsoutsoura earned her PhD in finance with distinction from the Columbia University, Graduate School of Business, her MSc in financial engineering from the Haas School of Business, University of California Berkeley, and a BSc in economics from the University of Piraeus in Greece.

Tibra Wheeler, Ph.D. '21

Cornell Biomedical Engineering Ph.D. Candidate ’21

Tibra Wheeler

Tibra Wheeler is a 6th year Ph.D. candidate in Biomedical Engineering with a concentration in orthopedics, biomaterials, and drug delivery at Cornell University. Tibra’s research focuses on determining the role of the immune response in osteoarthritis (OA). Tibra is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, a Colman Scholar, and a Cornell Dean Scholar. Prior to Cornell, Tibra received her BS in Biomedical Engineering from the University of South Carolina. Tibra has also been heavily involved in giving back to underrepresented minority groups through her mentoring work in various offices across Cornell’s campus. Outside of research, Tibra spends her time exploring the Finger Lakes Wine Region. Through her new endeavor, ETVINTURES, Tibra hopes to highlight the great wines FLX has to offer and to demystify wine for younger generations and minority groups. 

John Zaruka '73

Wedgewood Weddings and Z Golf

John Zaruka

John began his hospitality experience at age 13 at a Long Island beach concession owned by his parents. He fell in love with the industry and pursued this passion by attending and graduating from Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. John started his career in the hotel business in 1973 and within 10 years became a Regional Director, responsible for 9 hotels with 1700 rooms. Soon after, he became the Vice President of Operations for a Southern California hotel management company.

In the summer of 1986, John and Linda purchased the lease of the Wedgewood Restaurant and Buenaventura Golf Course Pub & Grille in Ventura. They immediately converted the failing restaurant to exclusive banquet use. In 1999, John created Z-Golf Food & Beverage Services, an operations and consulting practice exclusively for the food and beverage departments of golf courses, banquet facilities, clubs, and resorts. Z-Golf is the only such practice in the U.S. John has written several articles for publications such as‚ “Golf Business”, Club Magazine, Golf Business Canada, and the National Golf Foundation. He is an international speaker on golf and banquet related food and beverage subjects.

ZGolf’s primary brand is Wedgewood Weddings, a full service banquet and wedding business. From the original Ventura Wedgewood, the brand has grown to forty-five locations in seven states hosting 9000 events per year and 900,000 guests resulting in revenues approaching (post pandemic) $100 million. In 2014, the Zaruka’s sold a 60% interest in their company to the equity firm, Prospect Partners.  John retired from the CEO position of ZGolf in early 2020 but remains as a Director and is on staff as the primary advisor to his son Bill, now the CEO.

In 2017, John & Linda purchased the failing Sterling Hills Gold Club in their hometown of Camarillo. In three years, under their ownership the club has increased revenues by 50% quadrupled profits.

John and his wife, Linda, have been married since 1974, and have two children, Bill, also a graduate of the Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, is CEO and President of the family business. Stacy, is a graduate from Johnson & Wales University in hospitality management and assists in managing the family business interests. Linda is a Past President of the Ventura Chapter of the National Association of Catering Executives and was Wedgewood’s first Catering Sales Director. John is the Past-President of the Rotary Club of Ventura South. Linda and John are well known for their philanthropy, having raised and donated millions to various charities over their 35 years in business. They have been recognized by the following awards for business success and community contributions;

  • Small Business Administrative Family Business of the Year.
  • Ventura County Star – 25 over 50 Community Leaders.
  • Director Emeritus – California Restaurant Association
  • Rotarian of the Year – 1992 and 2017.
  • West Babylon High School Hall of Fame 2016
  • Ventura Boy’s and Girl’s Club Community Leader of the Year 2017
  • Camarillo Acorn Top Ten Community Members 2017
  • California Restaurant Association Good Neighbor Award 2020

John coached high school basketball for ten years and taught in the hospitality program at Oxnard College for seven years. He has varied interests, from golf, sports fandom, old music, education, travel and of course, the hospitality and travel industry!