By Kate Hofler, Web Communications Coordinator for Development
When it comes to a Friday morning wake-up call of a 7:00 meeting, there are few who relish the lost sleep exchanged for looping a tie or slipping on a pair of black pumps. But when the destination is a gathering of powerful leaders in the Atlanta community who also happen to be Furman Alumni and friends, the Atlanta Furman Business Breakfast is well worth the added effort.
This quarterly gathering of an average of 65 attendees has caught the spotlight of the alumni world because of its dazzling success, its high quality panel of speakers, and its organic birth onto the business scene.
The breakfast was largely the inspiration of John Yates, a former Furman parent who chaired the Parent Campaign Committee and is now a member of the Board of Trustees. John is the Partner-in-Charge of the Corporate Technology Group at Morris, Manning & Martin, LLP and some of his articles have even been cited by the U.S. Supreme Court. Yates is also the Chair of the Atlanta Basketball Host Committee for the 2013 NCAA Final Four.
Yates and the early brain trust behind the project sought a way to harness the positivity and growth in the Atlanta business community within the Furman channel.
Two years later, there is a palpable buzz around the event, with other cities calling on Furman to start something similar – and Furman is poised to do just that with those ready to take on leadership of the project in their own business communities. Local Greenville alumni have even initiated a Greenville Furman Business Breakfast and are slated to have their inaugural meeting in November 2012.
The Atlanta program is managed by a committee of volunteers, including Paul Robertson '82, Chip Brookhart '84, Gary Lee '87, Steve Cover '91, and Will Yowell '85.
“I love Furman and we have intended to become more involved for years. But with stress of career and raising a family, making it back to campus even from Atlanta is challenging. AFBB (Atlanta Furman Business Breakfast) is the perfect way to help my alma mater and to connect to the Furman community in Atlanta,” Yowell said in reference to his involvement with the program.
Each breakfast covers a theme and features experts on the subject with topics ranging from “Doing Business in Asia” to “Education in a Global World” (Featuring former Secretary of Education Richard Riley '54), to a session specifically focused on planning for the Final Four’s arrival in 2013 – and the panelists are always highly regarded leaders in the field.
The most recent session focused on Atlanta’s place in the high-tech industry and featured Gary Lee '87, Chief Marketing Officer of Stratix Corporation (a 29-year-old Atlanta company providing mobility services to enterprise customers around the world), John Yates, Alan Taetle (perhaps best known as the thirteenth employee of MindSpring before it became part of EarthLink), and Pete Santora '98 (Founder of ThundrLizard and co-organizer of the Lean Startup Circle in Atlanta). Attendees were gripped with the excitement surrounding Atlanta’s place in the technology startup economy. What will define Atlanta’s niche in the field – will it be Mobile? E-commerce? Internet security?
A key commonality to any Atlanta breakfast is the value of the Furman degree. In July, Pete Santora said, “Furman teaches you how to learn. And even though the new graduates may not have the knowledge needed as immediate hires due to a lack of real world experience, they quickly pass their workforce peers because they have strong character, a good work ethic and excellent communication skills.” Santora hopes that more students will take part in the experience-driven internship program that AFBB attendee and Furman Internship Director Susan Zeiger is consistently working to enhance.
The breakfast has even become a sounding board for Furman Admission, where one attendee became so impressed by the success of Furman graduates that he took his child on an unplanned campus tour.
Paul Robertson summed it up best after introductions of attendees and panelists lauding their successful careers and entrepreneurial bravado: “It is amazing what you can do with a liberal arts degree when you look around this room.”
And the room in the Buckhead Club on the 26th floor is just one room -- imagine the impact of Furman’s 31,000 alumni all over the world.