New leadership development opportunities for students at FSB

The William Isaac and Michael Oxley Center for Business Leadership dedication May 12

By Margo Kissell, university news and communications


William Isaac

Miami University’s Farmer School of Business is combining two of its successful leadership development programs into the new William Isaac & Michael Oxley Center for Business Leadership.

The Center for Business Excellence (CBE) and the Buck Rodgers Business Leadership program are joining forces.

The new center — named to honor two Miamians who significantly impacted the U.S. economy through their public service and who each pledged $1 million for the center — will be dedicated during a reception at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, May 12, in the Farmer School of Business’ Forsythe Commons. The event is open to the public.

Isaac (Miami ’66) served as chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) from 1981 to 1985. He founded the regulatory consulting firm The Secura Group LLC, which is now part of FTI Consulting Inc., where he is senior managing director – global head of financial institutions.


Michael Oxley

Oxley (Miami ’66) served as an Ohio congressman for 24 years and, as chairman of the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee, co-sponsored the landmark anti-corporate fraud law that bears his name (the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002). He died on Jan. 1, at age 71.

In 2006, he established the Michael G. Oxley Fund as a funding source for the CBE, which focused on interdisciplinary collaboration among three key stakeholders — innovative faculty, motivated students and engaged professionals.

Now, 10 years later, the legacies of the two former classmates give current and future Miami students the high impact experiences they need to become 21st century leaders.

An example: Students from the CBE planned last fall’s 11th annual executive conference, “Leveraging Diverse Leadership,” in partnership with Miami’s Women in Business student organization. The event drew about 200 people.


The center's three co-directors: Dan Heitger, Megan Gerhardt and Brian Ballou (photo by Jeff Sabo).

“Miami really respects undergrads. That’s where you can give them graduate level experience in leadership labs, classroom curriculum, experiential opportunities and researching with faculty as undergraduates. These are all things we’re trying to accentuate, elevate and put out there,” said Brian Ballou, who with Dan Heitger and Megan Gerhardt will serve as co-directors of the center.

Ballou, EY Professor of Accountancy, and Heitger, Deloitte Professor of Accountancy, founded the CBE and served as its co-directors for 10 years.

Gerhardt, associate professor of management and leadership, has been director of the Buck Rodgers Business Leadership program since 2011. That program was created nearly 20 years ago by F.G. “Buck” Rodgers (Miami ’50), who started as a sales trainee with IBM the year he graduated and worked his way up to become president of U.S. operations and eventually vice president of sales and marketing for the technology giant.

Rodgers, who died July 1, 2014, believed in his “five pillars of leadership” as core competencies of any business leader and those pillars are incorporated into Miami’s program requirements.

Rodgers’ earlier $1 million gift will be used to support the Buck Rodgers leadership labs and “Buck Rodgers CBL Fellows,” which are among several sponsored CBL fellowships the new center will offer. Ballou called them “working scholarships.”

The new center will have a component that is curriculum-based. Heitger said there will be a capstone course and the labs will be for individual and team leadership training.

“We are very much about hands-on tangible leadership development,” Heitger said.

Gerhardt said millennials are interested in leadership opportunities and becoming more fully developed before they graduate.

“We feel like giving them those opportunities early on to actually help faculty in the business school elevate what we are already doing — developing leaders and allowing them to lead, all before they graduate,” she said.


Senior Lauren Curtis

Lauren Curtis, a senior finance major with a co-major in analytics has had those kinds of valuable experiences, serving as a KPMG CBE Fellow for the past two years. Upon graduation from Miami Saturday, May 14, she will start a full-time job as an associate in KPMG’s financial management consulting practice in Atlanta.

“The Fellows program has given me unparalleled access to apply the knowledge and skills I have gained in and out of the classroom,” said Curtis, who will speak about her experiences at the dedication.

Curtis said the center will continue to prepare future generations of Miami students to become leaders thanks to the support of Isaac and Oxley. She had the opportunity to meet both men.

“It was a privilege to sit across the table and hear their stories,” she said. “Seeing such influential people dedicate their time and resources into this organization validated my own desire to work for the center.”

Isaac will be involved in an effort to raise additional funds for the center. There will be opportunities to provide support in several areas, including curricular, experiential learning, scholarships and fellowships, said David Zilch, senior director of development for the Farmer School of Business.