Schulich honours four prominent business leaders

Three outstanding alumni and one honorary graduate of the Schulich School of Business at York University received the school’s prestigious Alumni Recognition Awards last week.

Honoured at a special ceremony on Wednesday, April 6 were: Ellis Jacob, president and chief executive officer of Cineplex Entertainment; Denise Pickett, executive vice-president of American Express OPEN; Colleen Johnston, group head finance & chief financial officer for the TD Bank Group; and Timothy Price, chair of funds management for Brookfield Asset Management Inc.

 Each of the Schulich Alumni Recognition Awards is a unique sculpture fashioned in crystal
Above: Each of the Schulich Alumni Recognition Awards is a unique sculpture fashioned in crystal

Speaking to a capacity crowd, Schulich Dean Dezsö Horváth saluted the four honourees.“Tonight we celebrate the many outstanding accomplishments of three of our graduates and one honorary graduate,” said Horváth. “Ellis, Denise, Colleen and Tim, we are extremely proud of you. And we are also very grateful. There is no better way to measure the true success of a business school than by the achievements of its graduates and advisers.”

Ellis Jacob (MBA ’76) was presented with the Outstanding Executive Leadership award for demonstrating extraordinary achievement, leadership and innovation in a global operation. Jacob Ellis Jacobhas worked in the motion picture exhibition industry for 24 years. In his current position with Cineplex Inc. and its subsidiaries, he leads Canada’s largest motion picture exhibition company.

Left: Ellis Jacob

“I am honoured to be chosen to receive this award this evening,” said Jacob, “and I am deeply humbled to be among the other recipients of this award who are now legends in the Canadian business world.”

Jacob has come a long way since his arrival in Canada as a 15-year-old from Calcutta, India. After attending his sister’s wedding in Montreal, he decided to stay in Canada. He studied at Montreal’s Dawson College and finished a commerce de­gree at McGill University before graduating from Schulich with his MBA.

He said his Schulich degree has contributed greatly to his success. “The classes were very multicultural with students from around the world, even then,” he recalled. “I learned broad skills in marketing and finance, as well as core business skills in areas such as leadership.”

Upon learning she was being presented with the Outstanding Progress and Achievement Award, given to a graduate who has demonstrated outstanding career potential and achieved early success and recognition in his or her field, Denise Pickett (MBA ’90) said she experienced mixed emotions about receiving the recognition. “My visions of retirement vanished before my eyes!” she joked.

“As a marketer, I call Schulich a ‘puff out your chest’ kind of brand because you are proud to be a student from here,” said Pickett.

 From left, Schulich School of Business marketing Professor Alan Middleton (MBA '77, PhD '97), Denise Pickett and Dean Dezsö Horváth
Above:  From left, Schulich School of Business marketing Professor Alan Middleton (MBA ’77, PhD ’97), Denise Pickett and Dean Dezsö Horváth

Since joining American Express in 1992, Pickett has shown rapid progress and achievement in the company. Prior to her current role, Pickett was senior vice president and country manager for American Express Canada, leading the Consumer & Small Business areas and serving as president and chief executive officer of Amex Bank of Canada. She held this position for three years.

Colleen Johnston (BBA ’82), was presented with the Outstanding Public Contribution award for her significant contributions to public life. Johnston is not onlywidely acknowledged as a leader in the financial services industry (in 2009 she was named “Best Chief Financial Officer” by Canadian Business and in 2010 she was named one of the “Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking by U.S. Banker magazine for the second year), but also a dedicated and passionate leader in the community.

From left, Bharat Masrani (BBA '78, MBA '79), president and CEO of the TD Bank, Colleen Johnston and Horváth
Above: From left, Bharat Masrani (BBA ’78, MBA ’79), president and CEO of the TD Bank, Colleen Johnston and Horváth

Johnston is currently the chair of the Board of Development Committee of the Heart & Stroke Foundation; has been a member of the Campaign Steering Committee of Bridgepoint Health, where she was previously a board member, serving as chair for three years; and she is also the past chair of the ShareLife Corporate Campaign.

“I am proud that Schulich has become one of the most recognized business schools in the world,” said Johnston. She paid tribute to the courage of her younger brother who suffered a stroke 10 years ago, crediting his story for her inspiration and dedication to working with organizations such as Bridgepoint Health, ShareLife and the Heart & Stroke Foundation. “It is my true privilege to be of service to some of the organizations that changing the world,” she said.

The recipient of the Outstanding Contribution to the Schulich School of Business award was Timothy Price (Hon. LLD ’09). Price has a longstanding association with York University, having been a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council of the Schulich School of Business for more than 20 years and a long-time member of the York University Board of Governors. In addition, he currently serves as chair of the York University Foundation Board of Directors.

 From left, Marshall Cohen, counsel, Cassels Brock & Blackwell, Timothy Price and and Horváth
Above: From left, Marshall Cohen, counsel, Cassels Brock & Blackwell, Timothy Price and and Horváth

Price spoke about the many achievements the Dean’s Advisory Council had made at the business school. The most notable achievements he mentioned included transforming the former Faculty of Administrative Studies into the Schulich School of Business, developing the MBA program and the school’s new international linkages.

He spoke about some key lessons he had learned working with the Schulich School of Business, including “the power of vision, planning, resolve and the clear planning process of the business program to keep it releMaster of ceremonies Paul Alofsvant,” he said.

The Schulich Alumni Recognition Awards event began with a welcome reception, sponsored by Deloitte, in the CIBC Marketplace. The master of ceremonies for the evening was Paul Alofs (MBA ’83), president and CEO of the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation and the winner of the 1994 Outstanding Progress and Achievement Alumni Recognition Award.

Left: Master of ceremonies Paul Alofs

The evening’s musical entertainment was generously provided by TD Insurance Meloche Monnex, York Alumni Perks Program, Torstar Digital and Certified Management Accountants of Ontario. Corporate table patrons included Cineplex Entertainment, Schulich’s Graduate Business Council, American Express, IBM and Price Waterhouse Coopers.

Submitted to YFile by Michelle Cholak, editorial assistant, Schulich School of Business