Abbas Haider and Rob Davis sell bulletproof suits. Melinda May is an entrepreneurial accountant. Iris Harrell grew the business she started in her home garage into a booming success. These movers and shakers have something in common. They were among eight University of Mary Washington alumni who were recognized at the second annual College of Business Alumni Awards Ceremony on Friday, Oct. 19.
The winners were praised for their achievements and contributions as role models and contributors to the business curriculum, and for financial support, including the establishment of endowed scholarships. All also have made a difference to Mary Washington students by hosting or making offers of employment to them at their businesses, according to Interim Dean of the College of Business Ken Machande.
Below, the winners share Mary Washington memories and words of wisdom.
BUSINESS HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE
Iris Harrell ’69, founder and former CEO, Harrell Remodeling Inc. in Palo Alto, California. After an early career in education, nonprofit and – of all things – leading a traveling band, Harrell launched (and recently retired from) a painting and construction company that’s now 100-percent employee-owned.
Best piece of business advice: Follow your passion…use all of your gifts that you inherited.
YOUNG BUSINESS ALUMNI AWARD WINNERS
Abbas Haider ’12, CEO and president, Aspetto; Rob Davis ’12, COO, Aspetto in Fredericksburg
Haider and Davis created Aspetto, manufacturer of men’s professional and bulletproof clothing, for a class project their freshman year at UMW. Now an international brand that’s still growing, Aspetto landed Haider and Davis on last year’s prestigious Forbes 30 Under 30 list, and marks a decade in business this year.
Haider’s best business advice: Don’t be afraid of the change, embrace it. If you are not changing, you are not growing.
Davis’ favorite UMW memory: Playing in my first Homecoming soccer game – the atmosphere was pandemonium!
Glenn Gray ’07, vice president, Buffalo.Agency (a division of Billy Casper Golf) in Reston, Virginia
Gray earned a master’s degree in sports leadership and has worked in marketing for companies like Nike and Octagon.
Favorite UMW memory: As captain of the men’s soccer team, beating our arch rival Salisbury my senior year on Homecoming … was amazing.
Darien Thall’04, audit senior manager, KPMG LLP, headquartered in the Netherlands
Senior manager within the federal business unit of Big Four auditor KPMG, Thall currently serves as lead engagement manager on a cabinet-level agency audit.
Best business advice: Be patient and worry only about what you can control. Say yes, work hard and deliver on all commitments.
DISTINGUISHED BUSINESS ALUMNI AWARD WINNERS
Melinda May ’91, owner, Featherstone CPA in Fredericksburg
May climbed the corporate ladder, moving from financial accountant to CFO for a real estate developer/homebuilder, before starting the public accounting firm Featherstone.
Favorite UMW memory: Playing field hockey and bonding with teammates on bus trips to away games.
Cara Parker, MBA ’05, CEO of C Parker Consulting, Inc. in Stafford, Virginia
Through her company – and the leadership workshops, strategic planning and coaching it provides – Cara has helped propel a variety of businesses and organizations toward success.
Best business advice: Don’t ever stop learning and growing. When you do, you become irrelevant, and organisms that are not growing are perishing. There is always so much to learn in every field of business.
Rob Whitt ’93, managing director, Markel Corp. in Glen Allen, Virginia
Whitt spent the past two decades rising from accountant at Markel to corporate controller to managing director.
Favorite UMW memory: My time as an RA in Randolph, where I met the wonderful woman who would become my wife and made some really good friends.