from The Bridge: Fall 2012/Winter 2013 issue
Washington and Lee's new Entrepreneurship Program has received generous support from Alex McAlister '82 and his wife, Susan, and from Harry and Mary Anne Bennett, parents of David Bennett '91, Andrew Bennett '12 and Katie Bennett '14.
In honor of his 30th reunion, the McAlisters committed $130,000 to The McAlister Family Endowment for Entrepreneurship and $50,000 to the Annual Fund.
The Bennetts have given $100,000 to support internships for students focused on entrepreneurship.
Even though the Entrepreneurship Program is a special interest, McAlister gave to the Annual Fund as well because he felt that his W&L liberal arts education prepared him well to forge ahead in the business world. "The smaller class size created accountability and risk taking," says McAlister. "You had to be prepared and ready to speak up. You couldn't just hang back on the edges and slide by. That was an incredible preparation for business."
In 1989, McAlister formed Trinity Capital Advisors with two partners. The company merged with Sterling Capital Management in 1991, and McAlister is now CEO. "We have grown from $80 million in original assets under management as a start-up to over $38 billion under management today. We built our business by focusing on anticipating and meeting needs in the marketplace," said McAlister. "I love the whole idea of the Entrepreneurship Program."
Furthermore, Jeff Shay, the Johnson Professor of Entrepreneurship and Leadership, "has a deep understanding of both the academic and practical side of entrepreneurship," says McAlister.
Harry and Mary Anne Bennett agree that the entrepreneurial spirit is key to the U.S. economy. Harry has served as a visiting lecturer in Shay's class. "Mary Anne and I have been in the entrepreneurial world for 14 years ourselves," says Harry. In 1998, with the help of private equity, the couple started their own company, Country Road Communications, which they sold in 2008; they now consult in the small-business market.
The Bennetts believe that internships can provide students with valuable experience, while giving entrepreneurs good employees. They created the Bennett Family Internship Fund in support of undergraduate internships focused on entrepreneurship. "We focused on entrepreneurship rather than business in general, because start-ups are good for the economy as a whole. When students do a good job, these internships can lead to job offers," says Mary Anne.
Both their children, Andrew and Katie, benefited from internships every summer through high school and college. "While the experience internships provide can be invaluable, they can be very costly," observes Harry. "In the entrepreneurial world, small firms don't necessarily have the ability to pay their interns. Internships are a very good way to make an investment in the future."
"We wanted to find a way to contribute to the University in a meaningful way," says Mary Anne. "As the economy contracts, it is important to support people who have new ideas, who are creating jobs, and provide them with students who need exposure in the business community."
McAlister agrees. "Entrepreneurs tend to be very successful in all aspects of the business spectrum. This skill set and mindset in the marketplace will continue to drive the U.S. economy in a world of global competition and opportunity."