Coming Home to Roost:
Alumni Return to Haas to Share Their Expertise in the Classroom
By Kim Girard
When other Haas School students were obsessing over new Internet business models during the dot-com boom, Wendy Adams, MBA 97, just wanted to learn more about the business of biotech. So in 1998 she and fellow student Todd Morrill, MBA 98, built a student initiated course that was one of the first biotech classes at Haas.
"There were few people interested at the time," Adams recalls. "Everyone was interested in the Internet. We thought technology meant more than that." Seven years later, both Morrill and Adams have biotech careers, Adams as a consultant and Morrill as chief business officer at Trellis Bioscience. But they keep coming back to Haas to teach a course on biotech entrepreneurship.
Adams and Morrill are only two of the many Haas graduates who have taught at the school as lecturers or adjunct professors over the years. They have joined the ranks of management consultants, engineers, entrepreneurs, and more who teach at Haas, sharing a collective desire to give back to the school and connect with the next generation of business leaders.
Stephen Etter, BS 83, MBA 89, a partner at Greyrock Capital, has spent his career working in private equity, which provides great experience that he brings back to students. "My goal is to take the theory the faculty teaches and apply it to the real world," he says. Etter's undergraduate Corporate Finance class draws throngs of enthusiastic students, 60 a semester, with another 60 on the waiting list. Since 1995, he has taught 20 straight semesters; more than 1,000 students.
David Charron, MBA 95, says he's constantly learning from his students who take his entrepreneurship class. He, too, has much to offer. Charron, the project development director at the nonprofit Technology Ventures Corporation in Livermore, gleaned experience by starting two companies of his own. Each spring, he teaches a startup workshop to MBA students where he walks them through the process of building a company. He helps them prepare to navigate the tricky startup world and, he says, about half his students go on to start their own companies. "It's great to see the drive and the conclusion of the lessons they learn from the class," Charron says.
A handful of Haas alumni have made teaching at Haas their new career. Paul Tiffany, Ph.D. 83, a senior lecturer who teaches at Haas and the Wharton School, among others, worked as a management and financial consultant before choosing the academic life. Tiffany started teaching at Haas in 1994 and now teaches four classes a year in the MBA program and one in the Berkeley-Columbia Executive MBA program. Thomas McCullough, who teaches Management Science and Quantitative Analysis, started teaching while working on his Ph.D. at Haas and never left. McCullough (BA and BS 67, JD 75, Ph.D. 77) says his teaching style has evolved over the decades. "During the mid-80s we started enrolling students into the MBA program two or three years out of school instead of immediately after their undergraduate degree," he says. "These young professionals had a real-world perspective and wanted teaching that applied to the workplace – that made it interesting."
Leo B. Helzel, MBA 68, has juggled multiple careers over the decades, including teaching at the Haas School. Helzel was an established CPA, attorney, and businessman when he came to Haas. While teaching accounting and other courses, he decided to pursue his MBA. He is perhaps best known for introducing the first entrepreneurship class at Haas with then-Dean Richard Holton in 1970, one of the first entrepreneurship classes at any business school. For the past 11 years, he and Adjunct Professor Noel Nellis have co-taught a business law class called "Top Down Law."
Helzel is retiring this year after 59 years of teaching, 38 of which were at Haas. He says he has taught for so long for the love of it. "I liked the people – the students, the faculty, the deans, and the school," he says. "I've learned something new from students in every class that I've taught through all of the years."