ALUMNI PROFILES • Spring 2002
Making Sucess Possible for Others

Nicole Chestang, M.B.A. '88

After living in 10 cities in 15 years, Nicole Chestang seems eager to settle into her new position as chief operating officer and secretary of the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) in Washington, D.C.

Actually, she joined GMAC, an organization perhaps best known for its Graduate Management Admission Test®, or GMAT®, in 1994 as director of services. But it was not until recently that she seemed to really put down roots. "I just bought a house," she says, adding that she shares her home with her cat, Queenie, a calico she acquired while living in Plano, Texas. ("My employees at the time thought I needed a cat in my life.")

"I built my career in a time when you had to move around every so often to take new posts," she says. Previously, she held high-level positions in human resources management with Unisys Corporation and Fisher Controls. Now she is responsible for strategic planning, corporate philanthropy, and other execuive functions for GMAC.

"I think what I like most about this job is the opportunity to work with a bunch of very bright people who are all focused and very dedicated to a mission that lets us help people," Chestang says. From time to time, she's able to see firsthand how the work she does is making a difference. She recalls one young woman in particular who participated in Destination MBA, a program co-sponsored by the National Black MBA Association and the National Society of Hispanic MBAs.

"I think Destination gave her the notion that success was possible for her," Chestang says. "Despite what she'd heard about glass ceilings for women and people of color—not to minimize that those things exist—we presented enough role models for her to see that she could succeed."

Chestang herself enrolled in the MBA program at Washington University only after participating in an MBA forum sponsored by GMAC. She'd been working in human resources after graduating with a bachelor's degree in psychology from Wayne State University in Detroit. "I got to the point where I was tired of interviewing all these people who were MBAs and making more money than me, and I thought: 'Maybe I should look into this—I'm just as smart as these people,'" she says, laughing.

She found that Washington University was "very encouraging of people with liberal arts backgrounds like mine." So in 1986, she followed in her father's footsteps by enrolling in Washington University, but for her it was the Olin School of Business. [That same year, her dad, Leon Chestang, M.S.W. '61, won the Distinguished Alumni Award from the George Warren Brown School of Social Work.]

"The pace was a lot to adjust to," she says, "learning from a well-known and demanding faculty and competing with some very smart people." Around finals, she admits, "like every other student, I thought: 'How am I ever going to do this?'"

Yet, she did. And working a wonderful path in the world for herself in the years since, she has served on numerous boards and received awards and recognition, including the Joseph W. Towle Prize in Human Resources Management, the National Black MBA Association's 1997 Outstanding MBA of the Year Award, and outstanding alumni awards from both Wayne State University and Washington University.

But, perhaps most important, Nicole Chestang has made a way for so many other deserving students who follow her—and that's something to be really proud of.

Gretchen Lee, A.B. '86

 


 

President of the Clean Car Club

Henry Dubinsky, J.D. '66

Clear coat protectant. Undercarriage wash. Wheel brite. These items are some of the tools of the car washing trade—but only Waterway Gas & Wash® has "The Whole Thing®." With "The Whole Thing®" a customer gets a full-service car wash and just about everthing else Waterway has to offer—it is Waterway's most complete service. Waterway also features the innovative Clean Car Club®, where customers, with a paid membership, get unlimited free car washes with a gasoline fill-up all year long.

Such programs are the creations of Henry Dubinsky, president and co-owner of Waterway. From the beginning, it was Dubinsky's intent to create a professional business, with highly trained employees providing professional services.

Graduating from the University in 1966 with a law degree, Dubinsky worked for four years as a tax accountant at Arthur Andersen and for two years as a real estate lawyer at May Company. (Dubinsky's wife, Ellen, also graduated from WU with a history degree in 1964.) While at Andersen, he began looking for the right business opportunity. When representing a client who owned a car wash, Dubinsky decided to research the car wash business. Along with a small group of partners, Dubinsky founded Waterway in 1968. The owners got their feet wet, opening their first location in 1970. Two years later, Dubinsky left May Company to work full time with Waterway.

"At the time we got into the car wash business, the business was not nearly as sophisticated as it has become today. There was a real opportunity for a person with a professional background in an industry that had not necessarily always been run in a sophisticated manner," says Dubinsky.

"Over the years, enormous strides have been made. People have learned that the same kinds of business techniques that have been successful in many other retail businesses could be applied to our type of business—and could be just as successful." For example, Waterway offers one-stop shopping: car cleaning, gasoline, and convenience items.

To reach his high expectations, Dubinsky first concentrated on creating a loyal management team and workforce.

"Our training program draws substantially from our own experience and two corporate sources: the Walt Disney Company and Enterprise Rent-A-Car. ... It was our goal to do things that had not historically been done in this industry, to make the business run better."

The service provided by these well-trained employees is paying off, as well. The Clean Car Club boasts more than 15,000 members, and Waterway now operates 14 locations (three of which opened in 2001) in three cities—St. Louis, Kansas City, and Denver. The company's projected sales for the upcoming year are between $45 and $50 million.

Although day-to-day car wash operations are managed by his son, Bob, Dubinsky still oversees operations and has a hand in crafting the company's unique service packages, updating the training program, keeping facilities modern, and expanding to new locations. With his management team and partner, Doug Brown, retired executive vice president of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Dubinsky plans to continue Waterway's growth for many years.

For Dubinsky, "the most compelling part of owning and operating a business is building something that serves as a model for others, both in our industry and outside—to develop an organization, generally considered a small business, as good as many much larger organizations." To him, that's the whole thing.

Teresa Nappier