ALUMNI PROFILES • Winter 2000

Building a Winning Tradition in Sport and Life

Homer Drew, M.A. '68

For Homer Drew, head coach of the men's basketball team at Valparaiso University since 1988, the challenge to build a winning program "at a school that had not had a winning program in Division I athletics in 16 years" was a great opportunity. Drew came to Valparaiso from Indiana University at South Bend, and he has made good his promise. Amassing six consecutive Mid-Continent Conference championships as well as advancing to the "Sweet 16" of the NCAA tournament in 1998, Drew has instilled a tradition of winning. His Valparaiso team is among college basketball's elite as one of only seven teams in the NCAA to boast six consecutive seasons with 20 or more victories.

Drew is reluctant to take all the credit for such an impressive turnaround. "First of all, success breeds success," says Drew of his team's ability to continue to win. "As we have had success, we are able to attract talented, young student-athletes to come to the university and be a part of a winning program." Drew credits his coaching staff and the administration of Valparaiso with providing "tremendous support and invaluable feedback." The Mid-Continent Conference, however, continually recognizes Drew's talents and has honored him with the Coach of the Year award three times.

The philosophy of "building a tradition" has always been important to Drew. "In the last eight years, 14 of our players [including son, Bryce Drew, who was drafted in 1998 in the first round by the Houston Rockets] have gone on to play professionally around the world," says Drew. His greatest achievement, he says, is "seeing our young players graduate and go on into their chosen professions. Forty-seven of my former players are currently coaching or teaching." He also plans on "traveling around the world and visiting all of my former players," he adds with a laugh.

One of the most memorable seasons in Drew's tenure at Valparaiso was his team's trip to the "Sweet 16." It was also a very memorable time for the Drew family: "My oldest son, Scott, is an assistant coach for the program, and it was Bryce's senior year," he says. Bryce also scored a buzzer-beater over Ole Miss that advanced the team to the final round of 16. The shot, now a favorite in every college basketball highlight reel, earned Bryce the Play of the Year Award from ESPN. "To be able to be with my two children as they went through college like that I believe was really a blessing from God," says Drew. "Also, to be able to share an experience like that with my family is truly a highlight."

Drew, who earned his master's degree in education at Washington University in 1968, credits the University with helping him develop as a person. "Being at Washington University was a time of growing and learning. I really learned how to deal and communicate with people. Washington University is also where I was able to set a foundation for basketball through my work in the athletic department," says Drew. "The people there were always very helpful."

—Justin Ragner, Class of '02

 


 

A View from Behind (the Scenes)

Lynne Silber, B.S.B.A. '92

The television cameras are rolling, and the live broadcast is under way. Lynne Silber is in the control room, ensuring that everything runs smoothly. She has already overseen the show's script, tape rundowns, graphics, and chyron lists, as well as drafted a technical outline for the crew. A tense hour goes by, but finally it's wrapped up. The guests were charming, the band was great, and, overall, the show was a complete success. Silber, along with the rest of the crew, breathes a sigh of relief.

And yet, all this excitement is just a typical day. Satisfied with the show, she heads to her office and prepares to do it again tomorrow.

Silber coordinates the technical production for ABC's Emmy Award-winning The View, a live daytime talk show that focuses on women's issues and regularly features its executive producer, Barbara Walters. The View features a panel of notable women who create a forum for expression on many topics. Silber remains behind the scenes, timing the show, working beside the Emmy Award-winning director, Mark Gentile, to make sure the visual and stage elements are brought together. She also updates the director's script each morning with any last-minute changes that are indicative of live television.

All of this is done with a remarkable enthusiasm. "I think The View is a way for women of all different walks of life to say what's on their minds," she says. "I identify with the topics they talk about, and I'm happy to be a part of the show."

Silber explained that sometimes changes occur in the middle of the broadcast, for example when a lively discussion calls for more time to address the topic. In such an event, should the senior producer decide to shorten a later segment, Lynne must redistribute the show's timing on a dime so that the show will make it off the air, and the remaining segments will get adequate airtime.

One of her favorite aspects is dealing with performers who appear on the show. She works with musicians to break down songs bar by bar, and discusses the staging. She has recently worked with such pop stars as Marc Anthony and Faith Hill.

Coordinating the program's technical aspects is a huge commitment, but one that Silber accepts eagerly—she loves the challenge. "It's so satisfying when at noon the camera fades to black and you say, 'we just put a show together.' It's an incredible feeling."

Beyond the excitement of her job, Silber still finds plenty to do in her spare time, including rollerblading, weight lifting, and acting in New York's community theater scene. Two of her other pastimes are enjoying fine wine and traveling. Naturally, her recent vacation in Napa Valley was "incredible, like taking an extended wine class."

She remembers her years studying business at WU fondly and says it prepared her for the fast-paced environment of her career. "Television is very cutthroat—the supply far exceeds the demand for good people in the business. My years at the University taught me to be strong and work really hard, and I've done well because of that." Her drive and intensity continue to lead her toward new opportunities; she's gradually moving into associate directing on The View and other projects.

While The View presents fascinating personalities on the screen every day, Silber's enthusiastic nature tells us that there's another great personality just outside the screen, ensuring that the show's live broadcasts are a continued success.

—Ryan Rhea, A.B. '96

 


 

Celebrating Success the Fun Way

For Greg Sullivan, working should be a choice, not a chore, and these days, it's a choice he really enjoys. His company—G. A. Sullivan, a leader in the emerging IT industry—has been listed in 1997, 1998, and 2000 on INC. Magazine's list of the 500 "fastest-growing private companies in America." Sullivan hopes that working at G. A. Sullivan is also a choice and not a chore for his roughly 360 employees. "I always tell my employees that I work here by choice as well. I want it to be fun; it's important as you don't always know what tomorrow will bring."

For Sullivan, an early choice that changed his life was becoming a business owner. After graduating with a systems science and mathematics degree from the School of Engineering & Applied Science in 1981, he went to work with the consulting company MARC. In 1982, Sullivan lost his MARC job. With only $300 and working out of his apartment, Sullivan created G. A. Sullivan; his initial goal was to provide custom software to businesses that used the-then fairly new IBM PC as part of their operations.

"When IBM introduced the first PC, the company sent out demo models to generate interest," he says. "I would go to ComputerLand between 5 and 10 in the morning to program its demo." Sullivan saw that computers would be vital to businesses in the future, and he recognized the need for software development. G. A. Sullivan grew, albeit slowly, along with the computer industry, providing innovative software for St. Louis businesses.

In 1992, Sullivan recognized another technological revolution—the Internet. He began an intensive reorganization and restructured his company, creating the G. A. Sullivan of today. "We are an e-business solution provider," he says. "We help companies leverage the Internet in their business strategy."

Throughout his career, Sullivan has maintained an attitude of fun and lightness that pervades his company. "One of my key philosophies is to celebrate success along the way. It's not about waiting until retirement and then looking back on your accomplishments." Sullivan's "celebrating" comes in a variety of manners: He has sprayed Silly String(™) on sales personnel to celebrate a first sale; he throws parties for company milestones, occasionally showing up in costume; he wears a bunny suit when tensions and workloads are running high; and he offers his employees trust and respect. His employees recognize their boss' relaxed, playful attitude; last year, turnover was roughly 7 percent in an industry where 20+ percent is common. The St. Louis Business Journal recently honored G. A. Sullivan with a Laclede award for "corporate culture," recognizing the company among the "best places to work."

G. A. Sullivan is not entirely fun and games, however. "Industry leadership is our primary goal. And leaders should contribute to their industry, not just take from it," he says.

And lead they do. G. A. Sullivan's employees have written a series of technical publications that have become standards in the computer field. Sullivan speaks at industry gatherings and trade shows. He and his staff travel across the globe presenting seminars on industry-related topics to clients, other companies, and the public.

Since 1992, G. A. Sullivan's revenue growth rate has been 9,455 percent. The employee roster has grown from five to more than 360 with a network of eight offices in St. Louis; Atlanta; Cincinnati; Kansas City; San Antonio; Fairview Heights, Illinois; Nashville; and the Netherlands. And Sullivan has received numerous local and national awards, including being named the 1999 Small Business Administration National Small Business Person of the Year. Asked what success has been the most celebrated: "The most fun occurs every time we have a happy customer. If our consultants deliver high-quality work, there is no better success than that."

—Greg Peters, Class of '01