01 Jun 2002
Two Presidents, One Goal: Building on the Club of Chicagoby Amy BurtonTopics:
Since last July, Molly C. Baskin (MBA '77) and Peter M. Mott (111th AMP) have served as copresidents of the HBS Club of Chicago (HBSCC), the third-largest HBS club in the United States. With fast-paced careers — Mott is a director at Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown, and Baskin is a managing director at the Ansley Consulting Group — the two are glad to share the position. “I travel, Molly travels,” says Mott. “What happens if I'm out of town on the day of a club board meeting? We know that one of us will be there.” Although both were active in the club throughout the '90s (Mott was dinner chairman, and Baskin led various programs), neither was ready to be “the Lone Ranger” and plunge into a solo presidency. Ultimately, the decision to become copresidents was a pragmatic one: “We both knew we could do half the job,” laughs Baskin.
Sitting at the helm of HBSCC is no small task, even for two. The club has a membership of nearly 530 alumni, and its calendar boasts nearly seventy events a year. While the backbone of its activities has long been breakfast meetings featuring top executives — a recent guest was C. Steve McMillan (MBA '73), chairman, president, and CEO of the Sara Lee Corporation — the group has also adapted to the changing needs of its membership. “We have a large percentage of people who work either for themselves, or out in the suburbs, or are retired,” Mott notes. “Not everybody is on the train heading downtown for a 7:30 breakfast.”
In response, HBSCC offers several special interest groups (SIGs) to accommodate its broad constituency. The North Shore Chapter, for example, caters to members who live outside the city proper, while the Chicago Society gathers for cultural or social events in and around downtown. Each SIG has a designated club member or “champion” who organizes the subgroup's activities, be it a Kane County Cougars minor league baseball game or a Chicago Shakespeare Theatre performance. Baskin and Mott liken the SIGs to “wetting a fingertip to see which way the wind is blowing” — they want members' interests to drive the schedule of activities.
The success of each SIG hinges on high levels of club membership. After brainstorming ways to increase their overall numbers, Mott and Baskin took a business-like approach: They hired Marla G. Harger (MBA '00) to generate membership and paid her a portion of the membership fees as a commission. Harger started last year, and the club's numbers promptly increased 10 percent.
The copresidents are currently establishing a Career Program and have begun connecting with other area business school alumni groups (such as those from Kellogg, Wharton, and the University of Chicago) to create a wide-reaching networking system. The club also continues to generate volunteers for the Tax Assistance Program (TAP), a nonprofit venture founded by Robert M. Burke (MBA '99). Through TAP, volunteers help residents in underprivileged neighborhoods with their taxes.
HBSCC's calendar culminates in the Annual Business Statesman of the Year Dinner, which Mott describes as “the one we want the walls busted out for.” The event honors a member of the business community who “not only personifies success and ethics in business, but who also gives back to the city,” explains Baskin. Lester Crown (MBA '49), chairman of Material Service Corporation and chairman, president, and CEO of Henry Crown & Company, was honored in May. “Mr. Crown was a clear choice for this year's award. He is a huge philanthropist in Chicago and incredibly well-thought-of in the community,” says Baskin, noting Crown's involvement with Children's Memorial Medical Center, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Northwestern University, and the Aspen Institute, among other organizations.
Preparations are already under way for next year's dinner, which Baskin and Mott hope will be even bigger. Their hard work is driven by one goal: “We want to leave the club better than we found it.”