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Alumnus Ralph Stayer makes $20 million gift for Executive Education

by Dennis Brown and Carol Elliott

May 19, 2008


Ralph C. Stayer, a University of Notre Dame graduate and the chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Johnsonville Sausage, has made a $20 million gift to his alma mater for the construction of a new building for Executive Education in the University’s Mendoza College of Business.

“Executive Education has a long tradition of excellence at Notre Dame,” said Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., the University’s president. “We are so grateful to Ralph and his family for an extraordinary gift that will enable us to continue and expand upon this tradition.”

The new Executive Education Center will increase significantly Notre Dame’s capacity to create and deliver both degree and non-degree executive programs and provide state-of-the-art classroom technology. The self-contained center, to be located immediately south of the Mendoza College, also will provide a more focused experience to meet the specific needs of executive-level students and corporate clients, which are increasingly complex in today’s global environment.

“As a longtime chief executive, Ralph knows well the importance of ongoing leadership and management training in business, and has, himself, been active in establishing such programs,” said Carolyn Y. Woo, Martin J. Gillen Dean of the Mendoza College. “Our capacity to provide these programs – with a values-based emphasis that is the hallmark of Notre Dame – will be significantly enhanced thanks to this gift. We are most appreciative.”

After earning his bachelor’s degree in finance from Notre Dame in 1965, Stayer joined the retail meat and sausage company that was founded in 1945 by his parents, Ralph F. and Alice B. Stayer, and immediately began building the wholesale operation, which was spun off into a separate company in 1968. Based in Johnsonville, Wis., the company is now known as Johnsonville Sausage, LLC, and Stayer has been the CEO since 1978.

Stayer’s involvement in the business has resulted in many accomplishments, including leading Johnsonville into a nationally recognized brand while establishing a renowned business operation method that establishes teamwork focused on creating exceptional results and developing exceptional talent at all levels.

Stayer was named CEO of the Year by Tom Peters in 1988 and was runner-up in the Ernst & Young national Master Entrepreneur of the Year in 2000. Johnsonville was featured in The Leadership Alliance – the largest-selling management video of all time.

In 1990, Stayer established the Leadership Dynamics consulting firm, which specializes in coaching leaders of large organizations on strategy and execution through people. He wrote “How I Learned to Let My Workers Lead,” which was published in 1990 in the Harvard Business Review and is one of its top 100 most reprinted articles. He is the coauthor of the business best seller “Flight of the Buffalo,” published in 1993 by Warner Books.

Stayer is a national trustee of Boys & Girls Clubs in the Midwest. In addition, he is a former chairman of the board for Marian University in Fond du Lac, Wis., and a board member of PAVE, an organization dedicated to improving education for urban students in Milwaukee.

Founded in 1980, Notre Dame Executive Education provides leaders in the executive and management ranks the opportunity to develop and strengthen their leadership abilities and business acumen skills. Today, Executive Education offers non-degree as well as degree programs, awarding about 120 degrees annually and delivering programs in 10 countries. In keeping with the Notre Dame mission, the program emphasizes values-based leadership in addition to academic rigor.

Notre Dame’s Executive Education has seen significant growth in terms of students, participating companies, reputation and other areas, particularly since 2000. Currently, 241 candidates are enrolled in the 17-month Executive MBA program in Chicago, the 21-month South Bend program and an off-site classroom in Cincinnati. The non-degree programs include open enrollment courses, which are public offerings that further the business skills of working professionals, as well as custom programs designed to assist client companies in achieving specific organizational objectives. Notre Dame’s Executive Education recently was ranked 15th among business schools worldwide by BusinessWeek magazine for its custom programs.

More than 950 people have participated in the innovative open-enrollment Executive Integral Leadership (EIL) program. A cornerstone of Notre Dame’s Executive Education, the integral approach incorporates moral, spiritual and ethical strengths as well as other personal dimensions into leadership training.

The gift is a component of the $1.5 billion Spirit of Notre Dame capital campaign. Announced last year, the campaign is the largest such endeavor in the history of Catholic higher education.

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