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Mendoza College graduate alumni awards announced!

by Carol Elliott

June 13, 2013

Mike Benson and Mike Riegel


Each year, the Graduate Alumni Office recognizes two outstanding alumni for their service during the past academic year. Examples of service include recruitment of prospective students, speaking on campus, financial support of the graduate business program, participation in alumni activities and career recruitment.

We’re pleased to recognize the following alums as recipients of the alumni awards for 2013.

Distinguished Alumni Award: Michael Riegel (MBA ’98)

In the third week of July, just as the summer heat is likely to be settling over South Bend, Mike Riegel will be settling into his Notre Dame dorm room. But this isn’t the average freshman experience; Mike is about 25 years beyond that. Instead of lugging mini-fridges and gaming systems, he’s bringing his wife Liz and three children—Sarah (14), Mark (12) and Megan (10).

The Riegel family is heading to campus from their home in Raleigh, N.C., to be part of Notre Dame Family Volunteer Camp, an opportunity for the whole family to engage in community service activities while enjoying the sites and special places around the University.

“It’s a great way to teach our kids about giving back,” says Riegel. “That’s really what the Notre Dame experience is all about.”

Riegel is the vice president of Mobile and WebSphere for IBM, where he leads the marketing strategy across 182 countries for IBM’s mobile and Web efforts to advance the company’s Smarter Planet strategy. He also launched IBM's newest brand—IBM MobileFirst—to represent the industry's broadest set of mobile software and services for clients

He was awarded the 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award in recognition of his achievement in business and for his strong commitment to the Mendoza College of Business through leadership and service to the graduate business community. Mike has been instrumental in recruiting and arranging internships for MBA students at IBM, as well as providing speakers and supporting events such as the ND MBA Marketing Conference.

He finds a strong alignment in mission between Notre Dame and IBM, which is one of the reasons he helps the recruiting efforts. But he also has an attitude of appreciation for what he’s gained—and continues to gain—as part of the legendary Notre Dame alumni network.

“For me personally, Notre Dame was the door opener, and continues to be the door opener, for everything I do,” he says. “But for anyone who has graduated at Notre Dame, you have to realize that part of the reason for your success is all of the people ahead of you who gave back. So you have to do the same thing for others. Plus, staying connected with students and professors is a great way to keep on learning.”

Recent Alumni Service Award: Michael T. Benson (MNA ’11)

Mike Benson has no shortage of higher-ed affiliations: He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Brigham Young University, his master’s degree in nonprofit administration from Mendoza and a doctoral degree in Middle Eastern history from the University of Oxford (St. Antony’s College). Not only that, the Salt Lake City native served as the president of Snow College (2000-2006) and Southern Utah University (2006-present); and, as of Aug. 1, he takes over as president of Eastern Kentucky University.

Although he values all of his experiences with the various institutions, Benson—one of the youngest university presidents in America—considers earning a Master of Nonprofit Administration from Notre Dame as transformative. He had a sterling track record as a leader and as a prolific fund raiser at both Snow and Southern Utah before starting the program. Yet Benson realized that having a stronger business skillset would help him make better strategic decisions.

“I’m a huge proponent of MNA,” he says. “It literally changed my professional career. It gave me an extra tool that I was lacking.”

During his tenure at Snow, Benson raised more money in five years than in all of the institution’s previous 117-year history. At Southern Utah, his many successful fund-raising efforts included directing the development and implementation of the school’s largest and most ambitious comprehensive $100 million campaign, The Future Is Rising. In 2011, Utah Business magazine named Benson one of the “100 Most Influential People in Utah.”

Benson and wife Debi are the parents of Truman, 6, Tatum, 4, and Talmage, 2. He also is the father of Emma, 16, and Samuel, 14.

As an MNA alum, Benson is an unabashed recruiter to the program, born out of a deep sense of alignment with the University’s faith mission and an appreciation of the strength of the alumni network.

“Any connection to Notre Dame is so rewarding,” he says. “We have been given an incredible opportunity and blessing, and it’s our responsibility to take that and try to make a difference for others.