Ohio University’s College of Business announces $2.5 million gift to enhance student leadership success

Published: September 30, 2022 Author: Staff reports

A top Ohio University College of Business initiative is expanding, thanks to a $2.5 million gift from one of the University’s most recognizable graduates in the global leadership space.

Keith and Deborah Wandell’s multi-million-dollar commitment will enhance The Keith and Deborah Wandell Leadership Development Program (formerly the Select Leaders Program). This College of Business flagship enterprise accelerates the personal growth, professional development, and leadership identity of high-potential students using the same leadership practices Keith Wandell is known for championing throughout his career.

“Many of the signature leadership investments that Ohio University makes in our students are made possible by the generosity of donors like Keith and Deb Wandell,” said Nico Karagosian, vice president for University Advancement and president and CEO of The Ohio University Foundation. “For more than 10 years, Keith and Deb have been engaged with leadership programming in the College of Business, encouraging our students’ professional and personal growth, and we are so grateful to them for their continued support.”

Promoting students’ leadership capabilities is what led the Wandells to focus their impact on OHIO, Keith Wandell said. “We need effective leaders in the world. Deb and I want to make sure the next generation of leaders understands the importance of trust, listening, and the value of relationships,” he said. “I’m glad we have a part in helping Ohio University develop those aspects of students’ leadership practice.”

Wandell’s commitment to excellence is evident in his successful career.

A native of Lima, Ohio, Keith Wandell graduated with a degree in business administration from Ohio University in 1972. Wandell served as CEO of Harley-Davidson from 2009 to 2015. His appointment as CEO took place during a nationwide financial crisis that threatened the company’s operations. Under Wandell’s leadership, Harley-Davidson developed and implemented a strategy that successfully transformed the 112-year-old company, restored its financial strength, and positioned it for continued growth.

Wandell drove success for the organization through his commitment to strong, principled leadership at all levels. He championed extensive leadership training at Harley-Davidson among management staff and encouraged ongoing leadership education throughout the company. Wandell is internationally known not only for his ability to create high-performing, values-driven cultures, but also for his willingness to mentor others.

This spirit of mentorship and values-driven culture is at the heart of what The Keith and Deb Wandell Leadership Development Program aims to develop in its participants, said Jennifer Traxler, executive director of the Robert D. Walter Center for Strategic Leadership in the College of Business.

“This opportunity represents a set of defining experiences for our students in their time at Ohio University,” Traxler said. “This gift will provide leading-edge enhancements to the program’s curriculum, allowing our stellar students to accelerate their development through mentorship by talented business leaders.”

Through the initiative’s process of self-awareness, application, experience and growth, these OHIO students develop skills to differentiate themselves as leaders. A defining feature of the program is students’ opportunities to engage with real-world executives as part of their degree training.

Alongside the Wandells’ substantial gift, additional donations to this endowment help purchase assessments and curriculum that develop the students’ leadership acumen, personal and professional growth, travel for field experiences, and networking trips that expose our students to diverse career opportunities and markets. This includes coaching and mentorship programming, executive engagements on- and off-campus, as well as student scholarships.

If you would like to make a gift to The Keith and Deborah Wandell Leadership Development Program to provide transformational opportunities to the next generation of Bobcat business leaders, please visit https://give.ohio.edu/funds/select-leaders-program-support-fund.