Turning 100:
Alumni Stories from Business, Music & Law

Fall 2012
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(left to right): Dan Michelson and Susan Coe Heitsch

Edited interviews by Kris Gallagher

Humor, Excellent Instruction and Occasional Treats Helped Business Students Succeed



Francis ‘Fran’ Ferrone
B.S.C. ’53
President, Gray Line of Chicago
Executive vice president, American Sightseeing Company

“I learned a lot about business, law, economics and marketing, and that was of real value to me, because I was eventually going to be running our family business [American Sightseeing Company]. … It was a good education you got from DePaul, good teachers. That’s why I continuously support them.”

“Business classes were held at 64 E. Lake Street, which was next door to the Pixley and Ehlers Restaurant, which had delicious doughnuts that everybody loved. … I remember that our student union (at the Lincoln Park Campus) was a Quonset hut. That place also had delicious doughnuts. I couldn’t wait to go in there between classes.”


Robert ‘Bob’ Brooks Sr.
B.S.C. ’63
Partner, Brooks & Robertson, L.L.P.

“I learned character, honesty, integrity—all of those things that have nothing to do with the particular course that much, but that’s how you operate, and that’s how you survive the crazy business world because you’re always subject to so many pressures to compromise. They taught values.”

“[Former instructor] Art Farber (B.S.C. ’57, MBA ’59) is my favorite memory. … He caused me to have a love affair with accounting because he was very capable. … He made me really understand accounting and know I had made the right choice.”

“Almost everybody who was going [to the College of Business] was working somewhere. They would get to school at 9 and leave at about 1. That was a full-time student. Then we went to work after that.”

“As long as you’re in Chicago, there’s always a bunch of people in the group who have some of their professional and educational career attached to DePaul.”


Barbara Laughlin
B.S.C. ’66, MBA ’71
Retired; former financial services senior executive focusing on technology and operations for institutions, including First Union Corp., M & T Bank and Citicorp Savings of Florida.

“My husband and I were the first couple to complete the master of business science degree.”

“The cafeteria really was our Greek system. There were sororities and fraternities, but there were no houses on the uptown campus, so cafeteria tables became not unlike the dining hall concept that they have at Princeton. It was a wonderful way to meet people and provided a kind of glue. ... It really was our home base.”

“You came to school, you took your classes, you went to your job—most of us worked part time—and then you’d come back again to take an evening class.”

“At the graduate school level, I remember a closeness. Classes tended to be smaller, and we did considerably more work as teams, which I think prepared us beautifully to come out into the corporate world.”

“In undergraduate school, I had a professor who taught impressionist and post-impressionist art. It had an amazing effect on me … how it fills your life to include things beyond what I’m going to call practical. Today, I am on the American Craft Council board, the McColl Center for the Visual Art board, and have served several other arts-based organizations. My afterlife, if you will, has been very heavily influenced by that class and the importance of the visual arts and culture in our economy.”

“There were two women who were part of a women’s auxiliary group at DePaul. … They took a series of coeds under their wing and made a point of walking us through the paces of etiquette—how to sit, how to stand, which spoons and forks you want to use when. ... It was a confidence-builder. You don’t want to go to a luncheon meeting with the next echelon and be uncomfortable about whether you’re going to make an etiquette faux pas.”

“There is literally no doubt in my mind that in Chicago a DePaul degree is also an extraordinary networking opportunity. It gives you access you wouldn’t otherwise have had.”


Susan Coe Heitsch
B.S.C. ’80
Vice President, Human Resources Communications, JPMorgan Chase & Co.

“I’m the ultimate survivor.  I’ve lived through four mergers and acquisitions, and I’m here to tell the tale. … I’d heard that the big banks downtown paid for tuition for those who were willing to study at night, so I took a clerical job at the bank. Between my studies at DePaul and the career mobility program at the bank, I progressed through the ranks. ... The name on the bank has changed a lot, and so have I. I tell people that I grew up at the bank—and thanks to my DePaul education, I grew WITH the bank.”

“When most of the people I worked with were headed for the train home, I was on my way over to DePaul. And most evenings I couldn't wait to get there because I felt surrounded by smart, motivated people and brilliant, caring professors.”

“[Richard Chalecki] made economics fascinating, and he was exceptionally entertaining. What’s more, he knew many of us had arrived at class straight from work and hungry. So he would buy a big bag of cookies to pass around the class. And, on test evenings, he brought Fannie May candy.”


Dan Michelson
MBA ’94
Chief Executive Officer, Strata Decision Technology

“There are lots of good universities in the Chicago area, … but if you look at night programs, which is what I was most interested in, DePaul is the clear choice.”

“Working during the day and going to school at night gives you a terrific blend of the academic experience and the real experience meshed into one.”

“I would say that, pretty much every day, I use something that [Professor Joel Whalen] taught me. He was so influential in terms of my approach and how I think. … There was one night in those three years that I can still picture right now as if it happened yesterday. … Each student was given 90 seconds to give a speech on something—anything—and to get people to actually understand and care about it. The twist was you had to appeal to all five senses.

“That one night and that one story turned a guy who was petrified of getting up to give a speech in front of a group of five people into someone who now has given presentations in front of 3,000 people without hesitation. It was simple, but for me it was a transformational moment.”


Ahmed Abdul-Jaleel
B.S.C. ’04
Investment Management Examiner, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission

“Dr. Bob Peters has an unparalleled teaching style and also a great sense of humor. His immortal final-exam ‘bond problem’ is remembered across generations of his students.”

“The College of Business provided ample opportunities to gain leadership skills, whether within the classroom or through involvement in organizations. These skills helped me to embrace leadership opportunities as they arose during my career. The College of Commerce gave me real-world experience.”

“I remember the classroom sizes, which provided ample opportunities to build relationships with professors and classmates, many of which have continued on into my professional career.”


For centennial events and information, visit alumni.depaul.edu/anniversaries.