During its 30 years, TU’s Friends of Finance organization has forged a lasting relationship between Tulsa’s academic and business communities while augmenting the university’s finance program and strengthening ties with alumni. With over 400 members that include TU faculty and staff, business professionals, alumni and supporters of the Collins College of Business, the organization provides a forum that fosters a passion for business and an opportunity for networking.
As an executive speakers’ series, eight times a year Friends of Finance features business leaders from some of the world’s largest companies who speak on topics of their choice. On average, more than 400 members of the business community, professors, and students attend the luncheons on TU’s campus.
“Friends of Finance has been successful through the years for a simple reason: People know they will hear an interesting talk,” said J. Markham Collins, the Edward E. and Helen T. Bartlett Foundation Professor of Business and faculty director of Friends of Finance. “Attendees gain insight about a person, their company or industry — or all three — by hearing the speaker and asking questions at the end.”
The brainchild of former TU finance department chair Roger Bey and alumnus Bob Harrison (MBA ’73), Friends of Finance has grown considerably since the first meeting on May 7, 1985, when 100 attendees gathered on the top floor of the First National Bank. During its early years, Bey and Harrison led the organization along with Collins, Bob Prince (BSBA ’81, MBA ’85) and Bruce Currie (BSBA ’81).
“Some of the first presentations were faculty discussing research papers,” said Collins. “We quickly outgrew that format and started asking local, then regional CEOs and CFOs to speak. We wanted to appeal to a wider group of Tulsa-area business professionals.”
Nationally known speakers such as Larry Leibowitz, Doug McMillon, Jamie Dimon, Roger Staubach and John Wooden have continued to raise the profile of the organization and attract new members.
Looking at the list of leaders who have spoken over 30 years, it’s only natural to ask how TU has been able to secure such renowned speakers — none of whom have received a speakers’ fee. Again, the formula is a simple one: Build and maintain a strong network. “Part of the network is the former speakers and part is the friends of the organization,” said Collins. “Plus, when prospective speakers see the list of former speakers, they naturally think there must be something special here.”
When Judy Adair joined TU in 2000 as program coordinator for Friends of Finance, it marked the start of a new chapter in the organization’s history. Adair’s ability to focus on the program enabled her to provide steady leadership working closely with Bey, Collins, and the Friends of Finance board. Adair says, “I love all of the people that I get to interact with. I know at least half of the members, or more, on a first-name basis. It’s like a big family to me.”
In addition to Collins and Adair, the current leadership team includes Richard Burgess, professor of finance, director of the School of Finance, Operations Management and International Business. Burgess notes the organization’s impact on the school. “We’ve gone from a department to the School of Finance, Operations Management and International Business,” he said, “and it wouldn’t have happened without Friends of Finance. The organization has helped to more than double the number of majors in recent years and greatly increased our interaction with the business community.”