BGS presents 2015 Business Achievement Medallion of Entrepreneurship awards to five recipients

Each year, the International Honor Society Beta Gamma Sigma presents outstanding business leaders with two prestigious awards: the Business Achievement Award and the Medallion of Entrepreneurship. This year, three well-deserving candidates took home a Medallion, and two took home a Business Achievement Award. 

The Medallion for Entrepreneurship is awarded to outstanding individuals who combine innovative business achievement with service to humanity. The Medallion was established to provide appropriate recognition to those individuals and firms who contribute significantly to the vitality and strength of the economy, combining innovative business achievement with service to humanity.

The Business Achievement Award is presented to honor individuals for significant achievement in business through the traditional corporate route. The achievement may be demonstrated over a career or by a singular achievement that has advanced the field of business and contributed to a community and to humankind.

Help us congratulate this year's recipients:

Medallion of Entrepreneurship: Dennis Barsema

Executive in Residence, Northern Illinois University
Nominated by: Northern Illinois University

Demonstrating significant entrepreneurial spirit, initiative and humanitarian leadership, the first of our Medallion winners for 2015 is Dennis Barsema.

He is a leader in the for-profit corporate world with an impressive list of accomplishments in the private sector, and he has subsequently applied his considerable entrepreneurial abilities and personal resources to the budding area of social entrepreneurship.

Today, Barsema is the Executive in Residence at Northern Illinois University, also his alma mater. In 2011, he co-founded Impact Engine, LLC, an innovation accelerator that supports for-profit businesses looking to address today's societal and environmental challenges. The first of its kind in Chicago, the venture was featured in Forbes Magazine in February 2013.

But every successful businessman has to start somewhere, and for Barsema, that was selling on doorsteps. After graduating from NIU in 1978, Barsema sold calculators door to door. He then progressed in his career as a salesperson with entrepreneurial, high-tech firms including AT&T, Paradyne, Softswitch, and Centigram. At each step in his career path, Barsema had increasing levels of responsibility, and also had opportunities to directly impact high-tech innovation.

His entrepreneurial spirit, creative mind, and ability to spot opportunities helped drive technology innovation for firms. In 1997, he took on a role as President and CEO of Redback Networks, an entrepreneurial start-up telecommunications equipment company, based in San Jose, California.

Barsema later applied his skills for the benefit of other high-tech companies, including Blue Lane Technologies and Onetta. In board and leadership roles with these firms, he solidified his place and legacy as a ground-breaking entrepreneur and corporate leader in the Silicon Valley high-tech landscape.

And just as his entrepreneurial endeavors are deep and varied, so are his philanthropic ones. Barsema specifically focuses on promoting education, especially in donating much of his time, talent and financial resources to his own alma mater. Barsema is a true entrepreneur, demonstrating himself first as a for-profit high-tech leader, next as a social entrepreneur and philanthropist, and finally as a teacher, where his ideas and passion for ethical leadership and social entrepreneurship are shared with tomorrow's leaders.


Medallion of Entrepreneurship: Kevin Plank

Chairman & CEO, Under Armour, Inc.
Nominated by: Seton Hall University

Kevin Plank embodies the American dream. As a child, Plank recognized his natural ability for business and saw the infinite possibilities that come with running one's own company.

A self-proclaimed "hustler," Plank's first business venture came after selling bracelets at a Grateful Dead concert. After turning a profit, he used this experience as a catalyst for entrepreneurial inspiration going forward. While attending the University of Maryland on a football scholarship, Plank’s entrepreneurial spirit continued to grow, resulting in many different businesses.

Eventually, Plank started a flower delivery business called “Cupid’s Valentine.” He targeted classmates on Valentine’s Day, and created a business plan that was tremendously successful. The profit from Cupid’s Valentine became the seed money for Under Armour.

Plank has served as Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of UnderArmour, Inc. since 1996. Under his leadership, the company's revenue increased by morethan 300 percent. Today, the company is the second largest sportswear company in the United States.

Aside from his major business ventures, Plank is also quite the philanthropist. Plank's dedication to the community can be seen on many different levels. Growing up in Maryland, Plank chose Baltimore for the Under Armour headquarters, creating thousands of new jobs and boosting the local economy. Plank serves as a board member for several charitable organization that seek to improve education and build leadership in the U.S. He also boasts his own charity, the Cupid Foundation, which donates roughly $1 million a year to several education programs in Washington and Baltimore.

Currently, Under Armour leads three charitable projects: Win Global, Power in Pink and UA Freedom. The WIN initiative helps to empower athletes of the next generation by providing kids in undeserved communities access to sport. Power in Pink celebrates women who use fitness and exercise to stay healthy, and serves as a platform to help raise awareness about breast health. UA Freedom teams Under Armour with the Wounded Warriors Project, First Responders and Veterans. The mission of UA Freedom is to inspire and support the brave men and women who put their lives on the line to protect us.


Medallion of Entrepreneurship: Patricia Powell

Founder and President, Powell Financial Group
Nominated by: William Paterson University

"Wealth is not an end, in and of itself; wealth is the means to an end," said one of this year's Medallion award-winners, Patricia Powell.

With more than 25 years of relevant financial experience to her credit, and an expansive resume that has made her widely recognized for her financial expertise, Powell is committed to the use of comprehensive financial planning as the means to attaining financial and personal goals.

Powell founded her own company, Powell Financial Group, in 1991. Today she manages more than $120 million for her clients. Living in Martinville, New Jersey, Powell still sees individual clients regularly as she helps them to make critical financial decisions. Whether helping to make a decision about retirement, how best to pass on assets to children or charity, or how to allocate investment assets, Powell is a hands-on asset manager and financial planner.

Prior to becoming a financial planner, Powell was a Vice President at one of the nation's largest banks. Responsible for running the bank's corporate asset/liability management program and directing its merger/acquisition activity, she worked with billions of corporate investment dollars.

Today, Powell works with individual clients who typically count their assets in the millions of dollars. "The difference is more than where you put the decimal point," she says. "Working with individuals is more important. The money decisions that they make matter."

Powell holds an MBA in finance from Seton Hall University, as well as the Certified Financial Planner designation. She is a respected financial expert and panelist on CNBC, CNN Financial News, Fox News Channel and Fox Business.

Powell is one of the charter members of The Alliance for Wealth Management, a group of top financial advisers, who came together to think outside the box of current planning techniques and concerns. The challenges faced and met in the acquisition of real wealth and the creation of perpetual prosperity are the focus of the Alliance.

Powell also co-authored "Creating Prosperity," a book that examines how to create wealth.


Business Achievement: John Calamos, Sr.

Chairman and CEO, Calamos Investments
Nominated by: Illinois Institute of Technology

John Calamos has pioneered investment strategies and techniques to help manage risk for major institutional and individual investors for almost 40 years.

As Founder, CEO and CIO of Calamos Investments, Calamos started helping clients meet their risk management goals through convertible securities, and has published two books on the topic.

The son of Greek immigrants, Calamos established a strong work ethic early in life while living above his family's grocery store in Chicago. He began his undergraduate studies at IIT, in business and economics, where he was also a member of the Air Force ROTC. He entered the Air Force in1965. With five years of active duty and a tour in Vietnam, Calamos ascended to the rank of Major.

Throughout his military service, Calamos continued his studies of finance and investing strategies, and after returning to IIT to earn his MBA, he founded his company in 1977.

Repeatedly named one of the "Most Trustworthy Companies" by Forbes Magazine, Calamos Asset Management went public in 2004, and Calamos and his family continue to play a key role in the day-to-day operations of the company.

Not only has he claimed one of this year's Business Achievement awards with Beta Gamma Sigma, but he has also won the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award for the financial services sector, Lake Michigan Area program for 2006, and he is a member of the Investment Analysts Society of Chicago.

He has taught graduate-level courses on finance and investments, and is often quoted in the media, including The Wall Street Journal, Barron's, Fortune, Bloomberg Businessweek and CNBC.

Further, Calamos is committed to a variety of civic and charitable activities, with a focus on education and community service. He is also an active philanthropist in the Greek community and is a member of the Board of Directors for the National Hellenic Museum in Chicago, from which he was honored for his lifetime contributions.

In 2011, Calamos and his wife committed $10 million to IIT through the John P. Calamos Sr. Foundation. Calamos is regularly named to the "Who's Who" list in Crain's Chicago Business. In 2006, he received the IIT Professional Achievement Alumni Award, recognizing outstanding achievement in his professional field and honoring IIT alumni whose achievements in their fields have brought distinction to themselves as well as credit to the university.


Business Achievement: Heather Kreager

CEO, Sammons Enterprises, Inc.
Nominated by: University of Dallas

A skilled yet humble leader, Heather Kreager has successfully guided Sammons Enterprise, a diversified holding company, for the better part of three decades.

Currently Chief Executive Officer, Kreager has risen through the Sammons' corporate ranks, including service as Vice President, General Counsel, Senior Vice President and President. 

Though Sammons was founded in 1938 as an insurance company, today it is a privately-held diversified holding company with 3,900 employees, $5 billion in revenue and $63 billion in total assets.

Sammons focuses on three core business areas: financial services, equipment distribution andreal estate. It's the seventh largest privately held company in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Kreager hails from Beaumont, Texas from a large family of six children. She received an undergraduate degree in English from Vanderbilt University, then followed in the footsteps of other family members and eventually earned a law degree from Southern Methodist University. Kreager then combined her interest in law with a fascination for business by consequently attaining an MBA at the University of Dallas.

Her tenure at Sammons has been marked by excellence in business management, a strong commitment to 100 percent employee stock ownership and extraordinary philanthropy. Beyond transitioning the company to a ESOP model, Kreager has worked hard at bringing cohesion to the vast and varied Sammons holdings.

When she began at Sammons, it was a collection of diverse companies; there was no sense of an "enterprise" operation. Collaboration between and among businesses in the portfolio was limited. Kreager strived to create a sense of "connection" and, through her decades of leadership, Sammons has achieved what it lacked in the past.

In her tenure, she has also created a greater awareness of the Sammons brand. Kreager has also spearheaded Sammons' belief in the support of the local community, and doing things "the right way" through exceptional philanthropy in North Texas.

This belief in “giving back” came as a major individual gift to the University of Dallas Satish and Yasmin Gupta College of Business. Through her direction of the Sammons’Corporation Employee Stock Ownership plan, more than $125 million in gifts were made to 6 charitable organizations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and a corporate structure that encourages employees to volunteer has flourished in local communities.

Kreager believes, "How you succeed or make money is as important as the success or the money you make."