The Babson College community came together October 24 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship and honor 10 leaders and luminaries who have made significant contributions to the growth and success of the center over its first quarter-century.
Originally directed by Professor William Bygrave and created with generous support from Arthur Blank ’63, H’98, the Blank Center fosters the exchange of ideas through its research and thought leadership initiatives, develops Babson’s emerging entrepreneurs through startup incubation and acceleration programs, and is home to the world’s largest dedicated entrepreneurship faculty.
“The history of the Blank Center—and entrepreneurship at Babson—is deeply rooted in the contributions of these honorees, individually and collectively they have influenced so many students over the years” said Smaiyra Million P’21, executive director. “The renowned research, curriculum, and thought leadership that defines the Blank Center would not be possible without their leadership and support.”
“The history of the Blank Center—and entrepreneurship at Babson—is deeply rooted in the contributions of these honorees, individually and collectively they have influenced so many students over the years.”
Smaiyra Million, executive director
Arthur M. Blank ’63, H’98, Blank Center benefactor and celebrated philanthropist, is the co-founder of The Home Depot, owner of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United, and best-selling author of Good Company. In addition to his business success, Blank is widely recognized for his philanthropic efforts. Since 1995, the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation has granted more than $560 million to support early childhood development, education, the arts, social causes, veteran causes, and parks and green space. The foundation also leads giving programs for each of the for-profit businesses in Blank’s portfolio.
Groundbreaking innovator and Professor Emeritus William D. Bygrave is considered the co-founder of entrepreneurship at Babson. He served as director of The Center for Entrepreneurial Studies from 1993 to 1999 and was the original director of the Blank Center. In 1999, he co-founded the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) as a joint venture with the London Business School. GEM has since grown to a global consortium of more than 500 researchers and is the largest and most developed research program on entrepreneurship in the world. In 2004, he won the Walter H. Carpenter Prize for Exceptional Contributions to Babson.
Candida Brush P’14 is the Franklin W. Olin Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship at Babson. She is a highly accomplished entrepreneurship research pioneer and educator and is the co-founder of the Diana Project™. Brush has served as vice provost of Global Entrepreneurial Leadership and chair of the Entrepreneurship Division at Babson. She has authored more than 200 publications in entrepreneurship, including 16 books, and is one of the most highly cited researchers in the field.
The Butler family is made up of distinguished philanthropists and community leaders who have long-term ties to Babson. John Butler ’52, P’84, and his wife, Alice P’84, and Andrew Butler ’84 and his wife, Debi, are Blank Center benefactors who, through generous gifts to the College, established the Butler Launch Pad and the Butler Institute for Free Enterprise Through Entrepreneurship. They are the fourth and fifth generation to lead the insurance brokerage firm Cottingham & Butler in Dubuque, Iowa.
Andrew Corbett is the Paul T. Babson Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies and the faculty director for the Butler Institute for Free Enterprise Through Entrepreneurship. He also is the former chair of the Entrepreneurship Division and former faculty director of the Butler Venture Accelerator. Corbett’s research and citations have ranked him as one of the top researchers in the world by the Stanford University-Elsevier BV Report and earned him a spot on the Journal of Small Business Management’s list of Top 25 Entrepreneurship Researchers in the World.
Donna Kelley P’24 is the Frederic C. Hamilton Professor of Free Enterprise Studies and chair of the Entrepreneurship Division at Babson. She has made an immeasurable impact on global entrepreneurship research, serving on the oversight board of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor since 2007 and co-authoring 29 GEM reports. Kelley has spoken about entrepreneurship at the United Nations, the U.S. State Department, and the World Bank and for many other executive, policy, and academic audiences around the world.
Cindy Klein Marmer MBA’02 is an associate director of the Blank Center for Entrepreneurship, the director of the Butler Launch Pad, and the director of the Butler Institute for Free Enterprise Through Entrepreneurship. She originally joined Babson’s Graduate Center for Career Development in 2004 and is the longest-serving staff member of the Blank Center. Klein Marmer also is credited with the launch of the Fast Track Cohort program, a facilitated coaching program that accelerates student and alumni businesses through the academic year.
Blank Center benefactor Geoffrey Molson MBA’96 is president and CEO of CH Group Limited Partnership and co-owner of the Montreal Canadiens and the Bell Centre. The Molson Family Foundation made a transformational gift to the Summer Venture Program, a 10-week intensive experience that builds entrepreneurial skills and accelerates the development of student ventures. In 2020, Molson was appointed to the Order of Canada—one of the country’s highest civilian honors—in recognition of his entrepreneurial leadership and philanthropic contributions.
Entrepreneurship Professor Emeritus Jeffry A. Timmons left a lasting imprint on the world of entrepreneurship education and research. Considered along with William Bygrave to be the co-founder of entrepreneurship at Babson, he launched the first-of-its-kind Price-Babson Symposium for Entrepreneurship Educators in 1984 and co-authored New Venture Creation: Entrepreneurship for the 21st Century. He is credited with writing one of the first academic theses to focus on contemporary entrepreneurship, and he started what is thought to be the first collegiate business plan competition in the United States.
Andrew Zacharakis is the John H. Muller Jr. Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies and has served as director of the Babson College Entrepreneurship Research Conference (BCERC) since 2006. He also is a past chair of the Entrepreneurship Department at Babson and a past director of the Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship. His writings and research focus on two major areas of entrepreneurship: the venture capital decision-making process and entrepreneurial growth strategies.
The Blank Center also would like to acknowledge Professor Heidi Neck and her contributions, now part of the Babson Academy but which left an indelible impression on the center. Neck is the Jeffry A. Timmons Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies. In her roles as the Academic Director of the Babson Academy for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurial Learning and the Faculty Director of the Symposia for Entrepreneurship Educators, she has not only sustained the legacy of Professor Timmons but also executed the growth of these key initiatives.