Vanilla Beane and Leonard Green Join Babson Academy of Distinguished Entrepreneurs

Leonard Green and Vanilla Beane
Leonard Green and Vanilla Beane

Risk takers. Community leaders. And, two entrepreneurial leaders who have manifested confidence and success in themselves and others.

Leonard Green, a longstanding member of the Babson College community,  and Vanilla Beane, who shared her 100th birthday with Babson in 2019, have been announced as the newest members to the Academy of Distinguished Entrepreneurs® (ADE).

Since its inception in 1978, just shy of when Beane opened her hat shop that still exists today in Washington, D.C., the ADE has inducted more than 100 internationally renowned entrepreneurial leaders who have contributed significantly to the development of free enterprise worldwide. During Babson’s Centennial Celebration, the College welcomed Eric G. Johnson ’72, P’08, Baldwin Richardson Foods president and CEO; and Steve Conine and Niraj Shah, co-founders of Wayfair, as three new members of the ADE.

Both Beane and Green will be honored at an ADE ceremony, tentatively scheduled for spring 2021.

“In a year unlike any other, we honor and celebrate two entrepreneurial leaders who embrace values-based leadership and the human-centricity of entrepreneurship,” said President Stephen Spinelli Jr. MBA’92, PhD. “Len and Vanilla will join and stand out among an impressive roster of renowned entrepreneurial leaders. Now, more than ever, their ability to harness the unknown to create value places them in a unique position to impact businesses, communities, and the world.”

Vanilla Beane

Vanilla Powell Beane is the owner of Bené Millinery & Bridal Supply in Washington, D.C. Her hats have adorned the heads of such luminaries as the late Dorothy Height, former president of the National Council for Negro Women, and Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser. Though Bené Millinery sells hats made by other designers, each custom-made hat is designed by Beane herself. No two are exactly the same.

At 101, Beane still owns and operates Bene Millinery & Bridal Supply, which she opened in 1979. Customers range from church-goers, to derby-goers, to Washington’s well-heeled. She has created hats for movies, charity events, and even for a guest attending the Royal Ascot horse race in England. In 2018, a green turban, Beane’s personal favorite style of hat, was selected as part of Google’s 3D interactive exhibit curated at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. She was honored to see her hats displayed for the museum’s opening in 2016. Others have been on display at the National Museum of American History and the former Black Fashion Museum in Harlem.

Beane’s most notable client was the late civil rights activist, and President Emeritus of the NAACP, Dorothy Height. At Height’s funeral in 2010, the iconic headpieces were mentioned by President Barack Obama: “We loved those hats that she wore like a crown.” One of these crowns is immortalized on top of a call box in front of Height’s southwest D.C. home. Another is depicted on a U.S. Postal Service stamp.

Beane did more than dream of making hats—she manifested her dream into reality. In 1955, she took a job at the Washington Millinery Supply Company, a shop she frequented while working as an elevator operator in the same building. When preparation met opportunity, Beane was able to purchase the stock of millinery supplies from the shop owner when he retired. She then was able to build her own millinery business. Twenty years after she got her start, the award-winning “hat lady” who turned a hobby into a career, was inducted into the National Association of Fashion and Accessory Designers Hall of Fame.

In 2019, on her 100th birthday, Bowser declared September 13 “Vanilla Beane Day” in the District of Columbia.

Leonard Green

Leonard Green is a CPA, MBA, and entrepreneur-chairman and founder of The Green Group, a tax and financial services consulting firm.

Green has been an owner, advisor, and investor in more than a dozen businesses, including The Green Group, a commercial real estate firm, a thoroughbred racing stable, a publicly traded pet food brand, and a beverage company.

His business accomplishments have “led to my most meaningful position, as a Babson College professor, where I was able to teach over 1,500 students, acquainting them with over 75 entrepreneurs,” Green said. “Over the years, I have been amazed by the students’ intellect, creativity, and drive—they have taught me numerous life lessons.

He also feels strongly that “now is the time to reciprocate by financially supporting scholarships, internships, athletes, challenges, eTower” and numerous other extra-curricular activities meant to encourage and reward Babson College students.

“ I consider this one of the greatest honors. … Hopefully, my story will inspire others to strive for greatness, just as the previous honorees have inspired me.”

Leonard Green

More than anything, Green expresses enormous gratitude to those around him for his successes, including being honored by the ADE.

“I want to thank Babson presidents Steve Spinelli, Len Schlesinger, and Brian Barefoot, and professors John Altman, Les Charm, Mark Rice, and Jeff Timmons for all they did in assisting me along the way. And, a special thanks to the members of The Green Group, especially Managing Partner Karlene Bauer and the many loyal professionals who worked with me for over 25 years. You are the best at what you do, and you have always gone the extra mile for me.”

Green also expressed his heartfelt gratitude for his children, Beth, Debbie, Jonathan, Marty, and Michelle, “for understanding that entrepreneurs do not adhere to standard business hours.”

“Finally, I have been fortunate to participate in many successful business collaborations, but the most important partnership I have ever had, is being married to the love of my life, Lois Green.

“I am humbled and privileged to be selected as a member of the Babson Academy of Distinguished Entrepreneurs. I consider it one of the greatest honors of my professional career. Hopefully, my story will inspire others to strive for greatness, just as the previous honorees have inspired me.”

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