10 Amazing Things Achieved by Neeley’s Executive MBA Class of 2015

Every class in Neeley’s Executive MBA program grows incredibly close, and every class makes incredible leaps forward in their careers and in their ability to lead – but every class is also slightly different. Here’s a look back at the some of the many unforgettable moments the Class of 2015 saw in the last year and a half.

They started as classmates. Now, they’re family – from the small group that got up early every class day to share breakfast at Westside Café, to the entire class sharing dinner every night on the trip to South America. But that closeness doesn’t stop with camaraderie – the class truly takes care of each other.

  • When 2014 alum Collin Halley was diagnosed with ALS, the entire class of 2015 joined the class of 2014 to do the Ice Bucket Challenge with him.
  • Ray Taylor, pastor at Trinity Harvest Church, was surprised one Sunday to see 15 members of his Neeley family – both staff and classmates – sitting in the front row. Just because.
  • When the son of Dr. Linda LaCoste, EMBA director of student services & operations, was hurt in a wakeboarding accident, the class went into action, taking hot food to the hospital and caring for the family. Dr. S. David Lloyd even coordinated with Harris Hospital to ensure he got the best care.
  • When 2013 alum Jeff Montgomery’s nephew tragically passed away, the class collected more than 30 soccer balls to donate to underprivileged youth in his honor.

2 learned

The 2015 EMBA Frogs did a lot of unconventional learning: boxing gloves in Negotiations; a beer game (minus the beer) in Supply Chain Management; firsthand accounts from speakers convicted of white-collar crimes in Ethics; and of course the constant insights from classmates experienced in a wide variety of industries. They even trained themselves to smile and exude confidence in presentations by putting straws in their mouths and holding their arms above their heads.

3 embraced curiosity

The class learned a lot about the global business environment, collectively traveling to 32 states and eight different countries during the program – including three countries in the class trip to South America. Donna Martinelli even commuted to class all the way from Georgia for the first four months of the program. And on a tour of a fish factory in Peru, the class asked so many questions, on topics from HR to production, that they overwhelmed their tour guide.

And not just through Dustin Dvorak’s random sets of push-ups. The class dropped some major pounds during their weight loss challenge. Finance professor Mauricio “Mo” Rodriguez won by a 100th of a point over James “Opie” Fair.

5 moved up

Not only did the class have time to analyze their professional careers through leadership coaching and journey mapping – they had the chance to move forward, with nearly a dozen classmates experiencing job changes or promotions:

  • Kevin Grace sold his company, Nextlink; founded Catalyst.Partners; and joined 4D Circle as CIO.
  • Jarie Bradley promoted to Chief People Officer at CitySquare.
  • Austin Tucker started as a Risk Solutions Technical Consultant at Crestbrook.
  • Rodney Shrader’s company, Acton Mobile, acquired the mobile office fleet of Mobile Mini.
  • Kenneth Dean promoted to Assistant Chief, Patrol Operations for the Fort Worth Police Department.
  • James “Opie” Fair, Dustin Dvorak and Kevin Grace started a new company, Agile Management Enterprises, with Class of 2014 alum, Mike Field.
  • Bryan Livingstone began at Allied Electronics as Supply Chain Manager.
  • Amy Ladd joined J Ladd and Associates as managing partner.
  • Claudia Zavala’s role at Dickies expanded to General Manager Genuine Dickies and Occupational Wear.

6 Gave back

The class of 2015 has a strong heart for service, with 10 active and veteran military men and women, three police officers, one firefighter, two nonprofit leaders and one employee of an U.S. government agency. Just as an example, when Kevin and Liz Grace’s friends from Peru immigrated to the U.S. without a single piece of luggage – having spent every penny on airfare – Donna Martinelli, owner of Uptown Cheapskate, stepped in with her classmates and put together cash donations and new wardrobes for the entire family – not just clothes, but shoes and accessories as well.

7 golf pants

Crazy golf pants. The infamous red fedora. And Dustin Dvorak dressing as Chris Gay for Halloween. But perhaps the best were the custom T-shirts – “Say ‘No’ to the H1 Hypothesis” – reminding the class of 2015 to always question their assumptions.

8 celebration

The Frogs and their spouses celebrated birthdays every month – usually dancing at Studio 80, but sometimes at James Fair’s tailgate – and once, in Chile, after hearing about the program’s #1 Texas ranking, went to a karaoke bar, where Ed Deegan did an impressive impersonation of the King of Pop.

9 family close

Not only were spouses along every step of the way, and not only did the class celebrate one wedding and eight births – Chris Gay’s daughter, Brittany Fraser, attended TCU at the same time, in the Neeley undergraduate program. They both studied under Professor David Weltman.

10 TCU shirt

“Goodbye” may be a misnomer – these classmates-turned-family will keep in touch for the rest of their lives – but the last day of class is always a bittersweet occasion. It was an especially emotional one for the class of 2015, with many a custom-made T-shirt sleeve growing damp with the tears of the graduates.

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