Pictured at the ceremony to confer Lerner College Alumni Awards of Excellence are (from left) Richard Cochran, Ping Xu, Vance Funk, Arlene Hogan and Bruce Weber, dean of the Lerner College.

Lerner alumni honored

Alumni receive awards from Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics

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11:06 a.m., June 12, 2014--The University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics honored distinguished alumni Vance A. Funk III, Ping Xu and Arlene Hogan at the 2014 Alumni Awards of Excellence ceremony and reception held on Friday, June 6, in the Lerner Hall Atrium.

Richard Cochran, president of the Lerner College alumni board who graduated from UD in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in finance, presented the awards to winners and spoke to the audience of family, friends and fellow alumni about the selection process. 

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“Not only does the award represent success professionally, but two other criteria are weighed equally,” said Cochran. “Those include contributions to the Lerner College community and contributions to the University community. So the award really exemplifies what a well-rounded, successful person might achieve through a life of service and professional success.”

During the ceremony, winners discussed the varied challenges and successes of their careers, and how their experiences at UD helped them to realize their goals.

Vance A Funk III

“I ended up in the business school by accident,” said Funk, who is former mayor of Newark. “I was a pre-med major who happened to have a grandfather and a father who were medical doctors. At the end of my second year they kicked me out because it turned out I was allergic to formaldehyde.” 

After browsing his course catalog and whittling down the options based on the requirements for the major, he decided on business administration.

“And listen, it was the best thing that ever happened to me,” said Funk of his major selection. “Other than meeting my wife, of course.”

After earning his bachelor’s degree, Funk worked as a lawyer and a judge before being elected as mayor of Newark.

“When I ran for mayor, I knew the University and the city had a terrible relationship,” said Funk. “I felt that I was about the only one who could change that and I think I did. It wasn’t easy, but it did happen. Even more importantly, I was able to establish a relationship between the city and the students.”

Bruce Weber, dean of the Lerner College and professor of business administration, agreed with Funk about the positive impact of his work on the Newark community.

“People who spend a lot of time in Newark benefit from your nine years as mayor every day, when we walk down Main Street and we see the relationship between the University and the residents of the city,” said Weber. “No town-gown relationship is perfect, but ours is better than 99 percent of them out there and I think that’s largely due to Mayor Funk.”

Ping Xu

“It’s such a great honor and such a humbling experience to be here,” said Xu as he began his speech. “When I got the phone call from the dean, I was pleasantly surprised.”

Xu earned his master of business administration in 1999, as well as his master of science in marine policy. He is a full-time, award-winning real estate agent, certified financial planner and certified court interpreter.

Born and raised in a small apartment in Shanghai, Xu credits his family with encouraging him to pursue higher education.

“My parents, who were factory workers who had no education, they raised me so that I would go to college,” said Xu. “I’m very grateful to this University and also very grateful to all the people surrounding me.”

Xu was joined at the ceremony by his parents, wife, sister-in-law, niece, Eileen, and twin brother, Ming. Ming is also an active UD alumni, having earned his own master of science in marine policy, and Eileen is a current UD student working toward her master of science in accounting. 

“I actually have class in this building,” said Eileen, who says she is inspired by her uncle’s success. “He works really hard every day. It just motivates me.”

Xu is a current board member at the Delaware Chinese American Association as well as the Chinese American Community Center. He also, along with his brother, advises the Chinese Students and Scholars Association at UD. During his speech, Xu thanked the members of these communities as well as the University community in general.

“They rallied around me when I was in difficulty, and pulled me through difficulty,” said Xu. “So my award belongs to all of these people, without whom I would have no success, without whom I would not be able to have the American life and American education that I have.”

Xu discussed the leadership skills that he learned from the MBA program, as well as time-management skills. He still puts these abilities to use as he balances his career with law school at the University of Maryland and a 16-month-old daughter. 

“The education I got from this college is invaluable,” said Xu, who attributed his “ability to manage, handle and prioritize” to his MBA. “Without this University I would not have had the success that I have in the business world.”

Arlene Hogan

“I am very honored and humbled to receive this award tonight,” said Hogan, who, like her fellow awardees, has bested many challenges throughout her career.

“When I was at Delaware, there weren’t very many women in the business college,” said Hogan. “So it’s been a great joy throughout my career to mentor women and all really talented candidates.”

Hogan has worked in a number of positions for State Farm Insurance, including vice president of both the Mid-Atlantic and Heartland zones and senior vice president of the Pacific Northwest zone. She is currently the senior vice president in charge of Auto and Fire Claims, a role she assumed in 2013.

Hogan credits her time at UD for providing skills that she would use as a mentor and manager throughout her career.

“I was very involved with the College Council of Business and Economics and I was president of my sorority, Alpha Phi,” she said. She called these experiences “great assets that helped me as I started out as a first-year supervisor.”

Weber also commented on Hogan’s career with State Farm, which he called “remarkable.” 

“She broke through the glass ceiling before people even had that terminology yet,” said Weber. “That’s just a remarkable step that you made, Arlene, to go into an industry that at that time was dominated by men. And through your career you succeeded and mentored other women to follow in your path.”

John Rittenhouse, a 1980 UD graduate in accounting, was also named as an award recipient but was unable to attend Friday’s celebration and will be honored during next year’s ceremony.

Weber praised the honorees as examples of what UD alumni can accomplish.

“What you saw tonight were three remarkable people who have really taken what this institution has to offer, which has enabled them to take their lives in a direction where they gave back so much more than the University of Delaware put in at the beginning,” said Weber. “These stories prove that there is a transformative power in higher education in general, and in the University of Delaware in particular.”

Article by Sunny Rosen

Photos by Lane McLaughlin

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