Fall 2019 - Countdown to 2024: Reflections
by W. Anne Krepacki '87 MBA
MBA Class of 1984
Dan Ahern, interviewed for our first Reflections column, is pictured here in 1984 with Villanova's first MBA grads. Dan is in the upper left corner.
Leading up to the 40th anniversary of Villanova's first MBA graduating class in 1984, this Reflections column will feature interviews with Villanova MBA alumni across the decades, gathering their remembrances and giving you the opportunity of seeing the Villanova MBA program through starkly different lenses, spanning and contrasting four decades -- from the 80's to our 21st century grads.
I was very fortunate in this first edition of Reflections to have a conversation with a member of the 7 -- yes 7 -- MBA graduates from that first graduating class in 1984 -- Dan Ahern. Compare that to the 199 students who graduated in 2019!
Interview with Dan Ahern, VSB '82, MBA '84
Anne: Dan, I think everyone would love to know more about Villanova's addition of the MBA program back in the early '80's. When you were an undergrad, how did you first hear that VU was going to be adding an MBA program? What made you decide that you wanted to continue your studies at Villanova?
Dan: That’s an easy one! My swimming coach, Ed Geisz, approached me to let me know that Villanova was starting up an MBA program. In the beginning, the program was planned to be for those who already had a few of years of working experience, not for those who were just graduating from college. To be honest, this was 1982 and I really didn’t know exactly what an MBA was, how it could help advance my career. Mr. Geisz thought I’d be a great fit for the program – I had excelled in my last few semesters – and he said he would do whatever he could to get me into the program. And I was lucky enough to be accepted! An interesting aspect of the very early program is that full-time and part-time were really not clearly defined. I was working full-time, so I primarily took 2 classes per semester – including summers – though I did have to take 3 classes some semesters in order to complete the degree in 1984.
Anne: Do you think those of us who graduated in the '80's missed out on certain aspects that today's students take for granted? I know I would've liked to have had a laptop, a smartphone, Google, Wikipedia...
Dan: Technology is a given, certainly. But the advantage that today’s students have, I believe, is the connectedness to industry. They have many more opportunities to engage with both national and international businesses. I’m not even sure if today’s students realize that and appreciate it as much as they should.
Anne: Could you please share with us a vivid memory you might have from the time that you were enrolled in the MBA program?
Dan: I most vividly remember July 4th, 1984. I was only a month from completing my MBA, but between working full-time and attending classes, I finally just felt like I had had it! A bunch of friends were going to the beach over the holiday, so I told my Mom that I quit, I was done, I was going to the beach. So she said fine, go! So I went, had a great time, but as soon as I walked in the door, my Mom looked at me and said “Now finish the damn MBA”! And that’s what I did!
Anne: As someone who graduated over 30 years ago and has had both a successful career and, even more importantly, a successful life, what advice do you have for today's students? What "secrets" can you share?
Dan: I do think I’ve been lucky, but I would have to say that the MBA always positioned me for better positions than some of my peers. But it’s taken a long time and a lot of hard work. Sure, there are those whose “stars all align”, but primarily you have to stay focused. I can tell you that one thing I always did was to never turn down a role -- even if a task seemed totally unrelated to my current role at that time, I just did it! You never know what opportunity may present itself, how you can be positioned for better roles. It has helped me develop good internal relationships. And in the long run, I can tell you that it has also made me better at strategy because I’ve been in those roles, I’ve seen issues from different angles.
When I first graduated, I was sure I would go work on Wall Street and make a million bucks. Instead, I was making $7.52 an hour! What happened to my million bucks?! But again, I’ve been in the industry a long time and I’ve always worked hard. That’s really the secret.
Anne: Is there anything further that you'd like to mention?
Dan: Just that I’ve always felt lucky to have my MBA from Villanova! I’ve always felt proud to be able to say: "I received my MBA from Villanova University!"