Syracuse University took a chance on young Burn Oberwager '68. A sympathetic admissions board gave him an opportunity he nearly squandered; friends and faculty believed in him when he didn't believe in himself. Now he wants those who helped him to know it all paid off. His newly funded prize is one way of rewarding faculty members who follow in the steps of his mentors.
The Oberwager Prize, to be awarded for the first time this fall, uses nominations from juniors and seniors in the School of Management to identify and reward faculty members "who help motivate students to mine the full potential of their talent and promise."
      Until recently chair and CEO of Western Sky Industries, a multimillion-dollar manufacturing firm, Oberwager has an electrical engineering degree from the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science and an M.B.A. from the Wharton School of Business. But his resume nearly flat-lined at the outset.
      Expelled from prep school, Oberwager entered Syracuse sans diploma on the strength of his potential. The University took a calculated risk, but Oberwager did not rise to the challenge. "I brought with me the sense that I wasn't good enough to succeed," Oberwager says. "My first two years were a disaster."
      Hugh Hare, his boss for the summer at Syracuse Research Corporation, offered sound advice. "He told me it wasn't enough to try to get by. 'If you set your sights on Cs, you'll get Ds. If you want As, you have to strive to be the best.'"
      Then something clicked in the classroom for Oberwager. School of Management professor Dave Wilemon, who currently directs the Center for Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises, inspired Oberwager in a course. "Dave gave a brilliant class that set me on my career path," says Oberwager.
      Energized by Wilemon, Oberwager set out to reinvent his academic career. Racking up nearly straight As in his last two years, he aimed for the best business schools; he was accepted at seven of the eight to which he applied. "For really the first time in my life, I had a choice about what direction to follow," he says.
      As the parent of five children, Oberwager knows what it means to help children strive and succeed. "My wife, Susan, and I have always encouraged our children to believe in their own capabilities," he says. "I hope our prize will help identify teachers who are motivating young people. And I hope other successful graduates will establish similar awards at Syracuse University."
      The benefits of an award like the Oberwager Prize are twofold. "I'd like to attract and reward the Dave Wilemons of Syracuse," says Oberwager. "Then more of those students with unrealized potential can be identified and supported."


With a thoughtful leadership style that drew loyalty and support from staff members and major donors, Senior Vice President for University Relations Lance Baker G'64, G'72 drove two University fund-raising campaigns beyond their goals and recently set the agenda for the final year of the Commitment to Learning campaign.
      Baker's next goal is more personal: On December 31 he will retire, closing out a successful 41-year career in education.
      A graduate of Denison University, Baker earned master's and doctoral degrees at SU's School of Education. He took the helm of University Relations in 1987, following a five-year term as president, and one-year term as executive vice president, of Utica College. At the start of his tenure, SU raised $8 million to $10 million a year; that figure has since soared to nearly $50 million.
      "It was Syracuse University's good fortune that [then-Chancellor] Mel Eggers talked Lance Baker into taking this position in 1987," says Chancellor Kenneth A. Shaw. "What we got was a successful college president with strong leadership and managerial skills—and with vision—who turned University Relations into a highly productive, well-organized team."
      "Lance has worked exceedingly well with the trustees, not only in terms of fund raising, but also in helping them understand the University's mission and the need to support it," says Joe Lampe '53, G'55, chair of the SU Board of Trustees, who provided the $2 million naming gift for the University's athletic complex in 1996. "His efforts in expanding the development office and external relations, as well as cultivating major donors, have contributed greatly to the outstanding growth of the University endowment and funding for major building projects."
      SU trustee Renee Schine Crown '50, who gave the $2.5 million naming gift for the Schine Student Center, says it has been a privilege to work with Baker during the past 13 years. "Lance is a consummate professional who applies his ability with tact, knowledge, and sensitivity," she says. "His dedication to Syracuse has never wavered, and the University has exceeded many of its goals due to his efforts."
One of the great success stories of the ongoing Commitment to Learning campaign is planned gifts—bequests, life insurance pledges, estate gifts, and such life income gifts as annuities and trusts. Nearly $100 million has come or was pledged to the campaign through the various forms of deferred giving.
      "Planned gifts have become increasingly popular among alumni and strengthened our long-term health considerably," says Andrea Latchem, executive director of planned giving.
      Latchem says that quite often a bequest comes to the University as a complete surprise. She'd like to change that. "If you have included us in your will, please let us know," Latchem says. "We'd be delighted to hear that you've made provisions for the future of the University and its students. Knowing this gives us added security as we plan for the future. Mostly, though, we'd love to say, 'Thank you,' and let you know how much your support means."
      To let the University know your intentions, or to inquire about planned gifts, contact Andrea Latchem, Office of Planned Giving, 820 Comstock Avenue, Syracuse, NY 13244; 315-443-2135;

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