Lt. Colonel John “Jack” Adams easily remembers the hours he spent with fellow Captains Joseph Narbut and Dennis Kern as they traveled more than 100 miles round-trip two days a week in his beige Volkswagen Beetle to attend class at Royal Air Force Mildenhall in Suffolk, England.
The trio was in the first class of students earning their Master’s of Business Administration degree through a program started in Fall 1966 by Business Dean Clyde Randall. Adams and his fellow Air Force compatriots logged more than 16,000 miles over their two-year program, but the time, effort and distance was all worth it.
“One of the things I’ve got to say, it was an opportunity,” Adams said. “I never would have been able to get my master’s otherwise were it not for the opportunity afforded me while I was in the Air Force.”
From 1966 to the late ’70s, faculty from the business school traveled to bases in Germany, England, France, Spain, Greece and Italy to teach active military members as they earned their MBA degrees. Servicemen attended class in the evenings, after a full day of military work.
Adams, now 85, was one of about 100 Military MBA graduates who were able to further their military careers by earning their advanced degree. He was promoted from captain while in the program to major after graduating. The graduation ceremony was held at Wolfson Hall at Churchill College at Cambridge University in England.
“The Provost of the University of Utah [Alfred C. Emery] and the Chair came to the ceremony,” Adams recalled. “It was just a really enjoyable time.”
After he retired from the Air Force in 1976, with 21 years of active duty, Adams then began working for the Environmental Protection Agency for five years and then the Department of the Treasury as the KC Regional Director of the U.S. Treasury for 23 years, where he became a member of the coveted U.S. civilian status in the Senior Executive Service (SES). He received the pay and status of a general officer and was in charge of disbursing one-third of the Social Security payments in the country, electronic and foreign currency payments, including those that went to members of the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Supreme Court and several dozen U.S. government agencies worldwide. His signature was included on all of the U.S. Treasury checks disbursed.
He retired in 2004 with a combined U.S. active government service of 52 years as he had worked for several agencies including the FBI, NSA, U.S. Government Publishing Office and U.S. Postal Service for five years before entering on active duty with the military. He now receives two pensions: one as Lt. Colonel and another worth twice as much for his service as a member of the SES.
Maj. Gen. Lynn Stevens was stationed in Germany after graduating from the ROTC at USU in 1958. He was active duty for 33 years and retired July 31, 1991. While in Germany, he was responsible for the security of more than 5,000 nuclear warheads.
His ordnance branch selected high-potential officers to pursue graduate studies, and he qualified. In order to save costs, the Army would send officers back to their home states to pursue their graduate studies.
“I eagerly, willingly came back for an MBA,” Stevens, now 80, said. “I was impressed with the program. It covered things of importance, and I knew my military career would require business leadership and management.”
After he retired in 1991, he joined Northrup-Grumman, the third-largest defense contractor, as vice president for precision weapons development. He eventually retired and moved to Blanding, Utah, where he was elected San Juan County Commissioner. Eventually, he worked under Gov. Jon Huntsman as the public lands policy coordinating director.
He has officially retired, but still serves on five different boards pro bono.
“I’ve always been very pleased with the education I’ve received from the University of Utah,” Stevens said.
Larry G. Fanella echoed those sentiments. After graduating from South Dakota State University in Poultry Sciences as a member of the ROTC, he was called to Munich, Germany in 1970. There, he began the MBA program in 1971-72. He was able to complete about half of the program before the 2nd Lieutenant was promoted and moved to Berchtesgaden, Germany, a city about 100 miles away. Fanella served for five years in Germany in active duty, and then he moved back to the United States, where he served in the U.S. Army Reserves.
He moved his family to Utah so he could complete his degree. He graduated with his MBA in 1975. Larry and his wife Susan have six daughters.
“Earning my MBA was one of the best things I did. At every company I worked at afterward, I was able to apply the many tools I learned and applied them to investments and business activities,” Fanella said. “I used those tools for many years, and having that extra bit of education and knowledge and business analytics opened many doors.”
He eventually became Commander of the local U.S. Army Reserves 825th Supply Company in Minnesota, and then left the service after 10 years of active and reserve duties. After graduating, he landed a job as a business manager of Earl B. Olson Farms, which was owned by Jennie-O Foods in Minnesota. After a few years there, he moved to Virginia to work at Rocco Turkeys and was promoted to general manager of live operations, overseeing about 330 people and growing more than 18 million turkeys a year on more than 250 farms.
As part of his job, he became the chairman of the National Turkey Federation and was honored with presenting the annual Thanksgiving turkey for pardoning by the President. A few moments before President Bill Clinton was set to enter the Rose Garden, the 55-pound tom turkey escaped from the table and jumped into the roses planted by former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. He was in a black pinstripe suit, but he knew he had to get the turkey back on the table, especially with the scores of photographers capturing the ordeal.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever had to wrestle with a 55-pound turkey, but when they flop, they flop good,” he said.
He was able to return the turkey to its place in time and clean his suit of dozens of white pinfeathers as Clinton made his entrance.
“After the ceremony, I was able to spend about 10 minutes privately in the Oval Office with President Clinton,” Fanella said. “It was a very memorable event.”
After 20 years in the turkey business, he left and purchased May Supply Company, a plumbing wholesale distributorship. He started with 18 employees, and today he has 54 employees and a much wider distribution. He also started two bakery/delis for his wife to run for about 20 years, eventually moving to a single bakery, and he also owned a Mexican restaurant for a few years, thanks to the education he received at the business school.
The now-70-year-old has started working only three or four days a week, and he has purchased his retirement home in South Carolina to be nearer four of his daughters.
“Getting my MBA was one of the best and smartest things I did, and joining the ROTC and going into military service was also one of smartest things I did,” he said. “It taught me leadership skills really early in life. I’ve spent my whole working life in supervisory positions. That’s a result of my time in the reserves and my choosing to further my education, coupled with hard work, determination, and perseverance. Those are what is paramount to succeed today.”