A century ago, the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business opened its doors to future business leaders.  As we celebrate our 100th anniversary, it seemed fitting to look back on the leaders who helped get us here.  Of course, one of those leaders is the incomparable Neal Dempsey (BA 1964). He has been with us as student, alumni, donor, board member, faculty and fundraiser.  That’s why we chose to name Neal Dempsey our “Diehard Leader of the Century.”

We were happy to present Neal with a “Difference Makers of the Century” award at our Centennial Leadership Celebration in November. Other honorees included three Companies of the Century that have contributed extensively to the Foster School of Business – Nordstrom, Boeing and PACCAR.

With his zest for life, you could almost call Neal a bon vivant—except that he’s way too resilient for that moniker. He’s passionate, but with loads of endurance on tap. Sailing around the world, summiting the highest peaks, running marathons (more than 100), racing the Mille Miglia, yet never taking himself too seriously and always willing to spend time guiding young entrepreneurs.

As Managing General Partner of Bay Partners, Dempsey has accrued insights and instincts that he intently (and intensely) shares with business students. As an example of how Neal can get students fired up, review this footage of the speech he gave to Foster graduates in 2013.

Neal has spent countless hours on the UW campus sharing his hard-earned wisdom with students and faculty. For one year, he served as the Fritzky Chair where he was a visiting professor to the Foster School. He brought mentors and other experts from Silicon Valley to work with students on entrepreneurial ideas and projects. He is an energetic influence on Foster’s Advisory Board, received the Distinguished Leadership Award, and is a tireless fundraiser and financial contributor. You’ll find his namesake not only on Dempsey Hall, which replaced Balmer Hall in 2012, but also in the Dempsey Indoor sports training facility. Neal seems to never tire of giving back to this community.

Neal is the co-founder of what is today the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, and co-chaired Foster’s last capital campaign— “Creating Futures.” And create futures he does. He has helped fund some of the most successful companies in the world, including being one of the first personal investors in Seattle’s very own Starbucks. The Creating Futures campaign also funded the future of Foster School, as it financed the building of Dempsey Hall and PACCAR Hall for the business school. These newest buildings provide state-of-the-art teaching facilities that not only attracted more students to the school, but also attracted more top professors and lecturers who were excited to utilize the technology and tools that bring new ways of learning. The buildings are a popular gathering place for all students at the UW.

Students look forward to their interactions with Neal. He is more than a visiting alum who stops by now and then.  Neal gets to know the students individually and forms bonds that last way beyond their time at the Foster School of Business. He often follows their careers and continues to be available to them as new challenges emerge in the workplace.

As we look to the future, Neal will continue to serve an active role with the Foster School of Business.  In the Spring Quarter of 2018, Neal will teach a course for second year MBA students on the CEO and Board Leadership. I’m sure he will bring several CEO and board members from Silicon Valley to supplement the course material. Like the champion of giving back that Neal is, he has decided to donate his salary back to the school.

Neal will also participate on a panel in February 2018 that will dissect a business case on the Compaq and Hewlett Packard merger deal.  This will be an exciting, real-world analysis for Foster’s MBA student body.

The Foster School remains humbled by the financial generosity and decades of service Neal has given. His undying dedication to the school and its students made him a natural selection as a “Difference Maker of the Century.” Congratulations to Neal, and I suspect we’ll still be honoring him at the next Centennial Celebration.