Improving the Educational Experience: Fundamentally Sound

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For the past five years, Wendt has shared his expertise with students in General Business 311.
For the past five years, Wendt has shared his expertise with students in General Business 311.

When Gary Wendt (B.S. ’65) was studying civil engineering at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, he decided to take a few classes at the Wisconsin School of Business “to broaden my perspective a little.”

He got more than he bargained for. Those courses sparked an interest that dramatically changed the trajectory of his career. He went on to earn an MBA at Harvard University in 1967 and pursue a distinguished career in business, most notably as head of General Electric Capital Services.

That’s why he’s giving back to the School to help other non-business majors learn business fundamentals—and inspire the next generation of business leaders.

“These fundamental principles are so important for people to know that learning them should be mandatory,” Wendt says. “I think everybody should understand how the free market works because many of them will wind up being full-time business people.”

In 2011, Wendt established the Gary C. Wendt Fund for Business Instruction to support the School’s efforts to develop a course for non-business majors, which proved so popular that by 2014 students faced lengthy wait lists to enroll. That’s when the School launched a multi-year project to offer the class online— delivering more sessions more frequently throughout the academic year.

The original course was split into two separate classes, General Business 310 (Fundamentals of Accounting and Finance for Non-Business Majors) and General Business 311 (Fundamentals of Management and Marketing for Non-Business Majors). To date, Wendt has donated more than $3.25 million to support education innovation, including the design and expansion of these course offerings.

“I get a great deal of satisfaction from providing funding for these courses,” Wendt says. “It’s money well spent.”

Mark Laplante, senior lecturer of finance and creator of GB 310, now teaches approximately 900 students, with the potential to reach 1,500 to 2,000 per year, up from 120 when it was only taught in person.

I get a great deal of satisfaction from providing funding for these courses. It’s money well spent.

—Gary Wendt (B.S. ’65)

“Every time we made a decision about how to deliver this educational experience, we asked, ‘What’s the best thing for the students?’” Laplante says. “Resources have always been made available, and it’s made possible by Gary’s generosity.”

For the past five years, Wendt has been a guest lecturer in GB 311. “My talk is about lessons learned from being in the business world for 40 years and the mistakes you can make if you’re not careful,” Wendt says, chuckling. “I’ve got many mistakes to talk about.”

“General Business 310 opened my eyes to the daily processes a company must go through to begin, sustain, and grow,” says Jourdan Blackwell, an environmental sciences major at UW–Madison. “I’m able to link big business ideas with science and knowledge of the natural world to help create sustainable environments.”

Class Notes

Class Notes

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Richard Himes (B.S. ’66, MBA ’69)

passed away this spring. In his name, his daughter, Katherine Himes (MBA ’01), launched the Richard Himes Scholarship... Read More »

Clarke Caywood (BBA ’69, Ph.D. ’85)

received the first educator’s award of the national Black Public Relations Society. The award is named after Ofield Dukes... Read More »

Marisa Menzel (BBA ’00)

was recognized as one of Madison’s “40 Under 40” by In Business magazine in its March 2015 issue. In addition to helping clients in her financial advising... Read More »