Rockford.edu / News
08/03/2017 3:34 pm
As Jeff Fahrenwald puts it, “I have a weird family.”
In a nearly three-decade career with Rockford University, the Puri School of Business’s outgoing MBA Program director estimates he and his wife, Linda Ballou, have hosted about a dozen college and high school students from Europe, Asia and the Americas in their home.
“I have one son who’s adopted from Mexico, but then I’ve got all these other ‘children’ who call my wife and me ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad,’” Prof. Fahrenwald says, recounting a multicultural Easter celebration at his home this year that included three of his former houseguests.
The couple adopted the mindset of opening their own home to others while Prof. Fahrenwald was teaching and Ballou was a student for two semesters of an academic program through Iowa-based Central College in Merida, Yucatan.
“When we went and taught in Mexico, people were just so nice to us and, you know, had us into their house at Christmas and everything else,” Prof. Fahrenwald recalls. “We always figured we should probably pay that forward.”
Prof. Fahrenwald has left his mark on the greater community, too, as a 2014 Rockford Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year and one of the city’s inaugural 20 People You Should Know. Over the years, he received the Service Above Self award from the Downtown Rotary Club, Spirit of Caring Award from Crusader Clinic and the community service award from the Rockford Park District. Formerly the chief operating officer and vice president of organizational development for SupplyCore in Rockford, today Prof. Fahrenwald performs similar work for Saudi-based Arwadh Trading. Although he has stepped back from his leadership post after 29 years with the University, he is not ready to say goodbye to higher education. He has remained with RU as an adjunct professor teaching business and management classes.
His favorite business thinkers on leadership span about a century, from “father of scientific management” Frederick Taylor all the way to contemporary Tom Peters—whose book, “In Search of Excellence,” Prof. Fahrenwald recommends.
As for his personal leadership style, Prof. Fahrenwald says he has ended up in leadership roles serving on various boards and in career posts because “I have a strong bias for action.” But as a manager, he says he favors a hands-off approach so his staff can learn to be innovative and get credit for their successes, while he can take the heat if things don’t go to plan.
Whether forming global ties or forging local partnerships in the name of Rockford, plurality is a theme for Prof. Fahrenwald. It was his wife who pushed him to teach abroad in their days at Central College, he says, and he similarly attributes any success he has had in life to surrounding himself with innovative people.
“It’s not me, it’s we,” he insists. “We’ve been able to make a difference in people’s lives.”
After building a local-to-global family during his time leading the MBA Program, now Prof. Fahrenwald is ready for an even more familial focus—enjoying being a grandparent to his son Andy’s children, Angel and Andre—which has come with some new challenges.
“We adopted my son when he was 5, so we never had a baby,” he says. “So I had made it to past 55 before I had to change a diaper. All of a sudden, I get to start changing diapers.”
Proof, perhaps, that you are never too old to learn something new?
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