Robert Knowling will receive U-M’s Josaitis Global Citizenship Award

August 30, 2011

ANN ARBOR—Robert Knowling, a long-time champion of Detroit-based Focus: HOPE, will receive the 2011 Eleanor Josaitis Global Citizenship Award from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business Sept. 1 in recognition of his leadership in transforming lives of those in need.

Named for the co-founder of Focus: HOPE who died in August, the award is part of U-M’s Eleanor Josaitis Global Citizenship Initiative, which takes principles that are at the heart of Focus: HOPE’s mission and extends them onto a national and international stage.

“Bob Knowling embodies a role model of great leadership for the 21st century, integrating business success with transforming the lives of those in need with his citizenship efforts,” said Noel Tichy, professor of management and organizations at the Ross School, who established the award as well as the Global Citizenship Initiative in honor of Josaitis.

The award will be presented at 4 p.m. Sept. 1 in Blau Auditorium at the Ross School of Business during the final day of orientation for new MBA students, who will spend the day doing citizen projects all across Detroit. Normally, Josaitis would speak to the incoming class and encourage them to incorporate community service into their lives and careers. This year, Focus: HOPE CEO William Jones Jr. will participate.

Knowling, who has a long-standing partnership with the Ross School as a member of its visiting committee and as a regular speaker at MBA orientation, donated $1 million to Focus: HOPE in 2000 in the name of Ross School MBA students. He challenged the students to participate in Focus: HOPE’s annual WALK and to deliver food to homebound senior citizens in metropolitan Detroit?a challenge that generated 100 percent participation, strengthening a bond between the Ross School and Focus: HOPE.

Knowling is currently chairman of strategic management consulting firm Eagles Landing Partners and has more than 30 years of experience in the telecommunication and technology sectors where he was CEO of high-tech companies Covad Communications, Telwares and SimDesk, as well as executive vice president of operations and technologies of US West.

He also has been widely recognized for the work he did as founding CEO of the New York City Leadership Academy, which reached more than 1,400 school principals and helped raise more than $100 million. The result was a massive turnaround in school performance in New York City, the country’s largest school system.

Tichy launched the Eleanor Josaitis Global Citizenship Initiative in 2008 to implement practical solutions to problems stemming from racism, poverty and injustice throughout the world?much as Focus: HOPE does on a local scale.

“Eleanor Josaitis dedicated her life to opening opportunities for the underserved in her community,” Tichy said. “Through this Global Citizenship Initiative, we will impact social problems throughout the world while developing a new generation of business leaders who value community social action.”

International projects have included:

  • GE sponsored two teams in India: one that worked with health care in the greater Bangalore area and one that worked with fishing villages to help rebuild them after the tsunami.
  • 3M sponsored a team in China to work on occupational safety.
  • Dow sponsored a team in Mexico that worked on environmental emissions.
  • Grupo Salinas sponsored two teams to work on building new bottom-of-the-pyramid rural communities in Mexico.
  • Procter & Gamble and Grupo Salinas worked in Mexico with a multidisciplinary team of students from U-M’s medical and nursing schools, along with West Point cadets, in developing distribution channels for PUR, a water purification product, in Elektra stores.

Each year, some of the Initiative’s projects will help Focus: HOPE continue to fulfill its mission. Teams of MBA students have worked with Focus: HOPE on projects related to marketing and fundraising strategy, strengthening corporate partnerships, and expanding its training programs.

The Eleanor Josaitis Global Citizenship Initiative is funded by donations from Tichy and his wife Patricia Stacey, a 1987 Ross MBA, and corporate partners. For more detail on the Initiative, contact Tichy at (734) 764-5134.