A management consultant for Fortune 500 companies, a well-known computer entrepreneur and environmentalist and a legendary television actor will be inducted into the West Virginia University Alumni Association Academy of Distinguished Alumni during a ceremony on Friday, Feb. 5, 2010, at The Erickson Alumni Center beginning at 6 p.m.
The 2010 class includes George B. Bennett, founder of four successful businesses that have reshaped the practice of management consulting; Addison M. Fischer, founder and chairman of Fischer International Systems Corporation and chairman of Planet Heritage Foundation; and Don Knotts, an Emmy Award winning actor.
The Academy of Distinguished Alumni honors WVU graduates who have attained national or international distinction in their profession or discipline. The award has been established by the Alumni Association in cooperation with the University’s 13 schools and colleges.
George B. Bennett
For more than 35 years George Bennett has been a successful serial entrepreneur. Early in his career, he co-founded Bain and Co. and Braxton Associates, two highly regarded international strategy consulting firms that have dramatically affected Fortune 500 scale firms around the world. Later, he co-founded Symmetrix, a management consulting firm that specialized in helping large firms translate innovative strategies into cost effective operating practices. The last firm he co-founded, Health Dialog Corp., is an international health care services company having a dramatic impact on the way health care is delivered in the United States, several European countries and Australia.
Click to hear George Bennett
Bennett and Chris McKown founded Health Dialog in 1997. The firm provides analytic services for payers (insurance companies, employers, Medicare, etc.) and telephonic support and Web support to patients. The firm is well known for the scale of the databases it maintains (five-year health histories for 34 million individuals) and for the sophistication of the analytic techniques it uses to identify individuals who could benefit from telephonic support and/or Web support. Bennett currently serves as the chairman of the firm’s Board of Directors. He served as both the CEO and chairman of the board from 1997 until January, 2008, when the firm was sold to Bupa, a large British-owned global provider of healthcare services.
Bennett launched his entrepreneurial career in 1973 as a co-founder of Bain & Co., a large, top-tier international consulting firm whose clients have historically outperformed the stock market by four to one. Over the years, the firm has served more than 4,150 clients in a wide variety of industries. The company currently has 41 offices in 27 countries on five continents.
In 1976 Bennett founded Braxton Associates, Inc., a boutique strategy consulting firm with a reputation for innovation and creativity. The firm was acquired in 1984 by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu International, one of the world’s largest professional service firms.
In 1985, Bennett co-founded Symmetrix, Inc., a strategy consulting firm that developed extensive system integration and re-engineering capabilities. He served as its chairman and chief executive officer from 1985 to 1996. In 1996 the firm was sold to Nextera Enterprises, a publicly traded firm that quickly built scale by acquiring a wide variety of successful specialty consulting practices.
Bennett spent a year in Washington in the early 1980s as a member of the Grace Commission, a commission created by President Ronald Reagan to bring state-of-the-art business practices to the federal government. Bennett has remained active in Washington and has been an active participant in the ongoing debate regarding health reform.
Bennett earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from West Virginia University in 1967 and a master’s degree and a doctoral degree in industrial administration from Carnegie Mellon University in 1971. In 1982, he was inducted into the WVU Distinguished Alumni Academy of Industrial and Management Systems Engineering. Bennett serves (or has served) on the board of directors of a number of organizations, including the Disease Management Association of America, the National Youth Science Foundation and Urban Improv, a Boston-based not-for-profit organization focused on “improving the odds” for Boston’s inner city youth.
Bennett, an avid boater and fisherman, has four children and four – soon to be fice—grandchildren, all of whom live in the Boston area. He and his wife, Mimi, live in Brookline, Mass., and are active in the Brookline and Boston communities.
Addison M. Fischer
Addison Fischer has been a computer entrepreneur since creating his first high-tech startup company in 1973, and has been involved in seed venture capital investing since the early 1980s.
In 1980, he was a principal founder of the Community School of Naples, an independent K-12 school in Florida.
Fischer founded Fischer International Systems Corp., a communications software provider to the Global 2000 and presently serves as chairman. As major owner of RSA Data Security, he founded VeriSign, the internationally recognized standard of Internet commerce integrity.
Fischer is co-owner, with Stanley Druckenmiller, of Duquesne Capital Management. He is co-founder of two small private Silicon Valley venture capital firms, Tierra del Oro and Camino del Oro, specializing in high-tech startup companies.
Click to hear Addison Fischer
During the 1980s and 1990s he was a member of official committees that set U.S. standards for computer security and electronic commerce. He has been invited to address Congress on several topics, including digital signature standards, proposed FBI digital telephony legislation and global U.S. competitiveness. From 1995 through 1999 Fischer was a member of the Computer Systems Security and Privacy Advisory Board established by the Computer Security Act of 1987 to advise the President and report to Congress on issues regarding United States computer security. This committee, since renamed the Information Security and Privacy Advisory Board, is involved in work ranging from privacy issues to aspects of cyber-warfare. Addison holds numerous U.S. and international patents and is a lifetime member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers. He holds mathematics degrees, as well as an honorary doctorate, from West Virginia University.
In addition to his business interests, the Clarksburg, W.Va., native is actively involved in preserving, for future generations, our environment, resources, health, and freedom. Fischer works to promote civil liberties and privacy; advocates wilderness protection; and strives to preserve the integrity of the U.S. and world food supply from genetically altered species (the long-term effects of which are unknown). He also works with numerous organizations to reduce climate change.
In 2000, working together with the Zenerji Fund, Fischer acquired a substantial amount of sensitive primeval Costa Rican rainforest to prevent its destruction by timber and farming interests. Part of this acquisition included the community of Las Alturas. He is presently involved in working to enhance the opportunities available to the people of Las Alturas while preserving their heritage and connection with nature. He is engaged in bringing together experts, researchers and innovators from various scientific, social, spiritual and engineering disciplines toward the goal of building a prototype community capable of operating perpetually in harmony with the surrounding virgin rainforest.
From 2003 through 2005 Fischer was a member of the board of the Amazon Conservation Team, a private non-profit organization that works in concert with indigenous South American tribes to protect their ancestral lands. He presently serves as a member of the Advisory Board.
In 2005, Fischer began supporting and working closely with Dr. Jane Goodall, and her worldwide conservation efforts. He presently serves as a board member of the Jane Goodall Institute.
In 2008, Fischer founded, with Cindy Mercer, the Planet Heritage Foundation with the mission of preserving the planet’s natural and ecological heritage, and mankind’s cultural, social and intellectual heritage.
In May 2009 Fischer was elected as a director of the East West Institute, working to resolve and prevent international conflicts through non-governmental diplomatic channels.
In June 2009 he was awarded the Hero of Privacy Award by the Electronic Privacy Information Center recognizing his efforts to focus public attention on emerging civil liberties issues and protecting privacy, the First Amendment, and constitutional values.
Morgantown native Don Knotts began his legendary career as a ventriloquist, performing at parties and other events in the local area. He decided to take a stab at a career in show business, moving to New York City after graduating from high school, but returned to his hometown to attend West Virginia University. Knotts enlisted in the Army where he was assigned to the Special Services Branch during World War II. While serving, he entertained the troops and began his comedic career.
Knotts returned to WVU where he received his bachelor’s degree in 1948. Upon graduation, he married and returned to New York City where he performed stand-up comedy at clubs and appeared on radio programs, eventually playing the character Windy Wales on “The Bobby Benson Show.”
From 1953 to 1955, he was a regular on the soap opera “Search for Tomorrow.” He was cast in the small role of the psychiatrist in the Broadway play “No Time for Sergeants,” which starred Andy Griffith. He appeared as a regular on the “The Steve Allen Show” beginning in 1956 where he became well-known for his “nervous man” shtick in the “Man-on-the-Street” segments. It was this role of the fidgety, high-strung persona that became part of his characters for the rest of his career.
Click to hear Don Knotts' niece Sandy Friend
Click to hear Don Knotts' childhood friend Mary Lopez
When “The Tonight Show” moved to Hollywood in 1959 with host Jack Paar, Knotts also moved to California as a regular. Shortly thereafter, he was cast as Deputy Barney Fife on “The Andy Griffith Show,” a role that would make him a legend. He earned five Emmy nominations, winning all five times in the Best Supporting Actor category from 1961 to 1967.
In 1964, Knotts earned success on the big screen where he starred in “The Incredible Mr. Limpet,” and signed a five-year contract with Universal Studios. He went on to star in major movies, including “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken” (1966), “The Reluctant Astronaut” (1967), “The Shakiest Gun in the West” (1968), “The Love God” (1969) and “How to Frame a Figg” (1971).
During the 1970s, he appeared in regional theater and made guest appearances on several TV shows. He teamed with Tim Conway on comedies for Walt Disney before landing a co-starring role as landlord Ralph Furley on the popular sitcom “Three’s Company” from 1977 to 1984. Knotts also appeared in several television shows, including Griffith’s “Matlock” series.
In 2000, Knotts was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. During the next 10 years, he remained active, touring with plays and doing voice-over work for cartoons, including the voice of Mayor Turkey Lurkey in Disney’s animated film “Chicken Little” in 2005.
Knotts passed away in 2006 after an illness leaving behind his wife Francey and two children, Karen and Thomas.
Since its inception in 1988, the WVU Academy of Distinguished Alumni has recognized more than 75 of its most accomplished graduates. For more information about the Academy, visit: http://alumni.wvu.edu/awards/academy. For more information about the WVU Alumni Association visit http://alumni.wvu.edu.
CONTACT: Tara Curtis, WVU Alumni Association
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