West Virginia University Craig Underwood, founder/co-founder of six for-profit and non-profit enterprises, will be the keynote speaker for the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences’ Dec. 12 convocation reception.

Underwood was a pioneer in developing data-based customer loyalty programs and has demonstrated innovation in Web 2.0 and social media technologies. He is an adviser to leading enterprises, venture capitalists and social entrepreneurs and has committed himself to inner-city workforce development.

For his contributions as an entrepreneur, adviser and man of service, Underwood will receive the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences Alumni Recognition Award during Convocation.

Currently, Underwood is founder and CEO of Sports Loyalty International, Inc., a start-up global enterprise created to revolutionize the sports industry by applying the model of coalition loyalty to collegiate and professional sports teams. He also leads Underwood Partners in Boston, Mass., a boutique strategic advisory firm where he recruits and works with a small number of executives and analysts to help clients understand, engage with and profit from applications of Web 2.0 and social media technologies.

Additionally, he advises clients how to develop data-based coalition loyalty programs and leverage the Internet to monetize fan bases and other communities. On the side, he is the voice behind the Collaboration Evangelist blog about collaboration technology, customer service and loyalty.

During the last 18 years, his attention has focused on developing strategies for enterprises to increase customer and employee loyalty through coalition loyalty programs and applying collaboration technology and other Internet-enabled opportunities to maximize customer and investor value from existing programs.

He founded The Loyalty Group in a Toronto hotel room in 1991, which was created to launch the AIR MILES Reward Program, which became one of the most successful multi-company, or “coalition” loyalty programs in the world and now employs more than 2,000 people. More than 70 percent of Canadian households are active members of the AIR MILES program which enables them to earn rewards from leading companies including American Express, Safeway and Shell.

Underwood was a co-founder of SocialSphere Strategies, a Web 2.0 strategy firm, and a partner at both Bain & Company and The Bridgespan Group, Bain’s nonprofit spinoff that advises leading U.S. non-profits on growth and mission impact strategies.

He is on the advisory boards of Modiv Media, Perk Street Financial and Jimini Health Systems.

While at WVU, Underwood served as Student Body President, was named WVU’s 19th Rhodes Scholar and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1980. He went on to receive a master’s degree from the University of Oxford in 1982, and a master’s of business administration from the University of Chicago in 1984.

In addition to his professional career, Underwood is an advocate of giving back to the community. He is a founding board member of Year Up, an innovative workforce development program that recruits and trains low-income, inner-city young adults for entry-level technology careers and higher education.

Started in Boston’s inner city in 2001 with an initial class of 22 students, Year Up now operates programs in San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Boston, Providence, the District of Columbia and Atlanta. All Year Up graduates earn college credits from the program and more than 85 percent of Year Up graduates are working at leading enterprises including American Express, Bank of America, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and state and local governments. Graduates starting salaries average more than 300 percent of the minimum wage.

Additionally, Underwood maintains close ties to his alma mater, having served as a member of the WVU Foundation Inc. Board of Directors and the board of directors of Imagine West Virginia. And he established the Craig Underwood Family Scholarship at WVU to help deserving students receive a college education.

The Eberly College Alumni Award recognizes individuals whose lives reflect the commitment and excitement that broadly educated arts and sciences people bring to their life pursuits. The award seeks to acknowledge the important contributions Eberly alumni are making in their community and within their professions.

The College established this recognition to bring to the attention of the campus, the community and the nation, the continuing value and importance of an arts and sciences education in the 21st Century. The first awards were presented in 1999.

Recipients are invited to campus to accept their award. During their visit, they are able to meet and discuss ideas and issues with students and faculty. To ensure permanent recognition, a plaque with the names of recipients is mounted in Woodburn Hall.

Underwood will accept his award at the 2010 December Convocation Reception Ceremony on Sunday (Dec. 12). The event, for graduates and their families, is open to the media and will take place from 10:30 a.m. to noon in the Mountainlair Ballrooms. Remarks will begin at 11 a.m.

For more information or to nominate alumni for the award, contact Bonnie Fisher at (304) 293-4611 or Bonnie.Fisher@mail.wvu.edu.



CONTACT: Rebecca Herod, Marketing and Communications Coordinator
304-293-7405, ext. 5251, Rebecca.Herod@mail.wvu.edu

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