Nomination Form OBL Honorees Information

Contact Information

  • Allison D. Tardonia
  • Advancement Director
  • Director, Outstanding Business Leaders Association
  • Office: 561.478.5539
  • Cell: 561.629.2961
  • Fax: 561.478.5531

Northwood firmly believes that American business leaders deserve the highest forms of personal recognition for their contributions to this great nation and the world.

The challenges faced by today's college student are tremendous and it is a powerful motivation for them to become acquainted with the lives and achievements of present-day business leaders. Their personal stories are proof that "it can be done" and to know them is an indispensable part of the education of America's next generation of business leaders.

The Outstanding Business Leader Awards are presented by the Northwood University Board of Trustees. Each awardee is selected on the basis of personal achievements which typify the unique philosophy of Northwood University. Criteria used in the selection of awardees include contribution to the philosophy of private enterprise, support of the integration of business and the arts, contribution to education, economic innovation, creative marketing ideas, community involvement, religious leadership, philanthropic contributions, as well as business success.

Dr. Arthur E. Turner

34th Annual Outstanding Business Leader Awards

Awards Gala 2014 will be held at The Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida on February 1, 2014.

Lisa Copeland

Lisa Copeland

Managing Partner, Fiat of Austin

Austin, TX

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One of the most respected faces in automotive sales, Lisa Copeland is a dedicated pioneer in the field of automotive marketing and management with over 20 years of proven success. As a member of the National Chrysler Dealer Council, she now represents the North American pulse of the Italian brand Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino which was founded in 1899 and is popularly known as FIAT.

Named one of the Five Most Powerful Women in Austin by the Austin Business Journal in 2012, and recognized for her innovative marketing techniques, Copeland continually raises the bar on North American FIAT sales by developing processes and systems designed to strategically increase sales growth and revenue.

As the Managing Partner of FIAT of Austin, the number FIAT retailer in NAFTA since the brand’s return to North America, Copeland was also recently honored by Chrysler Group Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne for record-breaking FIAT 500 sales. This was truly a defining moment in her automotive career. Under her management, FIAT of Austin became the first FIAT studio in North America to sell 100 FIAT 500’s in a single month.

The achievement, which began with a wager she made with then FIAT CEO Tim Kuniskis in April of 2012, promised Copeland she’d be introduced to the celebrity of her choice if she could sell 100 FIAT 500’s in one month. Beating the goal by ten, Copeland earned record sales and cashed in on the deal by asking to be introduced to Marchionne. And the rest, as they say, is history. When congratulating Copeland in person, Marchionne said of her renowned sales and leadership, “Lisa is also an incredible salesperson herself, an excellent manager and a dynamic leader, and what she and her team have achieved here at the FIAT of Austin store is unprecedented.”

Co-author of New York Times best seller “Succeeding Against All Odds,” a book described as the ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ for entrepreneurs, Copeland share the story of “The Bet.” “The real premise of the story was not about record breaking sales,” said Copeland. “It was more about the fact that women in life and in business are often afraid and intimidated to ask for what they truly want or deserve. Therefore, by sharing my story, I believe women will be encouraged to ‘lean in’ and go for what they truly deserve.”

With extensive knowledge of acquiring, training and retaining diverse candidates Copeland earned FIAT of Austin recognition as #6 Best workplace in North America by Automotive News in 2013. Positioned as an expert in sales and management, her success story has been featured in prominent publications including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Marie Claire and Automotive News.

Copeland is also the co-founder of Women Impacting the Nation and The Project 19 Foundation, non-profit organizations that are dedicated to advancing leadership roles for women. In 2012, she was named “Women of Distinction” by the Girl Scouts of Central Texas, and as the creator of, she empowers women as consumers by offering inside information to female consumers.

*All biographical information is only current up to the date of the award.

Richard DeVos, Jr.

Richard DeVos, Jr. (’81)

President, The Windquest Group/ Retired President, Alticor

Grand Rapids, MI

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Dick DeVos was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and is a proud graduate of Northwood University. He has spent his business career working in a variety of executive positions at Amway, the NBA’s Orlando Magic, and The Windquest Group where he currently serves as President. 

As President of Amway from 1993 to 2002, DeVos held responsibility for all aspects of the company’s operations in 50 countries and six continents. In his final fiscal year of service, Amway reported sales of $4.5 billion.  Prior to assuming the Presidency, he served as Vice President of Amway International where he held responsibility for the company’s operations in 18 countries outside North America. Under his leadership, the company opened new markets and tripled international sales to exceed domestic sales for the first time in the company’s history.  DeVos became President and CEO of the Orlando Magic when his family acquired the team in 1991, a role he held for three years. 

Along with leadership in the world of business, DeVos has been a leader in a wide range of community initiatives. Having started the Education Freedom Fund which has awarded more than 4,000 scholarships to underprivileged children in Michigan, and the West Michigan Aviation Academy, a high school that aims to provide a rigorous educational program through an aviation focus, preparing students for unlimited opportunities, including college achievement, career success, and engaged citizenship, DeVos, who served on the Michigan State Board of Education, is also Founder and Chairman of the Regional Air Alliance of West Michigan (RAAWM), a private sector initiative dedicated to providing world-class commercial air service in the region. He has led as chair/co-chair various Grand Rapids area downtown revitalization and regional health care improvements including a $75M downtown area, a $212M convention center, a $130M heart hospital, a $90M medical school and a $30M Downtown Market.  He was the Republican candidate for Governor of Michigan in 2006.

With his New York Times best-selling book, “Rediscovering American Values” published in 1997 and available in seven languages, DeVos exemplifies Northwood University ideals by celebrating the principles that make America great and that shape who we are, how we live, and how we treat each other. Through real-life examples, he offers lessons on how each of us can apply these values in everything we do. Values such as honesty, fairness, humility, initiative, service, compassion, and leadership are, he argues, not just a matter of preference but essential to both personal and collective freedom.

A two-time National Champion sailor, a qualified jet aircraft and helicopter pilot, and a product of both the Harvard and Wharton Executive Study programs, DeVos was honored with the Northwood University Outstanding Alumni and the Direct Selling Association Hall of Fame Awards.   DeVos has been married to the former Betsy Prince for 35 years and they now have seven children and two granddaughters.

*All biographical information is only current up to the date of the award.

J Ferron

J Ferron

Chairman Emeritus, Northwood University Board of Trustees
Director, Crain Communications Inc/Automotive News

Bloomfield Hills, MI

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J Ferron’s involvement with Northwood University spans three decades beginning with his authorship of business management guides that were chosen to be used as part of its curricula. After joining the university’s Board of Trustees he played leadership roles on its strategic governance committees and was ultimately elected Chairman in 2008, a position in which he served four terms.

A torch bearer for the Northwood Idea from the university’s earliest days, Ferron is a prescient author and an industry thought leader relating to innovation and new business models. A personal friend of both founders Arthur Turner and Gary Stauffer, his 30-year automotive career has led him to be directly involved with many challenging industry issues affecting manufacturers, suppliers, retailers, and consumers by leading and devising global strategies and working to improve innovation practices. 

Ferron graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 1968 and then went onto pilot training in Texas. There, he met Lynn, his wife of 43 years, whom he married after his first Vietnam tour where he volunteered for a prime combat assignment as forward air controller. After they were wed, he went back to Vietnam, ultimately flying over 350 sorties. He was awarded The Distinguished Flying Cross and The Air Medal with six oak leaf cluster awards.

After leaving the Air Force, Ferron earned a Juris Doctor degree from George Washington University while simultaneously beginning his career in the automotive industry as an economist with the National Auto Dealers Association (NADA). In this role he created the Dealership Attitude Survey, a tool that continues to guide industry relations improvements, expanded the dealership operations group with a variety of new services, and founded the NADA Dealer Candidate Academy that has graduated over 8000 dealership successors since 1979.

As the first Vice President of NADA, Ferron co-authored the book, "Betting on the Franchise - Car & Truck Retailing into the 1990's," which foresaw the unbundling of dealership facilities, public ownership of dealership chains, industry distribution consolidation, and consumer buying changes. With over 400 NADA staff members reporting to him on federal and state government regulatory issues, he also served on congressional advisory panels addressing small business tax challenges, electric vehicles, and energy issues.

Ferron and his family were lured west in 1988 to what was then a small research company known as J.D Power and Associates (JDP&A). There, he became a senior partner handling corporate legal issues and was also Managing Director of the group’s Tokyo joint-venture company. At JDP&A he launched the consulting group known as International Roundtable, and led the brand management strategy that quickly made J. D. Power a trusted name globally. 

Ferron was recruited to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) in 1995.  Leading the America’s Automotive Consulting Practice addressing top supply, vehicle assembly, retail distribution and financial issues, he managed globally dispersed consulting teams for distributors and retailers. He was deeply involved with major industry events including the Daimler Chrysler merger before and after it became public.

After retiring from PwC he was selected to be Director of Judging for the Automotive News PACE Awards for Innovation where he directs an independent panel of nearly 30 industry experts who annually research global automotive companies to identify and validate the best “game changing” process or product innovations. Each spring they present these “Academy Awards” for global innovation.

J and his wife Lynn, a Northwood Distinguished Woman, live in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. They are both involved in local and national charitable efforts. J was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws from Northwood University in 1999. Both of their sons attended Northwood.

*All biographical information is only current up to the date of the award.

Richard Garber

Richard J. Garber (’78)

President, Garber Management Group

Saginaw, MI

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After graduating from Northwood University Michigan in 1978, Dick Garber became one of the youngest dealers in General Motors history when he was announced the third generation owner of 73-year-old Garber Buick at the young age of 25 in 1980.

Currently holding the honor of being America’s oldest Buick dealership in its 107th year, Garber has grown the conglomerate now known as Garber Management Group to generate annual sales revenues of over $700 million and to employ1200 people.

Ranked the 13th largest privately held Michigan company outside of Detroit, the enterprise functions in four states including Michigan, Illinois, Florida and New York. It includes 15 franchise dealerships representing 14 manufacturers, its own financial company known as Gateway Financial Solutions, and RightWay Automotive, an independent used vehicle chain which operates in over 25 sales locations in Michigan, Ohio and Illinois.

When asked how he was able to grow the enterprise so dramatically, Garber shared,“The organization’s culture has been the key; built around an amazing group of people dedicated to the core values of honesty, respect, empathy, integrity, pride and hard work.  These values guide our decisions and control our future,” he said.  

In the tradition of his grandfather Guy S. Garber and father Richard J. Garber, the industrialist has also made service to the community a major priority in his life.  As a life-long Saginaw resident, Garber has devoted himself to community, economic development and enriching the quality of life in the Great Lakes Bay Region. Currently serving as Chair of the Temple Theatre Foundation, President of Saginaw Society of Crippled Children, and Chair of the Capital Campaign for the Child Abuse and Neglect Council, his past leadership roles include the YMCA, United Way, Saginaw Chamber of Commerce, Saginaw Future, Inc., Vision 2020, and the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance to name a few.

Outside of the automotive industry, a unique opportunity arose in 2002 for Garber to make a further contribution to the community, this time in the sports arena.  At the encouragement of Hockey Legend Wren Blair and former Saginaw Mayor Paul Wendler, he became owner and Governor of an Ontario Hockey League (OHL) franchise, now known as the Saginaw Spirit which is in its thirteenth season at the Dow Event Center in Saginaw. Since its inception, nearly 1.5 million fans have enjoyed the excitement of world-class hockey and sports entertainment in the region.

Crediting his Northwood experience for a big part of his personal and professional success, Garber said, “Northwood University provided me my business fundamentals, including the importance of doing business ethically and not to be afraid to set high goals.  Believe in yourself and in others, and work hard to make great things happen.”   

Garber is father to three wonderful children, Anne, Laura and RJ.

*All biographical information is only current up to the date of the award.

David Gilmour

David H. Gilmour

Founder, FIJI Water/The Wakaya Club and Spa

Palm Beach, FL

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Canadian-born David Gilmour has enjoyed phenomenal success throughout his entrepreneurial career. In 1969, he and longtime partner Peter Munk founded the South Pacific Hotel Corporation (SPHC) which quickly became the largest hotel chain in the region. A decade later, the conglomerate was sold and the partners formed Barrick Gold Corporation, now the most profitable and largest gold-mining firm in the world. The entrepreneurial pair followed this venture by forming a real-estate company called Horsham Corporation, which was to become TrizecHahn, and today is one of the largest publicly traded real estate investment trust companies in North America.

Gilmour is also the founder of FIJI Water LLC, which in 2004 he’d led to become the fastest-growing premium beverage company in the United States and a main contributor to philanthropic endeavors on the island of Fiji. The feat earned the conglomerate and Gilmour, an officer in “The Governor General’s Horseguards” of Canada, the United States Senate Department’s 2004 Award for Corporate Excellence (ACE) which was presented by Secretary of State Colin Powell.

It was in 1971 that Gilmour first developed his love for the island of Fiji. While on a trip to review SPHC operations, he discovered the 2,200-acre island of Wakaya, and was so taken with its lush, unspoiled natural beauty, that he purchased it in 1972. In 1990, he and his wife Jill formally shared their paradise with the world as they unveiled The Wakaya Club, their exclusive resort. Designed and decorated by Jill, The Wakaya Club is a four-time winner of “Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report” Grand Hideaway Award. It was for these and other philanthropic Fiji efforts that Gilmour was presented the 1998 “Order of Fiji” from president Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.

Never one to rest on his tropical laurels, Gilmour founded VIV Publishing LLC, in 2007, a media company that introduced an entirely new concept in women’s magazines: a health and lifestyle publication called VIVmag distributed exclusively in digital form. He then expanded his thrust into the world of publishing the same year by acquiring Zinio, the leading digital publishing, retail and distribution platform for magazines and books. Zinio pioneered paperless distribution, and has introduced responsible and innovative digital-marketing practices to the print industry for a variety of distinguished publishers. Since Gilmour’s acquisition, Zinio has introduced a series of ground-breaking new technologies for the global marketplace, rolled out operations across Europe and Latin America, and doubled both its publisher client and consumer bases.

The Gilmour’s split their time between their residence on Wakaya Island and their house on the island of Palm Beach, Florida. With a charitable focus on preschool education, they have donated a pre-school program in several areas of Fiji and now in the United States.

*All biographical information is only current up to the date of the award.

Jonathan Hage

Jonathan Hage

President & CEO, Charter Schools, USA

Fort Lauderdale, FL

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Driven to assist students in achieving academic success, Jonathan Hage founded Charter Schools USA (CSUSA) with less than $5,000 in 1997.

Now considered one of the fastest growing companies in the country with approximately 5,000 CSUSA employees educating approximately 50,000 students in 58 schools in 7 states, Hage is considered one of the nation’s leading social entrepreneurs committed to improving the educational system in the United States and beyond.

With strong academic programs, Hage’s schools have created their strongest national gains in reading, writing, science and math based on state and Federal performance test scores, most with their strongest gains among low-income students. And the organization is the first management company to earn system-wide accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools' AdvancED Systems division.
Hage has also contributed to the physical growth of educational institutions, as he founded Red Apple Development, a construction company which has built over 1,000,000 square feet of new schools within the last 5 years.

Always seeking to break new ground, Hage was the first in the nation to open a charter school-in-the-workplace and the first municipal charter school. Today his schools include the top performing middle/high school in Broward County and the United States Department of Education Blue Ribbon Awarded Renaissance School, the highest performing elementary school in Miami-Dade County.
With a strong emphasis on ethics, integrity and achievement, all CSUSA schools require active parental involvement, emphasize moral character, reward high performing teachers, and promote active citizenship and service to the community.

Hage’s accomplishments and opinions distinguish him as being a pioneer in changing the face of education, and he has been chronicled by various media outlets, including Education Week, Forbes Magazine, Fox News, CNBC, NPR and numerous newspapers nationally.

Having worked tirelessly to influence education legislation at the local, state and federal levels, he is a former research director at the prestigious Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington, DC and has advised numerous political leaders, agencies and government bodies including being a speech writer and researcher for the 1994 Presidential Race. He served on the National Steering Committee of the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Presidential Elections and on the transition teams of Florida’s last three Governors. He was director of research for former Governor Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future, whom he credits with inspiring him to commit himself to improving education in America.

Hage has served positions on many boards including past chairman of the Sheriff’s Foundation, a Trustee of the Pine Crest School and board of directors of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. He and his wife Sherry recently founded The Giving Tree Foundation, a private charity dedicated to assisting low income families and students, by underwriting and now building a school in Haiti.

Having been honored with awards for his community service, including The Diversity Champion Award by the Urban League and The Valor Award by the American Diabetes Association, Hage was recently named Floridian of the Year by Florida Trend magazine.

He served honorably in the United States Army, the Army National Guard and the Army Reserves as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Special Forces (Green Berets). He holds a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree from the University of Colorado and a Master of Arts (MA) degree from Georgetown University. He and Sherry, who is the Chief Academic Officer at CSUSA, and their four children reside in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

*All biographical information is only current up to the date of the award.

Dan Langdon

Daniel R. Langdon

President, East Penn Manufacturing

Lyon Station, PA

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As president of East Penn Manufacturing, Dan Langdon oversees the daily sales, marketing, and financial functions of a privately-held company that operates the largest, single-site lead-acid battery facility in the world. Currently with over 8,000 employees globally and 90 warehouses and distribution centers across North America, the conglomerate has experienced remarkable growth over the last ten years. In the last five of those years, East Penn has doubled in size to over a 2 billion dollar a year enterprise and is still growing.

Since assuming the role of president in 1994, Langdon has upheld a long-standing, deeply enriched company culture of intrinsic quality, organization-wide integrity, innovative sustainability, industry leadership, and community outreach. Most essential to this culture is a cohesive family of co-workers who continue to strengthen the company making it one of the Best Places to Work in Pennsylvania for 13 consecutive years. Working in collaboration with an accomplished executive team, the leadership has not only allowed this culture to be sustained, but has created the kind of environment in which it has flourished and grown. Langdon's commitment to these core company values, its people and customers, has earned him a high level of respect among his fellow co-workers and other industry leaders.

Langdon’s introduction to East Penn Manufacturing began in 1979 when he joined four partners to form Reinsel & Company Certified Public Accountants and secured the account as its Accounting and Auditing Partner. It was in this position that he first met DeLight Breidegam, East Penn’s founder and chairman. A 2004 Northwood University Outstanding Business Leader, Breidegam eventually became Langdon’s boss when he joined the company in 1986 as Controller. Langdon was then promoted to Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer in just a few short years.

Crediting his extensive background in finance, his 1973 Bachelor of Business Arts (BA) degree in Accounting from Lycoming College, and his early employment as Audit Staff Member at Deloitte Haskins & Sells as creating a strong foundation for leadership success, Langdon has played an instrumental role in the battery industry over his time at East Penn.

The past president of Battery Council International (BCI), he has served on the Board of Directors for many years. He is also on the board of the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA) serving the North American Aftermarket supplier industry. In efforts to reach out and promote the development of businesses in the community, he serves as Chairman for the Greater Berks Development Fund (GBDF). He is also on the Board of Trustees for his alma mater, Lycoming College. For over 40 years he has dedicated his time to serving as a Pennsylvania International Wrestling Association (PIAA) official. In addition, he has received the honor of being inducted into the Junior Achievement of Greater Reading Business Hall of Fame and has received the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants Prominent CPA in Business award.

The parents of Matthew, Kate, Christopher, Marybeth and Megan, Langdon and his wife Kathleen reside in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania where they are actively involved in the John Paul II Learning Center, the St. Ignatius Parish, Berks Encore programs and services, and the United Way.  Dan's hobbies include fishing and boating.  

*All biographical information is only current up to the date of the award.

Anthony Lomangino

Thomas F. O’Hare

President & CEO (retired), WorldPAC

Newark, CA

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Born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, Thomas O’Hare’s first job was selling hot dogs, soda and ice cream in the center field bleachers of Fenway Park.  Like many kids growing up in the late 1940’s and 50’s, he juggled several jobs such as cutting grass, caddying, serving as a soda jerk in a drug store, delivering newspapers, and more. “Each one was an opportunity to learn, but I must confess at the time I did not realize how fortunate I was for those experiences,” he reminisced.

But fortune smiled, O’Hare said, when he was able to attend and graduate from Boston College and then join the Marine Corp as a ‘wet behind the ears 2nd lieutenant.’ “I never would have made it without the help of a rough and tumble, take no prisoners Master Gunny,” he smiled. “Without his guidance, only the shadow knows my fate.”

After serving in the armed forces, O’Hare attended Tufts University, earning his Master’s degree in economics and subsequently interned at the Federal Reserve in Boston before starting his own business. “I failed and learned a lot before receiving the call that changed my life and led me to the Ford Motor Company,” he said. “There, I learned a great deal while dedicating 17 years to  various sales and marketing positions as I travelled throughout the country,” he said.

Tired of the constant relocations, O’Hare then left Ford to become the President and CEO of Butler Auto Group, a major automotive conglomerate consisting of a vehicle distributorship, port operation, and trucking and finance companies located in the metro New York area.” After spending 12 years with the company I wanted more and needed a challenge,” said O’Hare. “And boy did I get one.”

In January, 1995 the automotive aftermarket trailblazer signed on to become the president and CEO of an auto parts company with the goal of integrating two other companies. Successful with this merger, the group was ultimately named WORLDPAC.  Encouraged with the prospect of additional growth, O’Hare then successfully merged two additional companies to become part of the group on January 1st, 2000. We were thankful that the Y2K merger was also successful, as WORLDPAC grew substantially over the ensuing years,” said O’Hare of the company which was recognized as one of the Top 10 Best San Francisco Bay Area companies to work in 2010, 2011, and 2012.

But as their entrepreneurial success skyrocketed, O’Hare and his wife Carole faced an unbelievable heartache which eventually furthered their philanthropic endeavors.

“Carole’s mom was a victim of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks, as she was a passenger on United Flight 93 when it crashed into an abandoned strip mine located in Shanksville, Pennsylvania,” said O’Hare. “We knew we had to assist the families of the victims and wanted to help create a place for healing that would also serve to educate future generations about how the actions of a few people can effect generations. That’s why we established the Hilda Marcin Flight 93 Charitable Fund with the purpose of carrying on her love of helping disabled children and training companion animals,” he shared. 

A ‘dye in the wool’ Red Sox fan, O’Hare was elected to the Automotive International Association (AIA) Hall of Fame in 2007 and is a current member of the WORLDPAC and General Parts International Boards.

*All biographical information is only current up to the date of the award.