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Introducing the 2024 Class of Outstanding Business Leaders

January 29, 2024

Northwood University is pleased to announce the 2024 Class of Outstanding Business Leaders.

“This year’s class exemplifies the ideals we instill in our students as we continue to create future generations of free enterprise leaders who drive global economic and social progress,” stated Murray Kyte, vice president of advancement for Northwood University. “We are grateful to recognize leaders of such a high caliber.”

The honorees include:

• Mamadou Diallo, automobile sales, senior vice president, American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

• Thomas Latham, CEO, Tri-State Forest Products, Inc.

• Sarah Rowley Opperman, chair, Isabella Bank Corporation

• Chris Pruitt, president and CEO, East Penn Manufacturing Co.

• Ret. Ambassador John Rakolta Jr., chairman, Walbridge Group

Eric D. July, CEO & founder of the comic book company, Rippaverse, is being awarded the Richard DeVos Young Entrepreneur Award.

Dating back to 1981, the Outstanding Business Leader Awards are presented annually by the Northwood University Board of Trustees.

Recipients exemplify the philosophy of Northwood University (which values individual freedom and responsibility; moral law; limited government; earned success; and the importance of free enterprise). Other selection criteria include a nominee’s contribution to the philosophy of private enterprise; support of the integration of business and the arts; contribution to education; economic innovation; community involvement; spiritual leadership; philanthropic contributions; and business success.

“Outstanding Business Leader honorees provide inspiration, mentorship and scholarship to Northwood University students,” Kyte added.

Honorees will be featured during an April 6 awards gala at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. Net proceeds from the gala will support the Outstanding Business Leader Endowed Scholarship at Northwood University.

Prior to the gala, the honorees will be featured in a virtual symposium that is open to all students, faculty, staff and community members. That event, set for noon Feb. 14, will be moderated by Professor Jim Hop, who chairs entrepreneurship and franchise management at Northwood University.

“Virtual symposium attendees will learn about each honoree’s path to success, and they will be able to participate in a question-and-answer session,” stated Director of Signature Events Jen Carpenter. “It’s a fantastic opportunity to learn about the honorees before the Outstanding Business Leader Awards Gala on April 6.”

The link to attend the Feb. 14 Outstanding Business Leaders Virtual Symposium is

For sponsorships or tickets to the April 6 Outstanding Business Leaders Awards Gala at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, visit the Outstanding Business Leaders event webpage at

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