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Northwood University Announces Class of 2018 Commencement Speakers

April 24, 2018

MIDLAND, Mich. – Northwood University’s upcoming commencement ceremonies will feature three exceptional business leader speakers. There are a total of 737 degree candidates in the class of 2018, including 126 candidates from the DeVos Graduate School of Management.The first ceremony, held Thursday, May 10, at 2:00 p.m. at Trinity Church in Cedar Hill, Texas, features speaker John Pappanastos, President and Chief Executive Officer of EFG Companies based in Irving, Texas.

On May 12, undergraduate degree candidates will commence at 10:30 a.m. in the Bennett Sports Center on Northwood’s campus in Midland. The featured speaker will be Saginaw’s Richard Garber, President of Garber Management Group and Northwood alumnus. Tickets are required for the morning commencement ceremony.

At 3:00 p.m. on May 12, degree candidates from Northwood’s Adult Degree Program and the DeVos Graduate School will commence in Bennet Sports Center. Ed McBrien, Chief Operating Officer of Manhattan Beer Distributors in Bronx, New York, will be the featured speaker.

Each of the three commencement speakers will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Laws, Northwood’s highest honor, and are inducted into the university’s Gallery of Distinction.

Bios for the speakers and honorary degree recipients below:


John Pappanastos joined Enterprise Financial Group’s (EFG) Board of Directors in February 2006, and was named the President and Chief Executive Officer in February 2007. In his seven years at the helm, Pappanastos has more than tripled the company’s revenues and diversified the operation with four new market channels. Under his leadership, EFG rolled-out one of the most successful and nationally-recognized programs in the retail automotive industry, Hyundai Assurance.  The program, launched across more than 700 dealerships in 37 days, is a private label of EFG’s exclusive WALKAWAY vehicle return product and enabled Hyundai to grow unit sales by 8 percent while the industry declined overall by 21 percent.

Prior to joining the EFG Companies, Pappanastos served in multiple senior capacities for BellSouth Corporation, including strategy, finance, product development and operations.  John brings an excellent mix of strategic thinking and executions expertise.  He has an undergraduate degree in Finance from the University of Alabama, an MBA from Georgia State University, and holds the designation of Chartered Financial Analyst.


In 1980 at age 25, Dick became one of the youngest dealers in General Motors’ history when he took the helm of the company in its 73rd year of operation.  Over the past 35-plus years Dick has grown the business under the umbrella of the Garber Management Group; it now operates in four states (Michigan, Illinois, Florida and New York) and includes 18 new vehicle dealerships representing 16 manufacturers.

The business also includes Gateway Financial Solutions, currently purchasing Retail Installment Contracts in 15 states and is one of the largest used vehicle lenders based in the State of Michigan. In addition, the organization includes an independent used vehicle business operating under the name RightWay Automotive Credit, with over 30 sales locations in Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Georgia and soon Missouri. In total, the organization employs over 1700 people and generates over $1 billion in annual revenue. Garber Management Group is currently one of the top 13 largest privately held companies in Michigan outside of Detroit.

In the tradition of his grandfather and father, Dick has made service to the community a major priority in his life.  He has been an active participant and contributor to numerous community organizations and non-profits providing leadership, service and financial contributions. As a life-long resident of Saginaw, giving back to the community that has long been loyal to Garber Automotive has always been extremely important to him. In 2017, Dick received the Governor’s Lifetime Humanitarian Award, for his philanthropy in the Great Lakes Bay Region; the award was presented by Governor Rick Snyder.

Outside of the automotive industry, a unique opportunity arose in 2002 to make a contribution to the community in the sports arena.  At the encouragement of Hockey Legend Wren Blair and former Mayor Paul Wendler, Dick Garber became owner and Governor of an Ontario Hockey League (OHL) franchise, now the Saginaw Spirit which has completed its 16th season at the Dow Event Center in Saginaw.

Dick is a 1978 graduate of Northwood University and has been honored as one of Northwood University’s Outstanding Business Leaders and received the Outstanding Alumni Award. He joined the Northwood University Board of Trustees in 2014.


Ed McBrien is Chief Operating Officer for Manhattan Beer Distributors, the largest single-market beer distributor in the United States. In his role as COO, Ed is responsible for all aspects of the business. Manhattan Beer generates annual revenue of more than $1.1 billion, sells to over 25,000 retail customers, employs 1,850 people and represents more than 350 different brands. Manhattan Beer was named Wholesaler of the Year by Beverage Industry magazine in 2016.

Ed joined Manhattan Beer in 2015 after a long and successful career on the brewery side of the beer business. Before joining Manhattan Beer, Ed was President, Sales and Distributor Operations for MillerCoors. In that role Ed was chiefly responsible for revenue, profit contribution, share growth and network strategy. At the time, MillerCoors was the second largest brewer in the U.S., with annual sales of $7.5 billion, more than 30 brand families and 9,000 employees.

Prior to MillerCoors, Ed was Chief Revenue Officer for Coors Brewing Company. In 2008 Coors and Miller Brewing Company merged and Ed was appointed President of the Western Division for MillerCoors. He was then promoted to President, Sales and Distributor Operations in 2010. Ed’s extensive background also includes a number of sales positions at Procter & Gamble for 13 years prior to joining Coors.

Ed sits on the Board of Trustees for Northwood University, Midland, Michigan and is a member of the Church Council at Holy Trinity Lutheran, New York, New York.  He was also President of the Board for Coors Distributing Company in Denver and served on the Board of Directors for Colorado’s branch of Volunteers of America, the Chicago Advisory Board for Project C.U.R.E. (the leading volunteer distributor of medical supplies across the world), and the Chicago United CEO Council (promoting multiracial leadership development).

Ed earned his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Northwood University and was senior class Valedictorian, as well as the Academic Athlete of the Year. He and his wife Ann have two children, Katie and Matt.

For more information about Northwood University’s commencement ceremonies, please visit

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