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Verizon President & CEO, Lowell McAdam (MBA ’83), Talks about the Impact of his USD Education
(Note: Since this story was first published, Lowell McAdam has been promoted to President & CEO of Verizon Communications, the parent company of Verizon Wireless).
The students sat around the conference room table at the lunchtime discussion eager to hear from the successful alumnus sitting by the window, but Lowell McAdam (MBA '83) seemed even more interested in hearing from them. As introductions were made, the president and chief executive officer of Verizon Wireless inquired about each of the students’ backgrounds and listened intently to the stories of how each had become a student at USD.
As an MBA student, McAdam was a naval officer with an engineering background when he walked up to the Pacific Bell table at a USD career fair and decided that the telecommunications industry could be an interesting place to start his post-military career. Twenty five years later, McAdam now oversees a $44 billion company with 66 million customers and 69,000 employees.
McAdam was back on campus to receive the Author E. Hughes Achievement Award, as the School of Business Administration's recipient at the 2008 Alumni Honors gala event. The packed schedule for his two-day visit included dinners, a keynote speech to the telecom industry group CommNexus, and separate meetings with undergraduate and graduate students. It was here, sitting around a table at lunch with MBA students, that he shared the story of how he chose USD.
"I was in the Navy in San Diego and wanted to get a degree to compliment my Engineering degree from Cornell," he said. "I compared different schools and was impressed with the quality of USD's programs, high standards and accreditation." All USD students are required to take courses in ethics, and McAdam said his experience in the class had a lasting impact on him. He cautioned students to hold to their values and avoid the temptation to "push the line back" for the sake of getting an edge.
McAdam fondly recalls his time as a student at USD as one of personal growth that helped him transition from an engineer with the Navy Seabees to a successful business career. "I really enjoyed working in groups where we did case studies. Each group came up with a different way to approach a problem, which was very interesting to me since I was used to engineering, where there is usually only one answer. Learning from others has always been very important to me, and I was able to do that at USD."
I picked-up more tools getting my MBA at USD than I did anywhere else along the way.
The capstone course in his final semester as an MBA student also made a lasting impression on him. "The professor taught us to hold up a problem like a diamond and look at it from different perspectives. The problem may seem insurmountable from one perspective, but if you flip it around, you may find it to be solvable. I use this technique at Verizon Wireless where we look at a lot of problems with our senior management team and turn them into opportunities."
What is the one piece of advice that McAdam has for business students? "Fill your toolbox with every tool you can. I picked-up more tools getting my MBA at USD than I did anywhere else along the way."