Alum gives $100,000 for leadership program

An alum from the 1960s has pledged $100,000 to Cornell College to fund a program designed to teach students what it takes to lead.

Tom Jarom ’66

Tom Jarom ’66, a member of the Berry Center for Economics, Business, and Public Policy advisory board and a life trustee of the college, was instrumental in establishing the Cornell LEADS (Leadership, Entrepreneurship And Distinctive Service) program in 2010, and has pledged $100,000 over five years to strengthen the program.

The program’s goal, said A’amer Farooqi, faculty director of the Berry Center, was to expose the students to leaders from a broad range of endeavors. The program is designed to help students reflect on the qualities of good leaders and the importance of leadership while interacting with people who have leadership experience.

In its first year, Cornell LEADS focused on three events: a leadership seminar with President emeritus Les Garner; a panel discussion hosted by Tony Golobic, chairman and CEO of Great America Leasing Corporation and member of the Berry Center advisory board and moderated by attorney and Cornell trustee Gilda Vinzulis Boyer ’84 about how leaders from business, government and non-profits dealt with the 2008 Cedar Rapids floods; and a two-day visit to Chicago to meet with business leaders. In Chicago, the students met with Mike Conklin ’69, a former Chicago Tribune reporter and columnist, who hosted a visit to the Tribune; Andrea Herrera ’85, a catering entrepreneur who hosted a visit to her kitchens; Liz Griffiths, director of Albany Park Chamber of Commerce, who hosted a walking tour of ethnically diverse Albany Park; and Richard Williams ’63, an attorney and Cornell trustee who hosted a visit to the Peggy Notabaert Nature Museum where he is also a trustee.

Jarom retired in 1999 from a career in international banking and served as chair of the college’s board of trustees from 1996 to 1999. He was asked to take charge of the program’s first year, after the center’s advisory board wanted students to meet with more leaders from the business and public policy fields. Jarom said he thought students benefit greatly from meeting and talking with people in leadership roles.

Farooqi said students at liberal arts colleges like Cornell are well-prepared to become leaders, and programs like Cornell LEADS ensures they know what true leadership requires. To make sure as many students as possible have that opportunity, he said, the Berry Center reached out to students in all departments on campus and made sure they spoke with people from a variety of disciplines.

Cornell President Jonathan Brand said Jarom’s gift would further enrich the education of students at Cornell.

“Centers like the Berry Center and programs like Cornell LEADS offer our students powerful opportunities to apply their liberal arts experiences in practical settings,” Brand said. “As a result, they are uniquely well-prepared to lead.”