Experiential Classroom

The Karl Vesper Pioneer Award

With over 3000 universities and colleges now running serious entrepreneurship programs, the numbers of students studying entrepreneurship and dedicated faculty teaching those students increased dramatically. Paralleling this growth has been the launch of majors, minors, master’s programs, concentrations and specialties in entrepreneurship around the globe. New departments, schools centers and institutes of entrepreneurship continue to appear. Yet, it has not always been this way, and there remain universities whose administration and faculty do not support entrepreneurship education in any sort of meaningful way. Our contemporary ability to have an empowering and transformative impact though these entrepreneurship programs is due to the pioneers who fought tremendous resistance to give birth to the academic discipline of entrepreneurship and to those who have produced and successfully implemented the kinds of innovations that helped the discipline grow in substance and stature.

To recognize the contributions of such individuals, the Karl Vesper Pioneer Award was created in 2008. Given each year in conjunction with the Experiential Classroom, the award is given to an individual who epitomizes the concept of an 'academic entrepreneur' - a person who with passion and perseverance has enabled entrepreneurship to expand both in its reach and impact. The recipient is a role model for faculty and others devoted to the dissemination of the entrepreneurial mindset.

The Karl Vesper Pioneer Award winner is selected annually by a committee of distinguished entrepreneurship faculty, and includes all the former winners. Nominations for this award can be submitted by March 1 of each year to Michael H. Morris.


2010 and Inaugural Winner

Karl Vesper
Texas Tech University

Karl Vesper’s most recent academic appointment was last year when he held the Kent R. Hance Distinguished Visiting Regents Chair in Entrepreneurship at Texas Tech University. Previously he was an Emeritus Professor from the University of Washington where he held full professorships in Business Administration, he started and taught several entrepreneurship courses; in Mechanical Engineering, where he taught machine design, and in Marine Studies, where he taught ocean systems design. He has been a Fulbright Distinguished Scholar at Trinity College, Dublin. He was the first holder of the Roger Babson Professorship in Entrepreneurship at Babson College and of the Carma Professorship of Entrepreneurship at the University of Calgary as well as the second holder of the Schoen Professorship in Entrepreneurship at Baylor University. More recently, he was a visiting professor in bioengineering in the Jacobs School of Engineering at the University of California, San Diego, and a visiting professor in entrepreneurship at the University of Hawaii, Hilo. Since the mid-1950s, following a two-year tour as an Air Force officer and flight test engineer at Edwards AFB, California, his main interest has been entrepreneurship. Industrially, he worked as assistant to the president of a high-performance electromotive products company and as business manager of an oceanographic consulting and instrument manufacturing company for which he helped raise venture capital. His current research focuses on trying to refine entrepreneurship technology through fractionation and application of a design portfolio approach. He holds BS, MS, and PhD degrees in Engineering from Stanford and an MBA from Harvard. His hobbies include motorcycles, snowboarding, surfing, and learning from his grandchildren.


2011 Award Winner

Donald F. Kuratko
Indiana University – Bloomington

Donald F. Kuratko (known as Dr. K) is the Jack M. Gill Chair of Entrepreneurship; Professor of Entrepreneurship & Executive Director; Johnson Entrepreneurship & Innovation Center, The Kelley School of Business, Indiana University -Bloomington. Professor Kuratko is considered a prominent scholar and national leader in the field of entrepreneurship. He has published over 180 articles on aspects of entrepreneurship and corporate innovation in journals such as Journal of Business Venturing, Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice, Strategic Management Journal, Journal of Operations Management, Academy of Management Executive, Journal of Small Business Management, Family Business Review, and the Journal of Business Ethics. Professor Kuratko has authored or co-authored 30 books, including the leading entrepreneurship books in the world today, Entrepreneurship: Theory, Process, Practice, 9th ed. (2014), as well as Corporate Entrepreneurship & Innovation 3rd ed. (2011) with Michael H. Morris and Jeffrey G. Covin, and Innovation Acceleration (2012). In addition, Dr. Kuratko has been consultant on Corporate Entrepreneurship and Innovation to a number of major Fortune 100 corporations. Dr. Kuratko also serves as the Executive Director of the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers (GCEC), an organization comprised of over 250 top university entrepreneurship centers throughout the world. Under Professor Kuratko’s leadership and with one of the most prolific entrepreneurship faculties in the world, Indiana University’s Entrepreneurship Program has recently been ranked the #1 Business School for Entrepreneurship Research by the World Rankings for Research Productivity; as well as the #1 Graduate Business School for Entrepreneurship (Public Institutions) and the #1 Undergraduate Business School for Entrepreneurship (Public Institutions) by U.S. News & World Report. In addition, Indiana University has earned the distinction of National Model MBA and National Model PhD Programs in Entrepreneurship. Dr. Kuratko’s honors include earning the Entrepreneur of the Year for the state of Indiana and induction into the Institute of American Entrepreneurs Hall of Fame. He has been honored with The George Washington Medal of Honor; the Leavey Foundation Award for Excellence in Private Enterprise; the NFIB Entrepreneurship Excellence Award; and the National Model Innovative Pedagogy Award for Entrepreneurship. In addition, he was named the National Outstanding Entrepreneurship Educator by the U.S. Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship and he was named a 21st Century Entrepreneurship Research Fellow by the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers. He has been named one of the Top 50 Entrepreneurship Scholars over the last ten years and he was the recipient of the Riata Distinguished Entrepreneurship Scholar Award from the School of Entrepreneurship at Oklahoma State University. Dr. Kuratko was honored by his peers in Entrepreneur magazine as the #1 Entrepreneurship Program Director in the nation as well as being selected one of the Top Entrepreneurship Professors in the United States by Fortune magazine. Professor Kuratko was honored by the U.S. Association for Small Business & Entrepreneurship with the John E. Hughes Entrepreneurial Advocacy Award for his career achievements in entrepreneurship as well as the National Academy of Management honoring him with the Entrepreneurship Advocate Award – for his contributions to the development and advancement of the discipline of entrepreneurship. In 2011, Dr. Kuratko was the inaugural recipient of the Karl Vesper Entrepreneurship Pioneer Award for his career dedication to the developing field of entrepreneurship.


2012 Award Winner

Gerald E. Hills
Bradley University

Dr. Gerald Hills holds the endowed Turner Chair in Entrepreneurship and is Professor of Entrepreneurship at Bradley University and is a pioneer in the development of the entrepreneurship discipline. Dr. Hill has helped found numerous organizations throughout his career. In 1982 he became one of the first endowed chairholders in the discipline of entrepreneurship. In addition, Dr. Hill has served as president of the International Council of Small Business. In 1981 he launched a second Affiliate. In 1982, Dr. Hill co-Founded and became the 1st President of the U.S. Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE). For over 25 years, Dr. Hill served as Chair of the Research Symposium on Marketing and Entrepreneurship, and organization he founded. Additionally, Dr. Hill co-founded and served as the 1st President of the American Marketing Association Academic Council (all AMA marketing professors). Additionally, he is the co-founder of the Journal of Research in Marketing and Entrepreneurship, the Panel Study of Entrepreneurial Dynamics (ERC/PSED) and is the Founder of Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization (CEO), an organization that serves students at 240 universities. Dr. Hill is responsible for some of the earliest research into Opportunity Recognition, as well as the first empirical study of Marketing/Entrepreneurship. He has more than 100 journal publications and has written and/or edited 25 books. Dr. Hill served as a team member of a U.S. Congressional Committee in Poland, working on three entrepreneurship projects after the fall of the Berlin Wall. He is responsible for teaching some of the earliest Ph.D. Seminars in Entrepreneurship and helped develop an award winning program at the University of Illinois at Chicago (1982-2009). He has received numerous awards and recognition including; Lifetime Award, Babson (2011) Entrepreneurship Research Conference; Academy of Management, Entrepreneurship Division, Advocacy/Leadership Award; U.S. Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Hughes Advocacy Leadership Award; 1st Academic Chair, U.S./SBA Small Business Development; Center Advisory Board, Washington (Reagan Administration); Wilfred White Fellows Award, International Council for Small Business.


2013 Award Winner

Alex F. DeNoble, Ph.D.
Professor, Management
Executive Director of SDSU’s Lavin Entrepreneurship Center

Alex F. DeNoble is a Professor in the Management Department in the College of Business at San Diego State University (SDSU). He is also Executive Director of SDSU’s Lavin Entrepreneurship Center. In addition to creating one of the leading university-based entrepreneurship programs in the world, he launched one of the first global collegiate business plan competitions. His primary areas of expertise include entrepreneurship and corporate innovation, technology commercialization and strategic management. He has conducted research in these areas and has taught related classes in the University's undergraduate, graduate and executive MBA programs. He has published articles in such journals as the Journal of Business Venturing, the Journal of High Technology Management Research, the Journal of Technology Transfer, International Marketing Review, and Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice.

His other professional activities encompass both executive training and strategic consulting. Recent assignments have included business plan development consulting for new and existing entrepreneurial firms, market research and analysis for technology-based companies and entrepreneurship training for Taiwanese, German, Russian, Japanese, Mexican, Middle Eastern and U.S. executives. Over the past several years, he has conducted training programs or consulted with such companies as Siemens Corporation, QUALCOMM, Delta Electronics (Taiwan), the U.S. Russia Center for Entrepreneurship, Banco Nacional de Commercio Exterior (the National Export Bank of Mexico), NEC Electronics USA, Shell Technology Ventures, and Orincon Technologies (now a part of Lockheed Martin). Dr. DeNoble is the recipient of several awards including the 2008 Monty Award from SDSU for Outstanding Faculty Contributions, 2004 Educator of the Year award from San Diego’s T-Sector Magazine; the 2001 Gloria and Edwin Appel Award from the Price-Babson Fellows program for excellence in entrepreneurship education, and the 2000 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.


2014 Award Winner

Candida G. Brush, Ph.D.
Chair, Entrepreneurship Division; Faculty Research Director, Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship, and Franklin W. Olin Distinguished Professor in Entrepreneurship

Dr. Candida Brush is well known for her pioneering research in women’s entrepreneurship. She conducted the first and largest study of women entrepreneurs in the early 1980s, resulting in one of the earliest books on the topic. Her continued research catalyzed studies and dissertations worldwide. With four other researchers she founded the Diana Project, a research consortium investigating women’s access to growth capital internationally. With her four co-researchers, she was named the 2007 recipient of the FSF - Swedish Research Foundation International Award for Outstanding Research Contributions in the Field of Entrepreneurship. Prentice Hall-Financial Times published their book, Clearing the Hurdles: Women Building High Growth Businesses (2004). From this research, she co-edited two other books, Growth-Oriented Women Entrepreneurs and their Businesses: A Global Research Perspective in 2006, and Women’s Entrepreneurship and Growth Influences: An International Perspective, in 2010.

Dr. Brush’s research investigates resource acquisition, strategy and financing of new ventures. She is the author of more than 120 articles published in scholarly journals including Journal of Business Venturing, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Strategic Management Journal, Journal of Management Learning and Education, Academy of Management Executive, and Annals of Political and Social Science. For her research work, she was recognized in 2007 by the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers as a 21st Century Entrepreneurship Scholar. Professor Brush’s research is often featured in noted popular media including the Wall Street Journal, Business Week on Line, the Boston Globe and Inc. She is a regular blogger on Forbes.com, and a frequent adviser to the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy on women’s entrepreneurship. Professor Brush served on the Board of Directors of the Center for Women’s Business Research, and the Executive Committee of Children Without Borders, a clinic in Costa Rica. She is a member of the Boston Harbor Angels investment group, serves on the board of many start-ups, and has coached and advised numerous start-up ventures.

Prior to joining Babson, Professor Brush was an Associate Professor of Strategy and Policy, Founder of the Council for Women’s Entrepreneurship and Leadership, and Research Director for the Entrepreneurial Management Institute at Boston University. Professor Brush had early entrepreneurial experience in the airline industry and small business consulting, and co-founded a land development company. She received her DBA from Boston University, an MBA from Boston College, and a BA from the University of Colorado.


2015 Award Winner

Ray Smilor

Dr. Raymond W. Smilor is the Robert and Edith Schumacher Executive Faculty Fellow in Innovation and Technology and Professor of Professional Practice at the Neeley School of Business at Texas Christian University. He is also Senior Fellow at the Center for Entrepreneurship in Moscow, Russia. He is Vice President for Development and serves on the board of directors of United States Association for Small Business Enterprise (USASBE). As an author, public speaker, investor, consultant and teacher, he has published extensively and worked with a range of start-up and growth companies. He is a sought-after motivational speaker and teaches and lectures internationally. He has managed major entrepreneurship development programs for the U.S. Department of State in North Africa and the Middle East and for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Russia. In 2011, USASBE presented him with the John E. Hughes Award for Entrepreneurial Advocacy for his work in advancing entrepreneurship worldwide.

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PO Box 117150
Gainesville, FL 32611-7150
Phone: 352.392.2397
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