Tiffany Capuano 2014-05-09 05:09:45
“I knew then that this was my calling” Thomas and Barbara Hughes have always been givers. The couple’s philanthropic activities have spanned their lifetimes – in business and abroad – but their latest effort is benefiting business students in the Michael J. Coles College of Business. In December 2013, the Hughes donated $500,000 to the University to fund the Hughes Leadership and Career Program in the Coles College, which will provide a unique blended advisement program combining academic and career guidance for business students. “Barbara and I are very sensitive to the current job market, and we want to give KSU business school graduates every advantage to be successful in finding employment,” said Tom Hughes, a former business owner and philanthropist. Connecting to campus Tom admits that he had never been to Kennesaw State University until he met Tim Mescon, former dean for the university’s business college, back in the mid-2000s. Tom was eager to finish the MBA he started at another state university – one that he put on hold while he traveled for work and moved out of state for a few years. During a successful business career, Tom earned his MBA in 2008, and was soon asked to serve on advisory boards for the university. He is a member of the KSU Foundation Board of Trustees and serves on the Coles College of Business Advisory Board, where he was selected Board Member of the Year in 2010 and 2013. In 2011, he was named a Coles College entrepreneur-in-residence. “Serving on the advisory board of Coles College gave me the opportunity to help the College and Dean Kathy Schwaig roll out this important program to students,” Tom said. Building a new future Outside the university, Tom and Barbara serve on the advisory board for the Alliance for Children Everywhere, Inc. (ACE), a nonprofit organization that operates three rescue homes for abandoned infants, orphans and young children in crisis in Zambia, Africa. Before he was first invited to serve on the board, Tom was asked to visit the ACE facilities. Instead, he sent Barbara. In Zambia, she visited the House of Moses, a rescue home for orphaned and abandoned infants. That was 15 years ago, and she’s been going back every year since. “I knew then that this was my calling,” Barbara said. For the past 12 years, Barbara has headed an annual mission trip to Zambia, taking a team of 20 volunteers to the “poorest of poor” areas where they distribute milk and medicine. “I ask the team to bring a journal and write each day, what they did, what was heartbreaking and what was breathtaking,” she said. “It is so enlightening and gratifying, not just in who we are helping, but in watching change in the people who go to volunteer.” ACE, in partnership with the Christian Alliance for Children in Zambia, built a new school for middle and high school students in Lusaka, Zambia. The couple were instrumental in ensuring high school graduates have caps and gowns at commencement and bringing Kennesaw State faculty to the school to help assess areas for curriculum improvement. Hard at work Tom knows the importance of improvement. He spent more than 30 years buying, selling and operating 10 different companies. He purchased his first company in 1984 – Pioneer Business Group, a business forms printing operation with plants in Washington and Colorado, where he served as chief financial officer. “I’d use the profits of one to start another,” said Tom, who was the CEO/president and part owner of National Electronic Attachment, Inc., a company that processes and stores electronic attachments for the healthcare industry. “And put it all on the line again,” chimed in Barbara. “But there’s risk to any business.” She understood risk all too well. Barbara worked alongside Tom for 20 years, serving as vice president of administration for many of the companies he operated. Together, they were involved in a multitude of companies that dealt with electronic claims, processing or management systems for dental or healthcare practices. On the home front While the Hughes’ global involvement continues to grow, the couple knows the impact that education and generosity can have on individuals. Barbara worked for Spartanburg Technical College for several years, overseeing the continuing education division, and helping college students with career development. It’s that background in higher education that piqued her interest in helping Coles’ business students. “Through their generous gift, the new program will enable us to provide our students with the help they need to develop and build strong professional skills that will distinguish them in the marketplace,” said Kathy Schwaig, dean of the Coles College. “Tom is not only a valued supporter of the Coles College, but he has become a friend and dedicated partner.” That support of Kennesaw State has come in many forms over the years. Their philanthropic efforts reached a classroom in Fall 2013 when Tom taught a graduate-level course, the Business of Philanthropy, designed to help business leaders and entrepreneurs learn how to effectively manage philanthropic gifts. Students were required to conduct extensive research on a charity or nonprofit of their choice. Hughes then made $1,000 donations in each student’s name to his or her selected charity. In 2010, he bought all 601 Coles College graduates memberships to the Alumni Association. He has hired interns from Kennesaw State to work at his companies. The Hughes believe the Hughes Leadership and Career Program will ensure Coles graduates are more able to compete for jobs among qualified candidates, by teaching undergraduates about interviewing, networking, business etiquette and employer expectations before graduation. “We want this program to impact graduates. We want them to be more ready for job interviews,” Tom said. Whether the Hughes are giving students the tools to be great philanthropists or successful career leaders, their position as role models for philanthropic giving – of their time, talent and treasure – is just a nod to their own charitable hearts.
Published by Kennesaw State / Kennesaw State University Magazine. View All Articles.
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