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Driven by a burning desire to succeed in a competitive workforce, four remarkable alumni from Arizona State University have gone above and beyond in their professional careers to create positive change and develop transformative innovations.
“In the corporate world, successful people are never one-dimensional,” said Peter Charron, vice president of sustaining engineering at Navis, who believes his mathematics education from ASU prepared him to succeed.
The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has invited these four outstanding alumni back for the revival of the CLAS Leaders program during the university’s homecoming festivities, Nov. 12-14. These distinguished individuals — Charron, James Hutcheson, Karrin Kunasek Taylor and Richard Sher — reflect the breadth of the arts and sciences and represent a growing network of successful alumni in prominent positions of influence.
“People who study liberal arts and social sciences have a broad skill set that can carry them in any number of different directions,” said Hutcheson, founder of ReGeneration Partners, a niche consulting firm for family-owned businesses. “It fosters a love of learning, and that’s exactly what happened to me.”
Hutcheson, who earned degrees in psychology and sociology, has advised more than 130 family entrepreneurs across a wide range of industries on how to resolve conflict, improve communication and plan for future successes. He has also written two books, published about 150 articles, served on more than 30 different boards of directors and has given more than 250 presentations on the subject of family-owned and managed companies.
“My view is that a liberal arts and social sciences degree is critical to developing thinking skills,” Hutcheson said.
Richard Sher, president and CEO of Sher Plastics, believes the development of those thinking skills has allowed him to adapt to the constantly evolving demands of the world’s dynamic workforce.
Sher received one of ASU’s first interdisciplinary degrees in design and business through the university's home economics program in 1974. The critical and analytical thinking skills gained from his hybrid education encouraged him to adopt new technologies and create cutting-edge designs for his third-generation family business, which is now one of the top three button distributors in the country.
“As the world becomes more complicated,” Sher said, “you have to become innovative.”
Taking risks and being innovative also propelled Charron, a vice president at Navis, to increase the efficiency of cargo shipping terminals worldwide.
“I learned to reason,” said Charron, who received a master’s degree in mathematics.
Charron said he realizes the value of his liberal arts and sciences degree every day. Imparted with essential critical thinking skills, he was able to flourish in his field and become a leader in software design and marine terminal operations.
“I get great pleasure out of seeing a concept converge from a muddled idea to clarity and then reality … (like) the optimized ballet of movement in a mega-port,” he said.
Karrin Kunasek Taylor, who received bachelor’s degrees in history and political science and a Juris Doctor at ASU, is passionate about improving the lives of Arizonans by turning community development plans into reality.
Taylor is the executive vice president at local real estate development firm DMB Associates, where she helps transform concept designs into master-planned communities that respect the land like the DC Ranch residential and commercial community in Scottsdale.
“I want to help make Arizona a better place to live, work and play,” she said.
As these leaders return to campus for homecoming, they’re excited to see how the university has transformed, but most importantly to share their stories with current students.
“It means a lot to me to be able to be a role model for other ASU students and show them that through hard work, persistence and a passion for what you do always tends to pay off,” Taylor said.