September 14, 2009

The Park at Manderson Landing Honors Lewis and Faye Manderson

It was 1987, and the graduate division of the Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration at The University of Alabama was about to undergo a series of changes that would transform it into one of the nation’s most respected public graduate business schools.

The catalyst for the changes was a pledge of $1 million from Lewis Manderson, a highly successful businessman who was the University’s first million-dollar donor.

“We would not be where we are today as a business school, a university and a community without Lewis Manderson,” says Dr. J. Barry Mason, dean of the business school. “He has been invaluable as a counselor, a friend and a benefactor.”

In recognition of Manderson’s many contributions, the previously unnamed business graduate school became the Manderson Graduate School of Business in 1987. Since then, it has received national recognition as an institution that ranks high in return on investment.

While enrollment in the graduate school has grown steadily (from 344 in 1987 to 505 in 2008), it is the quality of the education that stands out. As early as 1992, Business Week magazine named the MBA program one of 20 quality business schools in the nation that offer consumers “the most bang for the buck.”

During these difficult economic times, it is worth noting that in the past four years, the Manderson Graduate School of Business has tripled the amount of scholarship awards for which students compete. Much of that scholarship money comes from Lewis and Faye Manderson.

In The Princeton Review rankings for 2008, the Manderson Graduate School of Business MBA Program was ranked in the top 10 nationally in the following areas: fourth for “Best Campus Facilities,” eighth for “Best Administration" and ninth for “Best Classroom Experience.”

Forbes magazine recently ranked the Manderson MBA Program 40th in the nation, placing it among the top 10 percent of public MBA programs, and U.S. News and World Report recently ranked the Manderson Graduate School of Business 29th in the nation.

“I am really proud of the graduate business school, and I am proud that it carries my name,” Manderson says. “When I read about some of the successes of the business school and the students, it’s really fun for me. Dean Barry Mason is a great guy, and he has meant the world to the school.

“I think educating people has a lot to do with solving the problems of our world, our country and our state,” Manderson says. “If we are educated, we have a better understanding of each other. A lot of things are done wrong because the individuals responsible—for whatever reason—did not get the knowledge or the education they should have gotten. To solve that, you have to start by educating people.”

A Rags-to-Riches Epic

Manderson is an advertising and venture-capital executive and president of Manderson and Associates Inc. in Atlanta. His success story is a true rags-to-riches epic.

“I was born in Cordova, Ala., a little cotton and coal mining town,” Manderson says. “My dad was a worker in a cotton mill there, a machinist. No one in my family was anything close to a salesman.”

But it was sales that launched and sustained the Manderson career and brought him his success.

After graduating from high school in Cordova, Manderson attended The University of Alabama for a couple of years. “I wasn’t a great student,” he says.

Always recognized as a hard worker, Manderson started his professional career as a car salesman, selling Pontiacs in Tuscaloosa. He moved into selling billboard advertisements and was successful enough that he eventually bought the billboard company.

Long-time friend Charles Renfroe, in his book, “What Are You Working on Big?,” says, “Lewis was an adroit and prodigious worker and, in just a few years, he had tripled the business and its value. Lewis was a very charismatic person, and he knew exactly what he wanted, where he was headed and had the plan to get there.”

A Successful Career

Manderson experienced early success in the outdoor advertising business, eventually founding Creative Displays Inc., one of the largest outdoor advertising companies in the United States. In 1983, Manderson sold Creative Displays, continuing in business as president of Manderson and Associates, a private investment company in Atlanta. Manderson served as chair of two national organizations, the Outdoor Advertising Association of America and the Institute of Outdoor Advertising. He also served as chair of the Alabama Outdoor Advertising Association.

Manderson teamed with Jerry Schmidt in 1989 to form the venture capital firm Cordova Capital, now Cordova Ventures. “As the senior partner and co-founder of Cordova Capital and later Cordova Ventures, Lewis Manderson led the very successful Cordova team in structuring multiple investments in privately held companies in the telecom, health care and financial services industries,” Schmidt says. “His leadership style of fairness and high integrity still guides Cordova,s investing style today.”

As the founder of Atlanta,s fourth-largest venture capital firm, Manderson is enjoying the fruits of his labor. “I do some community work and take care of some of my own affairs, and I have some good buddies around here.”

Of his generosity to UA, Manderson says, “It is only natural that I would do something like this. I lived in Tuscaloosa for 30 years, and I served on several boards at the University. It is about the only allegiance I have.”

Impacting the Future

During the years Manderson called Tuscaloosa home, he was president of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, chair of the local United Way campaign and chair of the Tuscaloosa YMCA’s enrollment campaign.

His UA affiliations include membership in the President’s Cabinet, the Board of Visitors of the Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration, and Commerce Executives Society. Manderson received an honorary doctorate from UA in 1984 and was inducted into the Alabama Business Hall of Fame in 1994.

Mrs. Manderson, a native of Chattanooga, focused on raising their family, volunteering in community affairs and assisting Mr. Manderson in grant-making from their foundation. “

Lewis and Faye Manderson are making an extraordinary investment in the lives of our students and the future of our University,” says UA President Robert E. Witt. “The Mandersons’ generosity will leave a lasting legacy for which The University of Alabama will be eternally grateful.”

Choosing to support UA during and after their lifetimes, the Mandersons will have donated more than $12 million to the University through outright and estate gifts. The majority of their gifts to date support the operation of the Manderson Graduate School of Business, including scholarships, student recruitment efforts, career services and alumni relations.

In addition to the graduate school, a portion of the Manderson gift will go to the “Our Students. Our Future.” capital campaign. The Mandersons are the third largest donor to the University.

“Faye and I are pleased to partner with the University in educating and supporting the brightest business leaders of today and tomorrow,” Manderson says. “We want our gift to support many generations of The University of Alabama family and continue a tradition of academic excellence at the Capstone.”

Considering the long and generous relationship Manderson has had with The University of Alabama, it is only fitting that one of the major and most beautiful portals to the University be named in his honor. The park and the opening to the north side of campus will become The Park at Manderson Landing in recognition of the many doors that Manderson, 83, and his wife have opened to UA graduate students and the many civic contributions they have made to the community.

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