The Yale Club is also the UVA Club.
Woodfolk, Mathisen, O'Neill, Mayo, Baker, Maanavi, and Connolly
One might not know that the Yale Club enforces a business casual dress code from the opulent suits and dresses worn by the UVA and Darden alumni gathered in the club’s mahogany furnished library for the 12th annual Financial Panel put on by the Darden Business School’s New York alumni chapter and the Virginia Club of New York.
As guests arrived at the $25-a-person event and availed themselves of wine and cheese, a cluster of young attendees listened to one of their cohorts recount in hushed tones the latest details surrounding the last-minute disappearance of millionaire investor and former Goldman Sachs partner Peter Kiernan. He was supposed to speak at this Thursday, June 14 panel discussion moderated by Tyler Mathisen, co-anchor of the popular CNBC business news show “Power Lunch.” Mathisen graduated from UVA in 1976.
As widely reported, just hours before his planned appearance, Kiernan became the first casualty from the move to oust UVA President Teresa Sullivan after an e-mail he wrote detailing his direct role in the process was leaked.
The fallout has been a firestorm of protest from faculty, state senators, and most recently, the UVA student body in the form of a new Facebook group that quickly garnered over 1,000 members aimed at demanding answers from the Board of Visitors. A day earlier, the UVA alumni magazine set up a site to post all the official statements.
“It seems clear that there were two very different viewpoints,” says a young woman named Lindsay, a 2007 graduate of UVA's undergraduate McIntire School of Commerce, referring to the “philosophical differences” between Sullivan and the UVA Board of Visitors alluded to by both sides in the first wave explanations.
Lindsay, noting that she had received several e-mails from different UVA leaders regarding Sullivan’s departure, added that it wasn’t clear precisely yet what those differences were.
If anyone were expecting fireworks at the first public meeting of UVA alums near the heart of the nation's financial capital, they would be sorely disappointed. Kiernan’s name was quietly yanked from the event on Thursday, the day the Dean of the Darden School read Kiernan's resignation letter at a town hall meeting of Darden staff and faculty back in Charlottesville.
The attendees at this New York event received what appeared to be a hastily reprinted program sans the former Goldman Sachs executive’s bio. Kiernan’s last-minute replacement showed up late, leaving the fifth seat on the panel ominously vacant for the first half of the panel discussion.
Michael Woodfolk, vice-president of alumni relations at Darden, made a vague allusion to the Sullivan debacle at UVA as he introduced Mathisen and the panel, although his remark didn’t elicit any obvious response from the approximately 50 attendees– most of whom appeared to be in their twenties or over 40, people making their first foray onto Wall Street and veterans of it.
“I think there’s great momentum at the University and at Darden, and there may be information in the news right about now," said Woodfolk. "It’s the elephant in the room, and we’re not going to hide from that.”
But then he moved on to happier topics.
“We’re fortunate because we have what is known to be the best school in the universe," said Woodfolk, "and we’re very proud of that.”
The roiling turmoil at UVA— and its alleged connection to Darden— was left untouched by panelists as well as by audience members during the Q&A. The discussion instead focused on investment strategies for a stagnant economy and volatile capital market. The panel was composed of Richard Mayo of Mayo Capital Partners, Barclays CEO Mike O’Neill, Jerry Connolly of High Yield Sales, Dariush Maanavi of Trysail Advisors, and youth mentor Ralph Baker, all of whom are Darden alumni.
Uncertainty was the panel’s watchword as the all-star investors and financiers discussed the ongoing European fiscal crisis, policy gridlock in Congress, and whether a double-dip recession was in the cards for the U.S. When the panel was asked what changes should be made at Darden, Maanavi offered one critique of the school that is regularly ranked in the top 10 of American MBA programs.
“I think Darden and other business schools do a horrible job of analyzing what’s going on currently and how to prepare people for the unpleasant discussions that are going to have to happen,” said Maanavi. He caveated that by acknowledging the difficulty of simultaneously preparing people to become investment bankers and warning them of the industry’s unstable state and added that he thought students at Darden should dedicate a whole day to discussing the statement “war is good for the economy.”
There were just two audience questions, and neither touched on the presidential debacle. Afterwards, a reporter asked Woodfolk about the response to Kiernan’s resignation from Darden alumni, and he responded with a frazzled and knowing nod, adding that he had been fielding calls and questions nonstop. He said that Kiernan was a close friend and described Kiernan's association with the Sullivan coup as “the risk you take when you lead.”
–more photos added Monday, June 18