James E. Nevels receives Musser Award for 2004
Nevels, founder of The Swarthmore Group, led the Philadelphia School District’s turnaround
James E. Nevels, chairman of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission and founder and chairman of The Swarthmore Group, received the 2004 Musser Award for Excellence in Leadership from The Fox School of Business and Management at a dinner on Oct. 27. The dinner, held on Main Campus, was attended by members of the Greater Philadelphia business community.
The Fox School chose Nevels for this prestigious award because of his outstanding business success, as well as his leadership in urban education reform as chairman of the School Reform Commission of Philadelphia. His leadership in Philadelphia is receiving national recognition.
Announcing the award, Fox School Dean M. Moshe Porat said, “Jim Nevels is an outstanding and rare role model of excellence in leadership at the regional and national levels.
“Coming from humble beginnings, he is a phenomenal example of how education can change a life, and then how that individual can change fundamental institutions. His commitment of time, energy and effort to the needs of our community is making a real difference in the lives of thousands of children,” Porat added.
In 1991, Nevels founded The Swarthmore Group, an independent investment and financial advisory firm that has grown to be one of the largest minority-owned firms in the United States and among the 500 largest asset management firms in the country.
Nevels has used his many business and professional leadership skills to serve the needs of the Greater Philadelphia community. In 1998, Gov. Tom Ridge appointed him to a three-person board of control for the Chester-Upland School District.
Nevels served on that board until 2001, administering the $65 million budget of the state-declared financially distressed school district.
Because of his work with the Chester-Upland district, in December 2001, Gov. Mark Schweiker appointed him chairman of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission. Working with the commission’s $1.8 billion budget, Nevels has led the turnaround of the financially distressed Philadelphia school system, the fifth-largest school district in the United States.
Nevels epitomizes the Musser Award’s ethic that exceptional achievement in business and exceptional effort on behalf of the community are compatible, mutually supportive goals. The Musser Award, now in its eighth year, was named to honor its first recipient, Warren V. (Pete) Musser, founder of Safeguard Scientifics and chairman of the Musser Group, who endowed the award in 1998.
Nevels joins a distinguished list of previous Musser Award recipients that includes Dennis Alter, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Advanta Corporation; Sidney Kimmel, founder and former chairman of Jones Apparel Group; Willard G. Rouse III, former chairman, CEO and president of Liberty Property Trust; William Avery, retired chairman and CEO of Crown Cork & Seal; Felix Zandman, chairman and CEO of Vishay Intertechnology Inc; and John C. Bogle, founder and former chairman of The Vanguard Group.
The Musser dinner also recognized achievement by members of The Fox School community in teaching, faculty service, administrative service, student leadership and alumni leadership. Those winners include:
• Teaching: Deanna Geddes, associate professor, department of human resource management.
• Research: Gary J. Blau, department chairman and professor, department of human resource management.
• Faculty service: Heibatollah Sami, professor, department of accounting.
• Administrative service: Helen H. Robinson, director, undergraduate student services.
• Student leadership: Paul Gaspari.
• Alumni achievement: Barry Braun, managing partner, Goldenberg Rosenthal LLP.
Proceeds from the dinner support the Dean’s Fund for Excellence. The fund aids programs that add significant value to learning at The Fox School, among them the Dean’s Undergraduate Research Scholars Program.
Leveraging The Fox School’s international reputation for excellence in teaching and research, this program enables highly motivated and meritorious business honors students to conduct meaningful research throughout their undergraduate careers.
Mentored by experienced research faculty, these undergraduate research scholars receive annual scholarships to work on research relevant to their career goals. They enjoy unique opportunities to access high-level internships, prepare for advanced work at the graduate level and earn research course credits that will enhance their applications to top graduate schools.
- By Lisa Z. Meritz
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