Ken and Susan Meyer endow Notre Dame’s Business on the Frontlines initiative

Author: Dennis Brown

Mendoza College of Business

Since 2008, University of Notre Dame Master of Business Administration (MBA) students have collaborated with international humanitarian groups, multinational corporations and other organizations through the innovative Business on the Frontlines course to provide sustainable business solutions to today’s most pressing challenges.

Led by Viva Bartkus, associate professor of management at Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, students and faculty have worked on more than 50 projects in 30 countries through a three-pronged approach that combines business practices, academia and faith. Students engage in rigorous cross-disciplinary study and data-driven problem-solving that they then apply to real-world issues.

Thanks to a $15 million gift from Ken and Susan Meyer that will name and endow this signature program, Mendoza will be able to expand the program’s global and domestic reach and increase the number of MBA students who participate each year.

“Ken and Susan have been longtime and extraordinarily generous supporters of Notre Dame in many ways,” Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., Notre Dame’s president said. “We are deeply appreciative of a gift to enhance MBA courses that are among the most innovative in the country, and that reflect the mission of Notre Dame.”

Martijn Cremers, the Martin J. Gillen Dean of the Mendoza College of Business, added: “The Notre Dame MBA aims to educate business leaders who contribute to human flourishing by serving others, who cooperate with all stakeholders in solidarity, especially with those with the greatest needs, and who compete with excellence, both externally in the marketplace and internally toward the best version of themselves. The Meyer Business on the Frontlines Program is exemplary in how it integrates and delivers on all of these goals. I could not be more grateful to Ken Meyer for his friendship toward the University, and especially for this gift, which will transform the lives of our MBA students, Meyer Frontlines partners and everyone they serve for generations to come.”

Now in its 13th year, Business on the Frontlines sends students across the globe — from Colombia to Cambodia, Egypt to Ethiopia and Bosnia to Bolivia. Many of the projects have focused on agriculture, infrastructure and mining — economic sectors that in the wake of conflict often can absorb large numbers of unskilled workers. The students also have tackled issues such as unemployment, health and sanitation and human trafficking.

Through the Meyer Business on the Frontlines Program, Mendoza aims to offer this opportunity to about 100-plus MBA students annually, and improve the lives of thousands of people around the world.

“We are truly fortunate to have such incredible support from the Meyer family. For over a decade, through the Business on the Frontlines program, MBA students served partners on their toughest challenges in societies ravaged by conflict and deep poverty — thanks to the support of generous benefactors in the Notre Dame family,” Bartkus said. “This incredibly generous gift will ensure that even more students will continue on this journey of discovery as they put their business skills into action to serve vulnerable communities around the world and here in the U.S. for many years to come.”

A 1966 Notre Dame graduate, Meyer has played a pivotal role in helping the college attract world-class MBA applicants to Notre Dame. In 2010, he established the Kenneth R. Meyer Fellowships, creating an elite cohort of MBA students recruited each year from the top 3 percent of all MBA applicants worldwide. As the program embarks on its second decade, it has supported more than 70 MBA students.

“Our world order is particularly vulnerable right now, mid-year 2020,” Ken Meyer said. “The pandemic’s impact has been particularly harsh on the less fortunate among us worldwide. The Meyer Business on the Frontlines Program will provide our students an opportunity to confront these issues first hand, work directly with the people impacted, and provide practical, affordable business solutions. What a wonderful opportunity for all of us to actually improve less fortunate peoples’ lives!”

The Meyers’ previous philanthropy to Notre Dame includes the Kenneth R. Meyer Professor of Global Investment Management (a position currently held by former Mendoza Dean Roger Huang) and the Robert and Ardelle Meyer Scholarship, named in honor of his parents. Since the scholarship’s establishment in 1992, it has supported more than 74 undergraduate students.

Meyer retired as chairman and CEO of Lincoln Capital Management Company in 2004. He founded the firm’s fixed income management organization in 1981 and negotiated the sale of the company in June of 2004.  Previously, Meyer worked for the Harris Bank from 1968 to 1981. He managed the institutional fixed income business and was serving as senior vice president responsible for all institutional asset management by the time of his departure.

Meyer has served as the director of LINK Unlimited, a minority education program in Chicago and on the Finance Council of the Archdiocese of Chicago.  He is a director of the Homestead Mutual Fund Family as well as Golden Paws Assistance Dogs in Naples, Florida.  A member of the CFA Society of Chicago and a Chartered Financial Analyst, he was awarded the Hortense Freidman Award for lifetime achievement in the industry in 2006.

Meyer earned his MBA from the Wharton School of Finance in 1968 and has served as a key member of the Mendoza Business Advisory Council.