Featured Advisory Board Member: John C. O’Hara


August 20, 2013 | Angie Barker

Our IAH Advisory Board comprises alumni and IAH Friends who serve as strategic advisors and ambassadors for IAH programs and activities. John C. O’Hara of New York, NY served as Chair of the IAH Advisory Board from 2007-2011 and remains an active supporter and member of our Board today. His involvement with the Institute began, fittingly, with a conversation.

“I first learned of the existence of this guy named Ruel Tyson (IAH Founder and Director Emeritus) through an introduction by then Advisory Board Chair Sherwood Smith. We had lunch and the rest is history – I was hooked.”

He was immediately drawn in by the level of creative inquiry that sparked questions and discussions unlike those he had witnessed on campus.

“The IAH is important because it allows provocative collaboration and fosters conversations that simply would never happen in any other University setting. Since my first lunch with Ruel, the term ‘to be continued’ has been used to end all of our conversations.”

Supporting peers and mentoring future leaders is an integral part of IAH programs, and as John sees it, “The young learn from the old and the old get wiser from being close to their own. ‘Yes, but’ as opposed to ‘Yes, sir’ is what happens within Hyde Hall. It is a place where most young faculty remember hearing Dick Richardson tell a story for the first time. The IAH is that nurturing class for the unwashed faculty; the University’s Statue of Liberty. The Institute is the glue that binds the lives of the faculty.”

Reflecting back on his own experience at UNC, John remembers one professor in particular who made a difference in his life and helped shaped his career. “A great university is only as great as its faculty who are molding the minds of its young people. Great teachers pay huge dividends over their lifetimes. Lloyd Kramer, Joe Templeton, Pat Parker have literally changed lives. For me, that teacher was Harold Langenderfer. As a non-quantitative person, I entered UNC in 1977 in hopes of earning an MBA. A few things stood in my way, but the one large roadblock was Financial Accounting. Dr. Langenderfer brought Financial Accounting to life and it literally changed my life. Never since has any balance sheet, income statement or annual report posed a threat. He gave me the weapon and showed me how to use it.”

There are many opportunities for alumni to give back and support the next generation of learners. Private funds are essential to fulfill our mission as we face challenges head-on and serve as an intellectual crossroads at UNC, and we are so grateful for the generosity of our Friends of the Institute like John. We could not do what we do without the support of our donors, and we’re proud of how the conversation and camaraderie forged here at the IAH extends beyond the University borders. As John explains:

“For me, giving means service. And that goes far beyond simply writing a check, because the returns to the donor are immense. Obviously serving on the IAH Board is one small form of service, but for my wife Cyndy and me, sponsoring ‘salons’ at our home which brought together alums, professors and administrators has made a difference in our lives. I feel sure that the other participants would say the same. As I have said, the IAH is the big tent on campus where John Kao’s wicked problems can be discussed provocatively and safely. That conversation happens every day in Hyde Hall, and for supporters of the University, that same conversation can happen at your kitchen table. In my experience, those conversations have been transformative.”

John C. O’Hara, Jr. is a Senior Advisor and Managing Director of Rockefeller & Co. John focuses on strategic initiatives of the Company’s Asset Management Division. Prior to joining Rockefeller in 2011, John served as Chief Operating Officer of Franklin Street Partners, an independent wealth management firm based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. John previously worked as a Managing Director in the Investment Management Division of Goldman Sachs, as well as of the Commodities Corporation, which was acquired by Goldman Sachs in 1997. John received an M.B.A. from the Kenan-Flagler Business School of the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. John serves as a Trustee of the National Humanities Center, a board member of the Institute for the Arts & Humanities at UNC, as President of the Kenan-Flagler Business School Foundation and as a member of the Board of Governors of UNC Press.


Categories: Alumni, Giving, News

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