My thoughts on Ashesi’s 10th
March 26, 2012, 4:46 pm
Filed under: 10th Anniversary

Dan Himelstein of UC Berkeley shares the story of his first encounter with Patrick Awuah – a memory he will never forget.

By Dan Himelstein

In early 1999, when I was the Director of the Undergraduate Program at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, a Haas MBA student asked for a meeting with me to discuss a start-up idea he had.  Although other faculty members and senior management at Haas knew of Patrick Awuah and his Ashesi University dream, I did not.  Part of the reason for that is that I was focused on undergraduates, but most of the reason was that I was managing a significant learning curve transition having just recently returned from the business world to my alma mater to run the program I graduated from and to teach as well.

So, in walks Patrick to our meeting with a big idea and even greater dreams and the need for lots of help to make it all work, and I am prepared to listen, provide some advice, and say good luck as my plate was full, not only with my new role at Haas, but with my own four year old international trade services company in Los Angeles that still required much of my attention.  And then Patrick lays out his Ashesi dream in an incredibly composed, commanding, and visionary way, and he has me immediately hooked, not only about Ashesi, but about him as a true leader of people as well.  Being an entrepreneur myself and having been involved in many start-ups in multiple capacities, I ask him a series of very difficult questions to not only test his resolve, but also my own positive reaction to the concept.  He passed with flying colors (and so did I).

Ultimately what Patrick wanted from me was my expertise with undergraduate business curriculum since the US based university advisory boards he was creating did not have lots of people with experience in this area.  I tried to convince him that my cumulative experience of less than a year did not qualify me as an expert , but he was more convincing than I.  So I agreed to join the Business Administration Academic Council at the Haas School as its Co-Chair along with Professor Rich Lyons, who is now the Dean at Haas.  And it is one of the decisions I am most proud of in my entire life.

Ashesi University simply reflects the true good in people, something that is more rare than we would all like it to be.  It also brings out the best in people, which is something that inspires others to dig deep and see what they are made of.  And for me personally, it is the start-up venture that gives me the most ongoing satisfaction and generates the most smiles, even though my active role in it was relatively short lived compared to the many other start-ups I have been involved with.  Patrick, thanks so much for knocking on my office door 13 years ago.  You gave me a life long gift!

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