New CEOs of the Year are recognized.
Doug Ulman, President & CEO, Pelotonia
About: Raises money to end cancer by supporting the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center—James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Center; totaling more than $156 million since its founding in 2008. The 2017 event raised a record $26.2 million.
In position:Since 2014
Previous: President & CEO, chief mission officer and director of survivorship, the LIVESTRONG Foundation; founder, the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults
Doug Ulman has been in Columbus barely three years, but he is a long-time protégé of one of the area's iconic leaders—former Ohio State University President Gordon Gee.
“Gordon was the president at Brown University when I was there,” Ulman says. Ulman was a student who responded to his own sarcoma diagnosis by creating and leading a nonprofit to fight cancer.
“Gordon's first wife had just passed away from cancer. He and I became very close and we stayed very close,” he says. “His ability to communicate with his constituencies and build community and inspire bigger ideas is something I've always looked up to.”
That experience may have tilted Ulman's leadership focus to fighting cancer, but it wasn't his first position of authority. The Maryland native served his local school board as the student member and was captain of his soccer team. He was not yet 30 when he took over the LIVESTRONG Foundation in Austin, Texas, which began as the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
The president and CEO of Pelotonia is Columbus CEO's 2017 CEO of the Year for large nonprofits.
Ulman's experience personifies a lesson he learned from another early mentor, the late Hamilton Jordan, who distinguished himself in the administration of President Jimmy Carter. Ulman was 20 when he met Jordan, who battled cancer four times, at an oncology conference.
“He always used to tell me, ‘Doug, I was 29 years old and I was the chief of staff in the White House. Age doesn't matter. Don't feel like you have to wait your turn or wait for some other experience before taking on a leadership role.' I'll never forget that,” Ulman says.
Ulman's position with Pelotonia fits perfectly with his personal passion: “I love attempting to bring people together to try to do something that none of us can do on our own. I fully realize that most things in life that are significant cannot be achieved by one person. You have to bring diverse groups of thinking and backgrounds together to solve problems, and I love doing that.”
But Ulman concedes his appetite for conquering steep peaks is also his “consistent flaw over time. … Because I honestly, truly believe that anything is possible, I oftentimes have a hard time saying no. I see the possibilities and I see that potential impact we could have, but sometimes that leads to ‘indigestion of opportunity,'” a judgment Ulman says he earned in a meeting once with Good to Great author Jim Collins.
Pelotonia's goal to end cancer is reasonably challenging for Ulman.
“One of the things I loved about the opportunity to come to Columbus—who would have thought that 10 years ago people would have (decided), ‘Let's all get on bikes and raise millions and millions of dollars. And then let's not be satisfied with that; let's do more.' To me, that's the exciting thing, being able to think really big and then try to achieve things that seem impossible.”
Another lesson from his role models is “surrounding yourself with people who are smarter than you, and listening to them.”
He continues, “We have a saying in our world: If the CEO of the organization knows more about fundraising than the head of fundraising, then we're in trouble. If the CEO knows more about finance than the CFO, then we're in trouble. We want the best and brightest people in every role, and leadership is about assembling a team of people that are brighter, smarter and add more value.”
Ulman credits his parents with instilling an interest in leadership in him. Though not CEO-types, Ulman says they got involved in things that mattered to them. They taught him and his brother, “Don't wait for somebody else to speak up or to fill a void or do something in the community. If you have an opportunity, you should take it.”
Large Nonprofit Finalists
Guy Worley, President and CEO, CDDC/Capital South
If Guy Worley is an artist, his canvas is the Downtown Columbus cityscape. As the president and chief executive officer of two entities—Columbus Downtown Development Corporation and Capitol South Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation—he has done much to improve the urban face.
Worley has held his dual role since 2007, a decade that saw the iconic Lazarus Building morph into offices with street-level restaurants; the former City Center Mall redeveloped as the John F. Wolfe Columbus Commons with parkland flanked by apartments, offices and shops; and creation of the Scioto Mile and Scioto Greenways, adding more urban greenspace for festivals and recreation. The latter projects all won national recognition.
Still in the works under Worley's leadership are development of the new National Veterans Memorial and Museum on W. Broad Street with a new underground parking garage topped by a new park across the street on the Scioto Peninsula.
Before heading CDDC and Capitol South, Worley was chief of staff for former Mayor Michael Coleman and county administrator for the Franklin County Commissioners.
He also teaches at Ohio State University's John Glenn College of Public Affairs.
Michael Drake, MD, President, The Ohio State University
Dr. Michael Drake brought several decades of higher education leadership to OSU when he became president in 2014.
Drake was an ophthalmology professor and a senior associate dean for two decades at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine before serving five years as a vice president for health affairs for the UC system's 15 health sciences schools on seven campuses. He then served as chancellor of the University of California, Irvine, for nearly 10 years before coming to OSU.
Since Drake has been at Ohio State, the university has set records in applications, graduation rates, academic excellence,diversity and donor support,and has also earned recognition for excellence in patient safety and clinical outcomes at the OSU Wexner Medical Center.
A strategic plan launched in August sets goals in five areas: teaching and learning; access, affordability and excellence; research and creative expression; academic healthcare; and operational excellence and resource stewardship.
A New York City native, Drake also plays guitar and teaches an undergraduate course on the music of the civil rights movement. He is a board member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc.
Melanie Corn, President, CCAD
Melanie Corn is an art historian by training and has made history herself as the first female president of the Columbus College of Art & Design.
Becoming president of CCAD in 2016 was Corn's second academic leadership position. She came to Columbus from San Francisco, where she had served the California College of the Arts as provost, the chief academic officer. At CCA, Corn strengthened faculty development and implemented new degree programs.
CCAD offers fine arts degrees in 12undergraduate majors and two master's programs. The private institution has an enrollment of more than 1,000 undergraduate students.
Corn's academic and pedagogic work combines interests in contemporary visual culture and theories of gender and sexuality, and her graduate art history work focused on the visual crisis of the AIDS epidemic.
As president at CCAD, Corn sets the vision and tone for the college. Her position allows Corn to ensure that the fine arts college has educational programs that are strategic and relevant, that long-term institutional viability and sustainability are safeguarded and that connections continue to grow between the college and its constituencies—alumni, business, civic and community.
Mary Yost is the editor.