- IMD Business School
Alumni Stories · Leadership

John F. Gallagher reflects on the IMD MBA in his past and present

1976 MBA Alum on why IMD is special, his daughter following in his footsteps, and why he’s giving back
November 2017

John F. Gallagher is Vice President at Buckman, Buckman and Reid Inc., leading investment banking and capital placement firm. His career has taken him from prestigious finance firms in Geneva and London to Singapore and Hong Kong before landing him where he is now in New York. IMD caught up with John recently to discuss his continued involvement with the IMD MBA.

John Gallagher first became aware of IMD—or IMEDE as it was known—around 1975 when his 10-year spanning professional basketball career brought him to Europe. After having completed university at Notre Dame in the US on a basketball scholarship, he went on to pursue his sport in France and then Morges, a short jaunt from IMD’s campus in Lausanne. The school would become the stepping stone to a long and successful career in the finance sector. John says he is grateful to those who were a part of his journey and is proud to still share ties to IMD in more ways than one.

Divine connections

Recently while he and his wife were visiting a historical residence in the UK, John received a phone call from his daughter, Candice, who was touring the Vatican and had just exited the Sistine Chapel. She was excited to tell her father that she had been freshly accepted to IMD’s MBA program for the class of 2018. Pleased, John replied: “All I can say dear is: divine inspiration.”

Although Candice was considering other schools, John had asked her just to look at IMD as one of the possible contenders because he says “I have always considered it a special place.” Finally IMD won out because Candice thought it would provide an excellent avenue toward her future. Also factoring in was that the program was one year, it had a strong focus on leadership and management development, and that IMD is located in the heart of Europe.

“Watching IMD and where it’s going, I don’t think there could be many better places for my daughter to take the next step in her career. I feel IMD is a very personalized and nurturing environment. Just look at the numbers; there are 90 students at IMD compared to several hundred per class at many of the other schools,” says John.

Giving back

John’s ongoing relationship with IMD isn’t limited to his daughter. His class of 1976 is now in the final stages of setting up an MBA scholarship so that a young manager with the right mind-set and experience will have the same opportunity that he and his classmates did.

The scholarship will be merit-based and will be awarded to a member of the incoming class immediately following the selection process. John says he thinks the scholarship will contribute to strengthening the flow of outstanding incoming candidates. IMD is currently in negotiations with classes from other years to offer similar scholarships.

The scholarship efforts have been given a strong push by Staton Woods (CEO and Chairman of the Board of Arcos Dorados), another of several 1976 MBA alumni who went on to lead long and successful careers. John has been an enthusiastic backer of the initiative but that is just part of his nature. John is a long-time supporter of education, with the majority of his philanthropic activities going toward primary and secondary school students from disadvantaged families in the Brooklyn area of New York City. “I am passionate about education and I know it’s one of the only ways young kids from difficult backgrounds can change their trajectory,” he says.

He also supports his Alma Mater, Notre Dame, and says he has never missed an official reunion, there or at IMD.

Opening doors

When asked what role IMD played in how his career unfolded, John says that he has thought a lot about that over the years.

“I have a lot of nostalgia for my time in Lausanne. But that said you’re loyal to people not to institutions. In addition to what I learned at IMD and where that was able to help take me, it was the people at both IMD and Notre Dame who helped me arrive where I am today.”

John said the connections he made at IMD were influential and he remembers one chance meeting in particular that made a mark.

“IMD’s connections have always been exceptional. In my time at the school, I remember meeting David Darst, the head of Goldman Sachs, Zurich by chance on a break from class. I loved everything he had to say. He’s still in the industry. He now runs Morgan Stanley’s asset management. That was my intro to the business and I just loved it. I would never have been in the position to talk to him or any of the consulting, industrial, and brokerage firms that I was exposed to at IMD. My education there was a huge door opener,” he says.

In addition to giving him a pathway into businesses in the finance world that he was interested in and has pursued ever since, he says it also gave him a level of confidence that he would have never had otherwise.

“I came from a sports and academic background, having also been a teacher, I would not have been prepared for the world of finance that I was entering, had it not been for IMD.”

Women in the MBA

Looking to the next chapter ahead with his daughter Candice preparing to enter the IMD MBA, John shared his memories of his time in the program when there was only one female participant.

“Her name was Margaret Cove Evans. She was definitely a pioneer. Coming to the program she was looking to change directions. Arriving in an all-male environment was a real challenge. Margaret made some of the best contributions to our class.”

John says he hopes now, as he wished then, that there were more women represented in MBA classes in order to bring more diversity of thought about life in general and specifically in relation to the business world. He says he is pleased that IMD strives to increase the number of women in its ranks and is hopeful for the future.

On his ongoing commitment to IMD John sums up: “I have been fortunate throughout my life and I feel it’s important to give back and that’s why I am still involved and contribute.”

Related links:

An interview with IMD’s incoming MBA Dean

IMD’s MBA ranks first in Forbes 2017

MBA Alumnus and Club President in Brazil, Diego Barreto tells how IMD shaped his career