University of Southern California

October 2, 2009 • by Jane Jelenko

Dear Friends of Marshall:

Yes, it's true. The turtle is anatomically built so that it cannot move forward without sticking its head out from its shell.  It takes some courage to move forward, in addition to a little vision.  At KPMG, I gave out Turtle Awards to reward the courage of creative thinking and not just success.  I knew the value of creative thinking, because I had learned it at the Marshall School of Business.

One professor epitomized for me an explosion of creative thought and caring action:  Dr. James Stancill.  Jim was diminutive, a pixie, a ball of energy.  Who else in 1969 would load his family into a Ford Falcon station wagon and drive the Pan Am Highway from Mexico to the Panama Canal?  Who else would consider the frequent breakdowns on dirt roads not as an imposition, but as an opportunity to meet new friends among the repairmen?

Jim loved to connect people.  He did it for me.  I got my MBA from USC Marshall attending night classes, while holding down my day job as a banker.  As a night student I couldn't attend meetings of the Finance Club.  That didn't stop Jim when the CEO of my bank came to speak to the Club.  He invited me to the meeting, told me to prepare my most brilliant question for the CEO, made sure I sat next to the man in the limo as we drove to have drinks at Julie's Bar afterwards, and peppered me with questions designed to impress the CEO, who by the end of the evening knew exactly who Jane Jelenko was.  That was Jim, a brilliant scholar and creative thinker, who taught more than one-third of USC's MBA students during his 43-year tenure.  When he passed away June 17, we all lost a friend. 

I'm writing now to ask the USC family to honor Jim's memory by connecting. Connect with the people who sat next to you while you learned the "Stancill Cash Flow Statement."  Connect with your professors, connect with current students -- be part of your own past and future.  It's worth sticking your head out from the shell.

Yours truly,

Jane Jelenko
MBA ‘76

Jane Jelenko was the first woman partner in the consulting arm of KPMG, the international professional services firm, where she served as the national industry director for the banking and finance group - a billion dollar revenue business - and on the firm’s board of directors. Often on the leading edge for women in her profession, Jane retired in 2003 and again found herself leading the charge, this time on the process of mid-life change. Her book, Changing Lanes: Road Maps to Midlife Renewal, is for anyone who is pondering "where am I going with my life?".”