2016 Outstanding Director Awards
It is impossible to quantify the value a director brings to a board and the organization it serves. Most board directors hold a uniquely wide perspective, having gleaned hard-won wisdom from decades of experience within their own industry and, typically, multiple other industries and nonprofit endeavors. This is the case with this year’s Outstanding Directors, who have founded or led large organizations, as well as given their passion and resources to nonprofit efforts.
Presented in conjunction with the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD), our Outstanding Directors go beyond fiduciary oversight, helping companies and nonprofits engage in long-term, strategic planning, as well as setting high ethical standards that permeate their organizations.
Please join us in honoring these impressive directors whose mentorship, knowledge and wise governance have bolstered the companies they serve.
Vivian S. Lee, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A.
Senior Vice President, University Health Sciences
CEO, University of Utah Health Care
Dean, School of Medicine
Director, Zions Bancorporation Board of Directors
Dr. Vivian Lee is responsible for “all things that are medical or health related” at the University of Utah, including the hospital and clinics, medical school, the colleges of nursing and pharmacy, and the Huntsman Cancer Institute. Someone so steeped in the world of healthcare may seem like an odd choice to serve on the board of a bank—but Lee is actually a perfect fit, says Harris H. Simmons, chairman and CEO of Zions Bancorporation.
For one thing, Lee is used to operating in a highly regulated industry, says Simmons, and, like banking, healthcare is also an industry in the midst of extraordinary change and flux.
“Dr. Lee brings a very customer-centric perspective to our board,” he says. “So often we can get caught up in accounting issues and regulatory perspectives … she’s always reminding us that it’s all about the customer at the end of the day.”
Lee agrees that the two industries have strong similarities. They both have high barriers to entry, cater to a rapidly changing demographic and are undergoing dramatic changes in the way people engage in business. As an example, she points to disruptive technologies that enable people to take out a loan online in a matter of seconds. The rise of this new, unregulated approach to banking is something Lee compares to “disruptive innovations in healthcare and how they might impact the way in which we can guarantee high-quality care, in the same way the banking industry really needs to ensure that the right degree of oversight is provided.”
Lee currently serves on the audit committee for Zions Bancorporation. She also serves on the board of the publicly traded Merrimack Pharmaceuticals and on nonprofit boards like Roland Hall and the Association of American Rhodes Scholars.
Her board service enriches her experience at the university, where she interacts with boards from the perspective of an executive. “The role of boards is to really work closely with management—not to get involved in the day-to-day operations of management, but to serve as valued counsellors and people who can provide additional advice or broader perspective,” she says. “Sometimes when you’re in management you’re sort of in the weeds, and so the board can take a step back and offer its own perspectives.”
Despite the tough regulatory environment, Lee says Zions Bancorporation is seeing remarkable growth. “We’re seeing a really bright future ahead,” she says. “It’s been a challenging period of time for the industry as a whole. And Zions Bank has been able to not only address the administrative, auditing, risk, regulatory side of it, but at the same time, really focused on how to prepare the organization … to focus on the future.”
Simmons says Lee is among the nation’s top experts on measuring quality and costs, and how costs relate to quality. “It’s something that’s very hard to do in both healthcare and banking,” he says. “The measures of quality outcomes at the University of Utah in healthcare are in the top two or three in the United States. This is a great treasure we have in the organization she’s built and in her leadership.”
Dale O. Gunther
Former President & CEO, People’s Utah Bancorp
Vice Chair, People’s Utah Bancorp
The people who say “live for today” never met Dale Gunther.
The vice chairman of the board of directors for People’s Utah Bancorp has built a career on looking at the horizon—and instilled that same long game to those who have followed in his footsteps, including Richard Beard, president and CEO of the bank.
Gunther, because he’s “value-driven,” has taught Beard to analyze decisions based on whether they have long-term value or is “just a short-term thing that doesn’t really take us anywhere,” Beard says. “Dale has always looked at it that way, and I think because of that, the board and the bank tend to look at things at a longer term than most companies might.”
As it happens, Beard’s position as CEO is a result of Gunther’s aptitude for long-term planning. Beard became involved in the company nearly two decades ago, when he helped Bank of American Fork form a holding company, People’s Utah Bancorp. At the time, Gunther was himself president and CEO of the company.
As the 2000s progressed, Gunther saw peers at other small banks, who found themselves approaching retirement with no plan for the future of their company, end up selling their institutions to large banks.
For Gunther, it was imperative that the Bank of American Fork continue to be a small, community bank. “I began a plan to find a successor to me as president of the bank—not that I was necessarily ready to retire, just that I thought if the bank was going to continue and outlast me, we needed a succession plan to pass the torch,” he says.
Beard was ultimately chosen as Gunther’s replacement, and since then, Gunther has remained active on the board of directors—though he’s looking to the future in that role, too.
“I’m coming to the end of that career, and I’ll eventually pass the torch on there so we can have more generational diversity,” Gunther says.
Diversity is important on the board, he says, because having a wide range of backgrounds and experiences among the members helps the board as a whole be better able to understand the varied needs of the people who rely on the bank for their financial services.
Gunther has had a lifelong passion for banking and finance. Early on his career, while he was studying the subject at Brigham Young University and shortly after graduating, Gunther helped manage Alpine Credit Corporation, later called Alpine Financial Corporation, as well as the third-generation family business Gunther Comfort Air. He also served on the boards of those two companies before transitioning to Bank of American Fork as executive vice president.
One reason for his passion in the industry, he says, is because of the profound impact banks can have on their surrounding communities.
“One thing I love about banking is I think bankers are dream makers,” he says. “They take the financial resources of the community and are entrusted with them by people who make deposits in the bank, and then bankers have the opportunity to help people realize their dreams, whether their dreams are to build a home or own a home or buy a car or start a business or expand a business—those things are exciting to me.”
Co-Founder/Senior Advisor Sorenson Capital
“I have a love for private equity, which is the opportunity to help companies grow and prosper,” says Fraser Bullock. That passion developed very early in his career—just a few short years after graduating from Brigham Young University, Bullock became one of the founding partners of Bain Capital. Later, he co-founded Sorenson Capital in Utah.
But a background in private equity is not the only arrow in Bullock’s quiver. He has also launched and grown startup companies, and he served as COO and CFO for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake. A long career spent working with scores of executives and management teams, focused on different products and markets, has given Bullock an amazing depth of experience that he brings to bear for the organizations he serves as a director.
At any one time, Sorenson Capital has 30 different portfolio companies, says Bullock, enabling him to share best practices across all those companies. He currently serves on the boards of three Sorenson portfolio companies. He is also board chair for the Polynesian Cultural Center, chairman of DMBA, and board member with two smaller startups.
Bullock says the role of a board extends beyond issues of audit and regulatory compliance. “That is an important job, but the board responsibility is far broader,” he says. “It includes helping the management team and the CEO being able to step back from the company and the marketplace and say, ‘what is going on, what are the big pieces that are moving,’ to make sure that the strategic direction is right.”
It’s that strategic insight that has proven invaluable for Sorenson portfolio company HealthCatalyst, says CEO Dan Burton. In his experience, directors can become overly focused on very short-term financial results. “What is less common is the understanding of the direct connection between financial performance and building the right mission orientation, identifying the right values and building the right culture,” says Burton. “That is hard work. It takes work every single day. And oftentimes it’s work that CEOs and leadership teams need to do without a lot of support from the board or from investors … Fraser is just the opposite.”
Bullock’s direct experience in dozens—if not hundreds—of companies has shown him “the critical difference in overall sustainability, in overall greatness of companies who have focused on mission” compared with those that have not, says Burton.
One of Bullock’s biggest successes was with Omniture, where he served as chairman. He helped the company go public, and then it was sold to Adobe for $1.8 billion—the largest transaction in Utah at the time.
“Working from a little tiny company with no revenue to all of a sudden $400 million in revenue and growing 100 percent per year and profitable, and seeing that happen and being part of the board there was pretty special,” says Bullock.
Despite all of the experience under his belt, Bullock says he still relishes the opportunity to learn and grow that is provided by board service. “Every company I work with I learn something new about culture, I learn something new about the people, and I learn something new about how to address competitive dynamics,” he says. “I believe in being an aggressive lifelong learner.”
Alan E. Hall
Founder, Tempus Global Data
Co-founder, Mercato Partners
Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Weber State University
Before Alan Hall ever dreamed of serving as the chairman of the board at Weber State University, he was a psychology student at the institution. He and his wife, Jeanne, graduated from Weber State in 1969, then later became donors, began attending events and then—as Hall became more and more successful as an entrepreneur—started setting up scholarships, programs and other projects.
Hall became a trustee of the university in 2007 and was named chairman in 2010. Now, after eight years of service on the board, he’ll be handing over the role to a new chairman in September.
“Alan has been a student at Weber State, a donor, a teacher and now a leader of our board of trustees. He understands the institution through many different lenses. He’s really uniquely suited to leadership of the board,” says Chuck Wight, president of Weber State University. “I have great confidence in Alan as the chair of our board of trustees. I know that under his leadership, the board is going to make great decisions.”
Hall, who Wight describes as “a serial entrepreneur,” has seen great success in his ventures. He is the founder of MarketStar Corporation, a global outsourced marketing and sales corporations with such clients as Sony, Intel, Cisco and Verizon. He was named an EY Entrepreneur of the Year in 1997. His local investment portfolio includes more than 40 companies.
However, Hall’s true passion is philanthropy. After graduating from Weber State, Hall and his wife joined the Peace Corps and went to the jungles of Brazil, making 11 cents an hour. The experience taught Hall the meaning of service.
“We learned about how important service was to our community. In this case, we were serving in a town of several thousand people, teaching them leadership skills,” says Hall. “But now, as you come back into life, you think ‘we should serve our community everywhere we can.’ You drink from the community well, all the resources that are provided to us. We need to put water back in that well.”
Hall’s success in business has not dimmed his commitment to service, Wight says.
“Like many entrepreneurs, he has made fortunes and lost fortunes and then made more fortunes. But, surprisingly, he doesn’t have a sense of ownership of wealth,” says Wight. “He believes that he is a steward of wealth, and uses that wealth to do good in the world.”
Hall serves on the board for Ogden Pioneer Days, and has served as chairman for Prosperity 2020, the Ogden Weber Chamber of Commerce, the Weber School District Foundation and the Utah Technology Council. He is also a former member of the board of the Utah Symphony Opera.
“I would encourage everyone to do something—to go out and find something for which they have a passion, some sort of a charity. When Jeanie and I were Peace Corp volunteers, we made 11 cents an hour. We found a way to do something good with 11 cents an hour,” says Hall. “The point is, you don’t have to wait until you’re wealthy to be charitable. We can all give of our time and our talents and our abilities.”