DAA Award Winner: Martin H. Nesbitt, '85
He may have grown up in Ohio, but Marty Nesbitt is a true Chicagoan. Beyond meeting his wife and befriending a future U.S. president there, Nesbitt has distinguished himself as both a professional success and an engaged community servant in the Windy City.
Nesbitt moved to Chicago as a General Motors Fellow, to complete an M.B.A. at the University of Chicago. After earning his degree, he joined the real estate investment company LaSalle Partners, where he became an equity vice president within five years.
At LaSalle, Nesbitt recognized the resilience of parking as a real estate asset class even during tough economic cycles and the investment opportunities associated with the way the parking industry was structured. This insight led Nesbitt to develop The Parking Spot, an airport parking company which today has nearly $100 million in annual revenue and 2,000 employees. Earlier this year, Nesbitt launched a new private equity firm, The Vistria Group, which focuses on investing in middle market companies that operate at the nexus of the public and private sectors in the education, health care, and financial services industries.
A friend of Barack Obama for nearly 20 years, Nesbitt served as finance chair for Obama’s Congressional race and served on the Finance Committee for his U.S. Senate campaign before becoming treasurer of Obama’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. These presidential campaigns birthed innovative Web-based efforts that combined with traditional fundraising tactics to break all previous fundraising and citizen-engagement records. Ultimately, they helped elect Nesbitt’s close friend and basketball buddy the first African-American president of the United States.
Despite the professional and political demands on his time, Nesbitt has been devoted to community service. Mayor Richard M. Daley appointed him to the board of the Chicago Housing Authority, where he eventually served as chair. Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed him to an advisory committee weighing the privatization of Midway Airport. Nesbitt is a current trustee of Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art. He also serves on two corporate boards, Jones Lang LaSalle and Norfolk Southern Corporation.
At Albion, Nesbitt served as co-captain of the Briton basketball team and was also a member of Delta Tau Delta fraternity, Mortar Board, Omicron Delta Kappa, and the Professional Management Program. In 2009, he delivered the Stoffer Lecture at Albion’s Opening Convocation and was awarded an honorary doctorate at that time.
Nesbitt and his wife, Dr. Anita Blanchard, are the parents of Alex, Maxine, Roxanne, Xavier, and Xiomara, affectionately known as “Nesbitt Nation” at the White House.
DAA Award Winner: W. Douglas Parker, Jr., '84
Doug Parker became chairman and chief executive officer of US Airways Group following the 2005 merger of US Airways and America West Airlines. The nation’s fifth largest airline, with 32,000 employees, has flourished under Parker’s leadership. US Airways reports revenue growth, operational performance, and profit margin improvements that have outpaced most industry peers. In fiscal year 2012, US Airways set company records in on-time performance and profits, leading all Fortune 500 companies in total shareholder return. It’s no surprise that Parker is the longestserving current CEO of a U.S. airline.
Currently, he is spearheading the pending merger between American Airlines and US Airways. He is slated to become the CEO of the combined airline, to be
headquartered in Dallas.
Parker got his start as a financial analyst at American Airlines and held a number of other financial management positions in his five years there. He spent four years as vice president and assistant treasurer at Northwest Airlines before becoming senior vice president and later chief financial officer of America West Airlines. Parker was appointed America West’s CEO on September 1, 2001, just 10 days before events that would transform the airline industry.
As a civic leader in his adopted state of Arizona, Parker has chaired the board for Valley of the Sun United Way, New Day Homeless Center, and the Committee to End Homelessness in Phoenix.
Parker gave the Commencement address to Albion’s Class of 2010. He continues to be supportive of Albion College’s Alumni Association, and he maintains his connections with fellow Sigma Nu alumni.
Parker holds an M.B.A. from the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University. At Albion, he was a member of the Student Senate and of the 1980 and 1981 football teams. He and his wife, Gwen, have three children, Eliza, Jackson, and Lucas.
DAA Award Winner: Joseph O. Serra, '82
A leader within his profession, Joe Serra built his family enterprise into one of the nation’s largest retail automotive businesses, garnering a slew of professional awards in the process. Today, Serra Automotive operates in seven states and employs more than 1,300 people. The network includes 30 dealerships and represents 42 automotive franchises. President of the company, Serra is one of six dealers nationwide who have received the GM Dealer of the Year award every year since its inception. He is an 18-time recipient of the National Top 10 award from Chevrolet Motor Division and in November 2009 was named one of 50 Visionary Dealers by Automotive News.
Dedicated to his family and committed to professional excellence, Serra has applied these same qualities as an Albion alumnus. He served for six years as an Albion College trustee and has been a presidential adviser and member of the Briton Advisory Committee, volunteered for both Career Development and Admission, and worked with Institutional Advancement to cultivate and solicit donors.
Along with donating his time, Serra has been generous with resources to benefit Albion. For nearly 20 years, he has provided dozens of cars for Albion’s
fleet. Recently, he provided seed money for a comprehensive corporate, foundation, and government grants program at Albion College and for Dow
Center renovations that have enhanced wellness facilities open to the entire campus. Phase II of the College’s athletic facilities campaign includes the Serra
Family Patio, a central gathering space for fans that will take shape thanks to Serra’s generosity.
As an undergraduate, Serra was a member of Delta Sigma Phi fraternity and the 1980 men’s basketball team. He was co-captain of the 1981 MIAA champion men’s basketball team, which was inducted into Albion’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003.
He and his wife, Julie, live in Fenton, Michigan and have two children, Matthew and Lauren. His sister, Amy Serra Albright, ’84, is a fellow Albion graduate.
DAA Award Winner: Norma J. Taber, '78
Airline passengers today fly with fewer delays, thanks to the air traffic management systems Norma Taber has helped design. Taber has spent 30 years with the MITRE Corporation, a not-for-profit research and development organization trusted for its impartiality in working with the Federal Aviation Administration, current air traffic management operations, and academic researchers. As a lead systems engineer, working with various government, industry, and academic researchers, Taber has contributed to improvements in air traffic operations including tools for assessing the impact of changing a flight’s route or altitude, planning air traffic flows, and collaborative decision-making for rerouting or delaying flights. Currently, Taber is working with a research team developing concepts and algorithms for what will be the next generation of departure flow management systems.
Throughout her professional career, Taber has taken a special interest in encouraging women to pursue careers in engineering. Just four years after graduating from Albion, Taber established the Norma J. Taber Scholarship for Women in Pre-Engineering at Albion College, which has supported alumnae who are now working in environmental engineering, astrophysics, petrophysics, and other science-related fields. She has also supported a similar scholarship to encourage students at liberal arts schools to pursue dual degrees at her engineering alma mater. Less directly, she supports female engineering students through her long-term affiliations with the Society of Women Engineers and the Association of American University Women.
Taber has been an active member of the United Methodist Church (UMC) at both local and conference levels. Through the UMC’s Volunteers in Mission program, she has traveled twice to Zimbabwe; she crochets blankets and clothing distributed to children and cancer patients via local and international charities.
Along with her Albion degree in mathematics, Taber completed B.S. and M.S. degrees in systems engineering at Washington University in St. Louis. She was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, a liberal arts honor society, and Tau Beta Pi, an engineering honor society. She served as an officer for five years in the Baltimore Alumni Chapter of Tau Beta Pi. Taber lives in Maryland near Washington, D.C.