DAA Winner: Joel K. Manby, '81

Albion College Distinguished Alumni Award winner Joel K. Manby, '81.

A natural: That's an accurate phrase to describe Joel Manby. A brilliant mind and a strong business sense--atop an even stronger foundation of family and faith--have carried him to many successes in life. And more than a decade in a CEO's corner office has done nothing to dull those qualities.

Born and raised in Battle Creek, Manby went on to shine 25 miles to the east at Albion College: class valedictorian; a Rhodes Scholar finalist; Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Nu fraternity; an All-MIAA selection and member of Albion Athletic Hall of Fame teams in football and baseball; and an NCAA Postgraduate Scholar (one of only four in Division III in 1981).

Manby went to work at General Motors, and two years later he was in Harvard's M.B.A. program on a GM scholarship. Upon completion in 1985, he was back at GM, helping to launch the Saturn brand. After seven years with Saturn and a two-year term with GM's International Division, he was promoted to CEO of Saab Automobile USA. After a brief dot-com calling to start the 21st century, he has been on a nearly 10-year ride as president and CEO of Herschend Family Entertainment, the largest family-owned theme park corporation with 10,000 employees and 26 properties in 10 states.

Beyond his career commitments, Manby maintains an unwavering devotion to his family as well as his Christian faith. He serves as board chairman of reThink, a nonprofit dedicated to values education. Other volunteer work includes the Salvation Army's National Advisory Board; he is also a former trustee of Albion College.

In short, Manby is not your everyday boss. Millions saw that for themselves when CBS featured him on an episode of Undercover Boss in spring 2010. While learning the ropes of several customer-service jobs incognito, he got to know several of his employees as well as some of their obstacles in life. By show's end, he was able to make a difference for each of them--something that has always come naturally to Joel Manby.

He and his wife, Marki, are the parents of four daughters: Lauryn, Erin, Jesse, and Anna. They live in Alpharetta, Georgia.