Vail Resorts boss gives $1M to alma mater
PHILADELPHIA — The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania recently announced a $1 million gift from Rob Katz, a 1988 graduate, to establish the Katz Fund for Research on Leadership and Emotional Intelligence. Katz is the president and CEO of Vail Resorts.
According to a release from the school, the fund’s goal is “enhancing the creation and dissemination of knowledge on emotional intelligence in the workplace.” The fund will directly support the Wharton Center for Leadership and Change Management’s research and curriculum development in the areas of emotions and organizational behavior, headed by professor Sigal G. Barsade.
“The entire Wharton community is incredibly grateful for Rob Katz’s gift. Emotional intelligence is crucial to business success, and the knowledge generated by the Wharton Center for Leadership and Change Management with the support of the Katz Fund will greatly benefit the global business network. We look forward to working with professor Sigal Barsade at the center to identify new opportunities for research, collaboration and education in this important field,” Wharton Dean Geoffrey Garrett said in a release.
In a separate interview, Katz said emotional intelligence drives a big part of Vail Resorts’ philosophy.
“We need people who work at the company to be passionate, engaged and inspired,” Katz said, adding that those qualities are especially needed when leading employees from the “millennial” generation, people born roughly between 1982 and 1993.
“They want the complete package,” Katz said, adding that both business sense and emotional engagement are essential today. People who like their bosses are generally more willing to stay engaged with their jobs.
“If you don’t like your boss, even if the company has a lot of other positive things, you may leave,” Katz said.
Katz said because the skiing and hospitality businesses are built so much on participant passion, it’s critical to have passionate leaders managing passionate people.
The Katz Fund will enable support for research, academic conferences, curricular materials, practitioner conferences, seminars and popular press dissemination. The funds will also be used to move research and pedagogy forward through the creation of a new comprehensive emotional intelligence assessment with the goal of benefiting academics, students and practitioners across industries.
“I’m interested to see what happens,” Katz said. “You give the money, but now it’s up to them.”
What Katz would like to see is research and training that builds passionate leaders in many businesses and industries.
“A lot of times when we think about strong business leaders, it’s about financial acumen and strategy,” Katz said. “Hopefully over time we’ll take a more balanced approach with both business metrics and how to make you a better business leader.”
Katz added that business leaders today also need to be able to act in a fast-moving, transparent world.
“There’s no hiding any more,” he said. “You have to be prepared for that as a company and a leader.”
Regarding his gift to his alma mater, Katz said in the release, “I feel fortunate to be able to further the amazing work on this topic already underway by professor Barsade and the efforts of the Wharton School in educating our future business leaders.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller contributed to this story. He can be reached at 970-748-2930 and firstname.lastname@example.org.