By: Fred McKinney Posted: Apr 29th, 2016

Last week Dartmouth’s Board of Trustees announced the men and women who will be presented with honorary Dartmouth doctorate degrees at this year’s commencement. The list of recipients includes a diverse and wide range of international luminaries, including:

  • Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Leymah Gbowee from Liberia. Ms. Gbowee will also deliver the commencement address
  • George “Skip” Battle ’66: philanthropist and investor, senior fellow of the Aspen Institute, retired managing partner of Anderson Consulting
  • Rye Barcott: Marine Corps veteran, TIME and Gates Foundation “Hero of Global Health,” cofounder of clean energy investor Double Time Capital
  • Frank Venegas: philanthropist and entrepreneur, chairman and CEO of Ideal Group
  • Arati Prabhakar: engineer and physicist, director of DARPA
  • Daniel Yergin: Pulitizer Prize-winning author, vice chairman of HIS

Included on this very impressive list of deserving honorees is the name of one of our own from the Tuck Minority Business Program, Frank Venegas. Mr. Venegas, soon to become Dr. Venegas, is the owner, founder and Chairman of the Ideal Group. Frank Venegas, his daughter Linzie, his son Jesse, and many members of his senior team are graduates of Tuck Minority Business programs. And if that were not enough, Frank Venegas provides scholarships to diverse business owners so that they can attend Tuck MBE programs.

The story of the Ideal Group is the story of the phoenix rising from the ashes. Frank literally started the Ideal Group where there was once a factory in Detroit that made more Cadillacs than anyplace on the planet. This plant closed, but one of GMs early minority suppliers was the Ideal Group. The ideal Group supplied manufactured parts to GM.

Over time, great leadership in the form of Frank Venegas transformed this entrepreneurial enterprise into a company with hundreds of employees, many from local community.

Frank is deserving of the honor not simply because he is a successful business leader. Frank Venegas is philanthropist in the guise of a hugely successfully entrepreneur. If it was just about business and wealth, Frank Venegas could have sold everything and moved to Florida, Mexico or anywhere he desired. No, Frank Venegas stayed and built a business and a community.

I was fortunate enough to go to Detroit with the expressed purpose of seeing what I heard about, with my own eyes. Seeing is believing. The factory, is what you would expect in a 6-sigma operation. But it was what was going on outside the factory that makes you smile, and quite frankly cry with joy and pride.

Frank Venegas with the help of GM has built a community garden where hundreds of local residents and employees grow food and flowers for their own use. There is art on the walls where there was once the kind of graffiti that gives graffiti a bad name. There is playground for the children in the neighborhood that is safe.

In addition to this, Frank Venegas has adopted a local parochial school where he is committed to sending all of their graduates to college.

Frank Venegas embodies what thousands of other diverse business owners are doing in their own communities. But this year, Dartmouth celebrates Frank Venegas. I could not be more proud and happy that Dartmouth is recognizing what happens when we support dreams of diverse business owners.

In your service,

Dr. Fred

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