Remembering Stan Mandel

1.18.2024 Alumni News, Article
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The School of Business lost a colleague, friend, and influential faculty member when retired executive professor Stan Mandel passed away on December 24, 2023. He spent 20 years at Wake Forest (1998-2018), where he taught entrepreneurship courses and led the School’s Angell Center for Entrepreneurship.

Former business dean Charlie Moyer remembers Stan as “a terrific colleague who viewed every challenge as a great opportunity. He never let pass an opportunity to make the School, the University and the world a better place.”

Mandel is credited for creating the Elevator Competition, a contest where [student] entrepreneurs from universities across the nation had the chance to pitch their business ideas during two, two-minute elevator rides with venture capitalists in hopes of selling them on their business plan. “It was a brilliant entrepreneurial business plan competition that made use of the elevators in the new Wachovia building,” Moyer recalls.

This competition helped fuel the School’s reputation in entrepreneurship education. Between 1999 and 2016, 144 MBA students chose entrepreneurship as a concentration. “Entrepreneurship was a long-term goal for many prospective MBA students. They loved connecting with Stan during the admissions process; he was one of the most requested faculty members prospective MBA students wanted to meet,” said Stacy Owen, former director of graduate business admissions. “Stan was happy to talk with them, answer their questions and encourage their dreams. Entrepreneurship was a big deal; at one point, 90 percent of our MBA students took an entrepreneurship elective, and one third of them joined the Entrepreneurship Club. Our team knew that we could count on Stan to speak at and attend admissions events, and that he would not only make a positive impression on candidates but leave them wanting more. He loved being a part of that process and was a wonderful representative of the business school.”

Three alumni reflected on their experience as students pursuing their degrees.

Carling Boyles Pinckney (MBA ‘13) fondly remembers her time with Stan. “He wore his heart on his sleeve. You could talk to him about anything. He stressed the importance of relationships and growing and nurturing your network. His excitement for creativity and thinking outside the box inspired me. He was truly one of a kind, and I am fortunate to have had Stan in my life.”

Stan’s “vibe and general approach to life” is what stands out to Christopher Filipiak (MBA ‘09). “He was genuine and felt entrepreneurship really mattered. Of course, he was knowledgeable, but what set him apart is that the way he shared his experience felt inclusive. He was always willing to bring in outside expertise, problems and ideas for us to work on and learn from. Stan nurtured and grew [my interest in entrepreneurship] and was a key person in my Wake Forest education and experience. I still talk about his impact and memories of him with my MBA classmates to this day.”

Mandel had a significant impact on Andy Bowline (MBA ‘14). “Stan wasn’t your run-of-the-mill professor; he was the approachable, dependable mentor you could always turn to. He not only played a pivotal role in my decision to attend business school at Wake Forest, but also guided me in my first steps as an entrepreneur. Even after I finished school, Stan was the kind of person you’d casually swing by to brainstorm ideas with, and he never failed to offer invaluable insights. I’m confident that his legacy will endure through the students he influenced and the businesses he inspired.”

School faculty have similar recollections of Mandel. “What kind of colleague was Stan?” said Sherry Moss, associate dean of MBA programs. “Stan was a bright light! He always had a kind word, expressed individualized interest in each person, and I always left his presence feeling optimistic and energized to face the next challenge.”

His commitment to students left an impression on undergraduate business program dean Kenny Herbst. “Stan never met a student for whom he was unwilling to stop in his tracks to help. Stan enjoyed both teaching and his students immensely, and he was a very thoughtful colleague. I think he enjoyed the art and the science of teaching as much as anyone I have ever met. He was intellectually curious and warm, and he always asked great questions.”

Herbst, a former member of the Wake Forest men’s basketball team, recalls Mandel inquiring about Herbst’s remaining eligibility. “He was convinced that I needed to be the first faculty member on our basketball team. I have a year of eligibility left, but I never mentioned that. He was serious, and he would have made it happen!”

Having dependable colleagues who are eager to try something new is something faculty member and former business dean Ajay Patel appreciated. “He was the energizer bunny. An entrepreneur at heart, Stan was willing to take risks and show his students that it was OK to fail – fast and small. When, as Dean, I sent a group of MBA students to Nicaragua to teach micro and small business owners business concepts, Stan was one of two faculty members I approached to work with our students to help them develop the content to be taught. That initiative turned into one of the best experiential learning opportunities many of our students and faculty had at the School during that time. It was not only Pro Humanitate focused, but it was life changing. I still hear from former students on how it impacted them as people, and as leaders.”

“We shared many things: dogs as our best friends, bright students as a source of joy and fulfillment, innovation as a lifelong quest, mentoring as a calling, tough criticism and collegiality as opposites that attract, and asking why not? more often than why?” said faculty member Rick Harris. “Stan was among my most revered and closest colleagues. He touched so many people everywhere he went, exuding charm, insight, an open hand of friendship, witticisms, and endearing eccentricities. Rest in peace old friend.”

Charles Iacovou, dean of the School of Professional Studies and former dean of the School of Business, is reminded of Mandel’s kindness and generosity with his time. “Stan was one of the kindest people I have ever met. He was always ready to roll up his sleeves and help students learn about real-world business practices, collaborate with local entrepreneurs to help them create business plans and grow their businesses, and pursue bold initiatives that advanced the stature of our University, without concern about his time or other work commitments. I will remember his kindness, humor, friendliness, love for dogs, and the many lessons he taught us about being caring towards each other. We are all fortunate that Stan was part of our lives, and I will remember him with admiration.”

A final thought from faculty member Derrick Boone resonates with how many will remember this beloved faculty member. “My favorite thing about Stan was his humility and generosity of spirit. He was always willing to help and exuded positive energy. I can still picture his dog/best friend running down the hallway with Stan close behind.”

Share your own memories and condolences with Stan’s family and learn more about how to honor Stan’s life.