Johnson School Announces 2024 Alumni Award Winners

By: Sherrie Negrea
Headshots of Marques E. Zak, Ann Chow, and Barry E. Ridings.

Marques E. Zak, Ann Chow, and Barry E. Ridings will receive awards at the Big Red Bash May 9.

Three alumni who became trailblazers in their fields will receive the 2024 Alumni Recognition Awards from the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management.

The honorees, who will be recognized at the Big Red Bash 2024 on May 9 in New York City, are:

  • Anne Chow ’88, MEng ’89, MBA ’90, receiving the Johnson School’s highest honor, the L. Joseph Thomas Leadership Award, for her exceptional demonstration of vision and leadership, sound business sense, and commitment to community
  • Barry W. Ridings, MBA ’76, receiving the Samuel C. Johnson Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes extraordinary alumni for lifetime achievement and sustained and exemplary commitment to the school and its alumni
  • Marques E. Zak MBA ’10, receiving the Robert J. Swieringa Recent Alumni Service Award for his outstanding commitment to and continued engagement with the Johnson School as a volunteer leader

“Anne Chow, Barry Ridings, and Marques Zak have made exemplary contributions to business leadership and demonstrated an extraordinary commitment of service to the Johnson School and society,” said Vishal Gaur, the Anne and Elmer Lindseth Dean of the Johnson School. “They are models of the purpose-driven leadership of Johnson alumni.”

Joseph Thomas Leadership Award: Anne Chow

With two engineering degrees and an MBA, Anne Chow has worked at the intersection of technology and business for more than three decades.

In 2019, Chow was appointed CEO of AT&T Business and became the first woman of color to hold that position in the company’s history. She guided the $35 billion global operating unit, composed of more than 35,000 people, through the pandemic to serve 3 million business customers worldwide.

Chow is now the lead director on the board of directors of FranklinCovey, a company dedicated to organizational transformation through leadership development, individual effectiveness, execution of strategy and goals, and culture. She is also a member of the board of directors of 3M, a global material sciences company, and a senior fellow and adjunct professor of executive education at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Chow’s book Lead Bigger: The Transformative Power of Inclusion will be published in September by Simon & Schuster.

“I’m incredibly humbled, honored, and surprised by this recognition,” she said. “In many ways, my career simply continues to evolve, and so the concept of ‘lifetime achievement’ isn’t one that I really think about. My time at Cornell helped me realize that we are each part of something greater than ourselves, and there’s so much more work to be done.”

Chow said her experience at the Johnson School rounded out her education at Cornell and her prior work in technology as an electrical engineer. “For me, at the Johnson School, the seeds of greater opportunity for innovation and impact were planted,” she said. “I was able to greatly diversify my knowledge and skills through a myriad of robust experiences with all those around me. I will be forever grateful for those early learnings, which helped cultivate my leadership potential.”

Samuel C. Johnson Distinguished Service Award: Barry W. Ridings

Barry W. Ridings’s first job after earning his MBA was working in the restructuring department at Chase Manhattan Bank. That position set in motion a career focused on turning around troubled companies, including both pre-petition and Chapter 11 bankruptcies.

As a managing director and vice chairman of U.S. Investment banking at Lazard Frères & Co., Ridings worked on the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history—Lehman Brothers Holdings—leading a 50-person team on the $600 billion case, which led to the sale of Lehman’s investment banking operation to Barclays.

Ridings, who majored in religion as an undergraduate at Colgate University, credits the Johnson School for giving him a strong foundation in business, finance, and accounting.

“In my mind, the success I’ve had in my career is due in large part to Cornell and the business education I received and life lessons I learned 48 years ago in Ithaca,” Ridings said.

Ridings has been a visiting senior lecturer of finance at the Johnson School and serves on the Johnson Advisory Council.

Robert J. Swieringa Recent Alumni Service Award: Marques E. Zak

Marques E. Zak, head of multicultural marketing at American Express, wanted to find a way to give back to Cornell, so he helped launch the Cornell Johnson Recent Alumni Council (JRAC).

Zak then pitched an idea to recognize recent Johnson graduates through the 10 Under 10 notable alumni list, which JRAC created in 2021. In addition to his past work with JRAC, Zak serves on the Cornell University Council and the Cornell University Library Advisory Council.

“My time at Johnson was pivotal in shaping my career, and to be recognized for my continued service to the school is incredibly meaningful,” he said. “This award reinforces the importance of giving back to the community that has given me so much.”

After Johnson, Zak began his career at PepsiCo and advanced through the company to become a finance director. He said his MBA gave him the confidence to shift to marketing, and he now focuses on developing strategies to connect the American Express brand with multicultural communities.

“The Johnson School experience instilled in me a powerful can-do attitude—the belief that with dedication and the right tools, I could achieve anything I set my mind to,” he said. “This mindset proved invaluable when I decided to switch industries and transition from finance to marketing.”