“Two of our favorite sons,” as Jon M. Huntsman Sr., W’59, H’96, put it, returned to campus on a warm autumn day to receive the Dean’s Medal, the highest honor that the Wharton School can bestow upon its community members. This year’s honorees were Alvin V. Shoemaker, W’60, HON’95, and Sukanto Tanoto, WF’01.
Dean Thomas S. Robertson introduced Tanoto as a man with an entrepreneurial spirit, as an advocate for corporate responsibility and as a widely known “visionary” with an eye for competitive advantage. Tanoto is the founder and chairman of Royal Golden Eagle (RGE), a global resources-based group of companies with corporate offices in Singapore, China and Indonesia. He is also a graduate with a lifelong commitment to Wharton and Penn.
He is proud to be associated with such institutions, Tanoto declared upon receiving his medal, institutions that value knowledge as the key to change in the world. He looks forward to Wharton continuing to wield its “intellectual leadership and cutting-edge innovation” in the future, with a special hope that its brand continues to grow in prominence in Asia.
The development of Wharton’s influence already in Asia, according to Huntsman, is a testament to Tanoto’s efforts.
For Shoemaker, the Wharton School has been held out as an ideal since he was young. He recounted how his father had college in mind for him since birth—but not just any college. Whereas in The Graduate the one word was “plastics,” as Shoemaker told it, his father believed that taxes and accounting were the future. From Wharton to law school, to working in Washington D.C., and then in investment banking, to his current role at Alvin V. Shoemaker Investments—a private-equity firm specializing in the needs of the oil and gas technology and service businesses—his career was made possible because of that first step onto campus, he said.
“We didn’t build our careers ourselves,” he said. “It was Wharton that opened the door.”
In his remarks during the Dean’s Medal ceremony, Huntsman echoed those sentiments, calling Wharton a “remarkable launching pad” for everyday kids toward their limitless careers as adults.
Huntsman earned his Dean’s Medal in 1985—alongside Benjamin Franklin, he kidded—and he still displays it prominently so that anyone entering his office at Huntsman Corp. sees it. The Dean’s Medal, Huntsman said, is a “symbol of gratitude to an institution for what they gave us.”
Since 1983, 44 Dean’s Medals have been awarded.