Willener: COB students poised to soar

Curt Willener.
Curt Willener.

The College of Business prepares people to measure up against the best, says Curt Willener, this year’s Distinguished Early Career Business Professional.

The Hillsboro resident should know. Three years after his OSU graduation, he was accepted into the MBA program at Harvard Business School.

“OSU was on my list, but since I’d gone there as an undergraduate, I wanted a new experience,” who at the time was working at a mill in Albany. “I had just gotten done with a super dusty, 14-hour shift when I talked to (Dean) Ilene (Kleinsorge) about going to graduate school. I think I got her office dirty. But she was so open to talking with me and supporting me, and Ilene wrote a recommendation letter that helped me get into Harvard.

“You’re always a little nervous with something like that, but Ilene said don’t worry, we prepared you, and she was absolutely right,” Willener said. “The top students at Oregon State can compete anywhere in the world against anyone.”

For Willener, now operations manager and Danaher Business System leader at Tektronix/Danaher, the route to OSU began on Sauvie Island, where from age 12 to 18 he worked at a local farm and kennel. After graduating from Scappoose High School, he followed in the footsteps of his OSU alum father, Henry, and headed to Corvallis.

Willener graduated in management and finance from OSU in 2004 and earned a place in a Weyerhaeuser program designed to develop new leaders. Within a few months he was the night-shift supervisor, winning over the older, more experienced workers by “treating them with respect and giving them a fair shake” and “approaching situations with humility and common sense.”

“Listening is a really big part of it,” he said. “People respect you for it.”

Willener will be honored May 11 in Portland at the college’s annual Celebration of Excellence, along with the rest of the 2015 award winners as well as the retiring Kleinsorge. For more on the event and the honorees, follow the College of Business blog as the countdown to the celebration continues over the next couple of weeks.

The evening begins with a reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner and the awards presentation. For more information or to register, contact Elsa Frey at elsa.frey@oregonstate.edu or call 541-737-6648, or register online at http://business.oregonstate.edu/awards.