Executive in Residence

Alumni Erek Benz (2008 B.S. Marketing) - Co-Founder, CREXi
Michael DeGiorgio (2011 B.S. Marketing) - CEO & Founder, CREXi

BenzDeGiorgioAlumni Erek Benz and Michael DeGiorgio came back to campus on September 13 to share their business experiences in entrepreneurship classes (Management 327 and Management 427). A few years after graduation, the classmates started an online commercial real estate listing company called CREXi (Commercial Real Estate Exchange, Inc.) which assists real estate brokers in using technology to list properties. Their website allows users to view due diligence documents, schedule in-person tours, see analytics of similar listings and make offers. It has given a huge boost to the real estate negotiation process in making the discussions between all parties faster and smoother.

The alumni went through the slides they present to investors and shared some ups and downs of their start-up. They went without a paycheck for three months and leaned on each other for moral and financial support. Throughout the way, they found mentors, investors and with sheer drive they trusted in themselves and their vision. The company now has $600 billion in sales annually.

Executive in Residence

Tom Gebhardt - BS Marketing 1982 - President & COO, Panasonic, Automotive Systems

gebhardt9bTom Gebhardt is the President at Panasonic Automotive Systems Company of America. Over the years, Gebhardt has seen a lot of change in the auto industry. The current generation is not buying as many cars as prior generations. The average age of a new car buyer is 50; however, car companies are marketing to young adults because research shows that consumers typically stay with the same car brand throughout their lifetime. One of Gebhardt’s roles is to determine what motivates young adults to buy their first car. Much of the research shows they are interested in a better multi-media experience inside the auto. Panasonic is working on placing tablets in the cars, while balancing the safety needs of the driver. They are also enhancing the audio experience with cloud-based Pandora-like systems. In addition, they are exploring heads up displays, similar to what a pilot sees in a cockpit, so the driver doesn’t have to look down at the dashboard. Finally, connectivity has become the single highest priority, after safety, for the car industry.

Executive in Residence

Tim Suter - MBA, 1997 - President and CEO of The Suter Company, Inc.


Tim Suter is the founder of A Leader’s Voyage® and current President and CEO of The Suter Company, Inc., an Illinois based food processor. Under his leadership, revenues of The Suter Company have grown by more than 300% and the number of employees doubled during the challenging economic times of the last decade. As a successful, third-generation CEO, Tim has guided the company through dynamic changes, resulting in an innovative, customer-focused, state-of-the-art food processor, utilizing Lean philosophies to deliver value in the highly competitive food industry. Tim is also co-founder of Make A Difference DKC a non-profit organization that hosts a MobilePack event for Feed My Starving Children each November.

Tim earned an Executive M.B.A. from Northern Illinois University and has his Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing, with a minor in statistics from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He is married with two children and lives in DeKalb, IL.
Tim Suter

Executive in Residence

Mary T. Frantz - OMISBS, Spanish Translation & Business, International Politics, 1991 - Managing Partner/Founder, Enterprise Knowledge Partners, L.L.C.


Mary Frantz has more than 25 years experience as a technology executive and expert in the fields of IT Strategy, eDiscovery, Compliance, Enterprise Risk, Information Security and Enterprise Architecture.

Primary industries she serves include Finance & Banking, Life Sciences (Medical Device, Pharma), Government Services, Insurance (Life, Health, PBM), Construction / Manufacturing, and Retail.

Frantz has written about Technology Strategy, the ROI of Compliance and RM, Common Sense Architecture, eDiscovery and the Modernization of Civil Law Practices, Information Security, Incident Response, and a parody of corporate culture in "Whoever Dies with the Most Toys Wins!"

She shares her expertise as a keynote speaker and have paneled multiple round tables concerning Security, Identity Theft, eDiscovery, Health Information Technology, Compliance, Enterprise Architecture, Identity Management, Internal Investigations, ABA Ethics Rules for Attorney's in protecting client metadata, Data Center Virtualization Practices, and Technology Strategy.

Executive in Residence

Kevin Hovorka - Accountancy, 1988 - Partner, Crowe Horwath


Kevin Hovorka is the managing partner of the Crowe Horwath LLP advisory services group. His responsibilities include overseeing the delivery of a comprehensive suite of transaction, mergers and acquisitions, restructuring and bankruptcy insolvency, valuation, and forensic services.

For more than 18 years, Kevin has assisted organizations with corporate finance and assurance services, specializing in the areas of:
• Due diligence investigations
• Analysis of restructuring plans
• Investigation and analysis of business models
• Cash flow projections
• Integration planning
• Working capital analysis

Prior to joining Crowe, Kevin managed audits for public and privately held portfolio companies. He also assisted clients with exit strategies using public debt and equity security offerings.

Executive in Residence

Sean Erwin - BS Accountancy and Finance 1972 - Retired CEO Kimberly Clark 


NIU alumnus Sean Erwin visited campus on October 5 as an Executive in Residence to participate in Tim Dimond’s SEC Reporting class. Erwin started his career with Motorola as an auditor and then transitioned to Kimberly Clark. He worked his way up through the company, including international leadership roles and then led Neenah Paper, a spinoff of Kimberly Clark.

In keeping with Governance Week at NIU, he counseled students in the class to have integrity in their jobs. He discussed the importance of dealing with and reporting “bad news.“ Don’t bury the information or use words like ‘slightly,’ ‘almost,’ or ‘somewhat,’ to minimize it. Deal with the facts,” said Erwin. He encouraged students to be as specific as possible when discussing finances internally or externally. “If there is a problem, don’t ignore it. Talk about it. Management and investors are willing to hear bad news as long as you are straight and complete with them. “You gain creditability with analysts and investors when you don’t overplay the good news, and provide them with a consistent factual tone – good or bad.”


Executive in Residence

John Larson - Finance, 1984 - Chief Executive Officer, Bestop, Inc.larson
John Larson is the Chief Executive Officer of Bestop, Inc., the market leading manufacturer of soft tops and fabric accessories for Jeep vehicles and the sole supplier of OEM soft tops for Jeep Wranglers since 1986.

Mr. Larson has a long history of innovation in the automotive market, both from an OEM and aftermarket perspective. Most recently, he served as the President and CEO of Escort Inc., the industry leader in high-performance radar detection devices in North America. Prior to that, Mr. Larson held a number of senior management positions at General Motors including General Manager of the Buick, Pontiac and GMC Truck Divisions. He is currently Lead Independent Director on the Board of KAR Auction Services (NYSE:KAR).

Mr. Larson earned a Bachelor's Degree in Finance from Northern Illinois University and a Master of Science degree in Management from Purdue University. He was a keynote speaker at the National Leadership Education and Development Program, and is an Honorary Lifetime Member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Home. He was recognized for his work with the VFW Home for Children and the Million Thanks Foundation. He and his family also volunteer at St. Vincent dePaul, where he serves as a board member.


Executive in Residence

Abe Andrzejewski - English, 1994 - Chief Executive Officer, HomePages ∣ CloseBy ∣ OPTIMA


Abe got an early start in the publishing business when he launched a series of paid-purchase coupon books as an undergraduate student and then began publishing one-town telephone books for small towns in rural Illinois, where he grew up. That small business continued to grow through graduate school, and eventually scaled to produce student and faculty directories for prominent MBA programs and law schools, including Stanford, Harvard, and Columbia.

Convinced of the extraordinary opportunities pent up in publishing community-focused telephone directories, Abe published the first HomePages® Directory in 1997. In the 18 years since then, Abe has been closely involved in the development of an innovative and effective set of products that serve family owned businesses well, including CloseBy® Text Marketing and OPTIMA™ Visibility & Reputation Management Services. He is passionately committed to practical organizational innovation and employee development. Abe is a regular attendee and presenter at the company’s all-voluntary Saturday Leadership Development Program.

Abe is a graduate of Northern Illinois University and Harvard Law School, an avid freshwater fisherman and a member of the Young Presidents Organization.


Executive in Residencewendy

Wendy Simpson - Accountancy, 1972 - Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, and President, LTC Properties, Inc.

Wendy Simpson has been LTC’s CEO and President since 2007 and was appointed Chairman of the Board in 2013. She joined the company in 2000 as Vice Chairman and has also served as Treasurer, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer. Prior to joining LTC, Wendy held executive positions in public companies that owned acute care hospitals, LTACHs, psychiatric hospitals and home health services. She began her career in public accounting and has more than 25 years in health care related businesses.




About the Executive in Residence Program

Successful alumni give back to NIU by getting involved in the "Executive in Residence" (EIR) Program. The purpose of the program is to encourage successful alumni and friends to share their experiences in the business environment with College of Business students, re-enforcing our positioning statement, “Cross Boundaries.” Enthusiastic and talented alumni tell real-life stories and give an insider's perspective of life outside the NIU campus. These EIR sessions equip our students with practical tools and mentorship to prepare them for life after graduation.