Technology celebrated at the Marriott; Walk-a-thon benefits Westchester students

Fred Kiesner, professor of management and Conrad N. Hilton Chair in Entrepreneurship at Loyola Marymount University (LMU), says he prefers “Grandpa Fred” over any other title.

“Formalities never made me feel comfortable,” Kiesner said. “I treat all my students like they are my own children.”

It is estimated that this warm, inspirational professor has taught more than 15,000 students during his 38 years of teaching. Most recently, he led four of those students to win first place in the national Spirit of Enterprise competition for their product, the Asthma Sound Indicator (ASI). The competition was held in February at the University of Cincinnati. [See “Grad school team wins $10,000 in ‘Spirit of Enterprise’ competition,” The Argonaut, March 15th].

The invention of the ASI began during the fall of 2006 in the New Product Design and Development graduate business course, co-taught by Kiesner and engineering professor Dorota Shortell. The ASI records and keeps track of breathing measurements for people with asthma.

The team consisted of graduate students working collaboratively from both the Systems Engineering Learning and the Mas- ter in Business Administration programs: Allan Avelino, Tim Vermilion, Ben Waddle and Dwight Yorke. The students received a $10,000 prize for their product, and now want to build a business around the ASI.

The student team says Kiesner’s energy and excitement significantly contributed to their success.

“Fred Kiesner is one of those unique people you encounter and you know you’re blessed to know him,” Vermilion said. “Without a doubt it is his inspiration that led us to our current success with ASI and the success we expect in our future.”

Future success is already promising. The ASI team has received a bid to compete in the Moot Corporation Business Plan Competition this May in Texas. Teams from all over the world participate in this highly competitive and prestigious competition. Also, the team has been invited to display the ASI at the National Collegiate Innovators and Inventors Alliance Convention in Florida in March.

“We are the little guys playing in the sandbox with the big boys like UCLA and USC, but we hold our own,” Kiesner said. “LMU proved that it truly is one of the big boys by winning this past competition.

“Seeing my students succeed is the best part of being a professor,” he added.

While his students continue to succeed, so does his program. Kiesner has been a professor and director of the Entrepreneurship Program for the past 35 years and has fostered the program to become the best of its kind on the West Coast.

The program achieved the highest ranking of any school on the West Coast among undergraduate entrepreneurship programs, ranked by the Princeton Review and Entrepreneur Magazine. LMU was one of the first schools in the nation to begin formally teaching entrepreneurship in 1972. Today LMU offers a concentration in entrepreneurship at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

While the Entrepreneurship Program has evolved, Kiesner’s teaching style has not changed. He does not teach out of a textbook; he teaches from his heart.

“My job is to get the students to believe in themselves, to take the first step toward their business or business idea,” Kiesner said. “After that, I sit back and watch them take off and fly.”

Kiesner believes passionately that Vermilion and all his other students will experience continued success in their entrepreneurship pursuits.

“Our graduates have the advantage to hit the ground running and they do so incorporating ethics and social responsibility in everything they do and every decision they make in the business world,” he said.

Kiesner respects LMU for many reasons but, most importantly, he says, because LMU puts the student first.

“I love LMU because my job is to love the kids,” he said.

COMPUTER ACCESS CENTER GALA — The Computer Access Center (CAC) will hold its annual Heart of Technology Gala on Tuesday, May 22nd, at the Marina Marriott Hotel in Marina del Rey. The event will begin with cocktails and silent auction at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 7 p.m.

Once again this year, Michaela Pereira and Kurt Knudsson, “The Cyber Guy” of KTLA, will host the gala.

Much-needed funds will be raised for Computer Access Center programs, which serve individuals with disabilities through “assistive technology,” which is the use of special hardware and software to make computers and other technology accessible so that people with disabilities are able to achieve an optimal quality of life.

Computer Access Center’s programs help individuals who have sustained a physical injury, those who are blind or visually impaired, children with learning disabilities, and young adults with developmental disabilities who are seeking job training and employment.

The center’s services are critically important and serve people of all ages. Initial consultations are provided free of charge.

This year’s gala will honor Dr. David Rogers, a board member and past client of the Computer Access Center, for his ongoing personal commitment to helping people with disabilities through assistive technology.

First Federal Bank of California has been selected as this year’s Corporate Honoree, for its support, sensitivity and compassion for people living with disabilities in our community. First Federal Bank of California deserves high acclaim for its support in hiring individuals with disabilities.

In addition, Mike Danneker, executive director of the Westside Regional Center, will be honored for his leadership in developing creative and innovate programs, including those taking place at the Computer Access Center to foster independent and productive lives for people with developmental disabilities.

For more information on the Computer Access Center, attending the gala or becoming a gala sponsor, call the center’s office, (310) 338-1597.

In addition, Computer Access Center, which is in the Westchester Triangle at 6234 W. 87th Street, welcomes members of the public to stop by and see first-hand how assistive technology is helping those with disabilities succeed.

WESTCHESTER WALK-A-THON — Readers can help benefit students at Westchester High School by participating in the Third Annual Healthy Start 5K Family Walk-a-Thon, to be held starting at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 21st.

The route starts at the school’s cafeteria, adjacent to the 91st Street parking lot, and continues to Westchester Parkway and McConnell Avenue. The event is open to all ages, and families, employees of local companies and community groups are encouraged to walk together.

The Walk-a-Thon is held each year to support free counseling, tutoring and enrichment classes for students at Westchester High School, Del Rey Continuation High School, and Westchester Math Science Aerospace Magnet.

Westchester Healthy Start has been on the Westchester High School campus since 1997. Its Family Resource Center has functioned since 2001 as a place where community resources, students and families meet to help improve students’ academic performance.

To register and get a free T-shirt and the chance to win a prize, walkers pay a $5 fee or get a $5 pledge. The fee will be waived if sponsors contribute $25 or more.

Prizes will be awarded to the youngest walker, the oldest walker, the raffle winner, and the walker who brings in the most sponsorship money. Business and corporate sponsorships are also available.

Information, Marvin Cooper or Billie Silvey, (310) 348-9967.