The CEO of Alaska Airlines can't get enough of school. The Foster School of Business, that is. Despite a hectic schedule and the challenges of keeping his airline viable in an oil-shocked, post-9/11 world, Bill Ayer makes Foster a priority.
Alaska Airlines is involved with Foster because Bill believes education plays a critical role in the future of the Northwest: "Our region needs a vibrant business climate and that requires a world-class business school developing future leaders," he says.
Alaska's corporate partnership helps build a stronger program at Foster, and the company benefits from its association with the school. The company further supports leadership development by putting its own employees through the Executive MBA (EMBA) program. Its involvement with Foster also keeps Alaska connected to a community "coming together to build a strong region vis-à-vis the business school," Bill says.
Bill received his MBA from Foster in 1978 and was acknowledged in 2007 with the Foster School's Distinguished Leadership Award, the school's highest non-degree honor.
Now as an alumnus and corporate supporter, he mentors students and serves on the Foster School Advisory Board, the school's senior-most executive council. He also facilitates a leadership class and schedules leaders from other local companies to speak. The students gain from the exposure to practical, real-world information, and the speakers gain a lot from the students.
In addition to his commitment to the program, Bill is involved with the school because he enjoys spending time with the students and faculty. "For somebody in my role, when your schedule tends to be wall-to-wall, it's helpful to get a change of scenery," he says.
Plus he admits the students challenge him and get him thinking. "They're a smart bunch," he says. "I always come away with new ideas and a fresh perspective".