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Three Local Leaders Inducted into Strome Entrepreneurial Hall of Fame

Their careers have been filled with stunning achievement. And they are a testament to boldness and hard work. Yet the honorees of the 2015 class of Old Dominion University's Strome Entrepreneurial Hall of Fame were quick to speak about how their successes are supported by many others.

The three 2015 honorees - Luke M. Hillier, executive chairman of the board for ADS, Inc.; M. Niel Ransom, president and chief executive officer with Ransomshire Associates, Inc.; and Dwight C. Schaubach, chairman and owner of Bay Disposal - were recognized at a Nov. 13 ceremony on Old Dominion's Kaufman Mall.

Old Dominion University President John R. Broderick said the second class of honorees to the Strome Entrepreneurial Hall of Fame joins the ranks of a world-class group of business visionaries. Broderick said the Strome Entrepreneurial Center, which opened last fall, seeks to encourage that inspiration on campus.

"Since that time, we have been growing our entrepreneurial ecosystem. Innovation is one of the most important contributing factors to a region's long-term economic success," he said. "It is rewarding to see our vision of creating great economic and social value come to life."

The ceremony was attended by Mark and Tammy Strome, whose gift of $11 million to the University through the Strome Family Foundation made the center's creation possible.

Several student entrepreneurs attended the Nov. 13 induction ceremony. In his remarks, Mark Strome urged the students to reach out to the honorees and other achieving entrepreneurs.

"I hope the students will speak to them. To find out what they've done, to learn from them, to achieve even more," he said.

Nancy Grden, hired as the first executive director of the Strome Entrepreneurial Center last fall, recalled sitting in the audience when the Strome Center was unveiled as a hub of entrepreneurship at Old Dominion.

"In my almost one year here, I have been struck by the energy for innovation already present across the campus, and in all of the Colleges." Grden said. In the first semester of 2015, more than 90 student-led projects sought assistance and counseling from the Strome Center, which also hosted more than 50 events to act as a hub for entrepreneurship on campus.

Each Strome honoree has a strong connection to the University. Hillier earned his bachelor's degree in finance from Old Dominion in 1994, summa cum laude. Ransom earned his bachelor's ('70) and master's degrees in electrical engineering from the University. And Schaubach was awarded an honorary degree from Old Dominion in 2010, for his years of support and mentorship for the University.

All three men spoke with pride about how Old Dominion has grown, and has helped them realize their goals.

"I certainly didn't do this alone," said Hiller, executive chairman of the board for ADS, Inc., a leading provider of tactical and operational equipment and logistics solutions for the military, law enforcement, first responders and the defense industry.

Hillier, who led ADS from a startup to a company with over $1 billion in revenue, said many of the professors he learned from are still teaching at the University.

"I am really lucky, first of all, to be an American and a Virginian. I am also really fortunate to be a graduate of ODU," he said.

Ransom remarked that when he was at Old Dominion, the goal of his entire class was to graduate with good grades, and earn a prestigious job at a large, established firm. In his time with Bell Laboratories, where he headed various development and applied research organizations, he noticed we "kept getting beat in the marketplace" by small start-up companies.

As chief technology officer of Alcatel, Ransom led the acquisitions of 15 technology startups. "I made a lot of people rich," he said, adding that he eventually had the desire to engage in his own start-up ventures, and has been affiliated with several technology companies.

"If you can get some people who have some great ideas and can work hard, you can make something happen," Ransom said. "I applaud ODU for enabling the entrepreneurial spirit of the students and faculty here. When you get behind a great idea, you can change the world."

Schaubach, chairman and owner of Bay Disposal, has more than 35 years of experience in the waste collection and disposal business in Hampton Roads. He said his career of unexpected opportunities came about because he was willing to try anything.

"Everybody has their journey in life," he said, of a career that included driving a garbage truck when he started in the waste disposal business. That business enterprise has grown to include Johns Brothers Security; Johns Brothers Heating Oil and HVAC; Hampton Roads Recovery Center; a construction debris landfill in Virginia Beach; Star Creek, a residential lot development company in Suffolk; and the Williamsburg Golf Club.

"You know what I like about our community? The leaders in our community contribute to helping build it up," Schaubach said. "I am just so proud and honored to be here today."

Following the inductees' remarks, the program concluded with testimonials by Alexandra Iqbal and Aron Blade Taylor, Old Dominion students who are seeking to make their mark on the University and the community through their efforts at the Strome Entrepreneurial Center.

Iqbal, a graduate assistant in the center, came to the University to do her master's in engineering management following graduation from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. She has also played field hockey for the Lady Monarchs.

Though he is only in his first semester at Old Dominion, Taylor runs two different companies, and is relying on the Strome Center's expertise to help his enterprises grow.

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