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Fifth Class of Strome Entrepreneurial Hall of Fame Inducted

By Noell Saunders

Three business leaders were inducted into the fifth class of the Old Dominion Strome Entrepreneurial Hall of Fame on Nov. 1, and a prominent nonprofit founder was named the 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year.

The Strome Entrepreneurial Center opened in 2014, part of a huge boost for campus-wide entrepreneurial efforts fueled largely through an $11 million gift by the Strome Family Foundation of 1978 ODU engineering alumnus Mark Strome.

This year's honorees are:

  • Travis Priest '93, entrepreneur in residence for Vocap Investment Partners.
  • James S. Cheng '82, co-founder of CAV Angels.
  • The Honorable Jeffrey L. McWaters, founder, chairman, and former CEO of Amerigroup.
  • Angela D. Reddix, president and CEO of ARDX and founder of Envision Lead Grow.

During the induction ceremony, Old Dominion President John R. Broderick thanked Nancy Grden, executive director of the Strome Entrepreneurial Center, for her efforts in putting the University at the forefront of entrepreneurship and helping students achieve their dreams. He also noted the University's plans to continue to serve as a regional resource hub for entrepreneurs, including the formation of the new Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship.

"Fostering an entrepreneurial ecosystem has been one of the central directions of the University's most recent strategic plan," he said. "We will soon begin working on our next six-year strategic plan and I expect economic development, innovation and entrepreneurship to continue to play a key role in the years ahead."

"Entrepreneurship and our role in regional and statewide economic development are core to ODU's mission," Grden said. "We embrace innovation through the University in our curriculum, all of our disciplines, community service and career development."

Priest, a 1993 Old Dominion graduate, recalled the rewards and struggles of beginning his startup, which he and his business partner spent half of their bank accounts on, he said.

"It's not the instant in time that you are dealing with something," he told the crowd. "It is the series of events that really define who you are."

Priest said his experience at the University was life changing, and that he was grateful for the opportunity to get an education.

"All of the resources that I needed to succeed I got right here at ODU," he said. "I had the support of faculty and staff at the time that said, go, go, go."

Cheng, an ODU alumnus, said it seemed like yesterday when he graduated from the University, though it was 36 years ago. He was amazed at how much the University had changed.

"ODU has come so far," he said. "It's great to see the University step up in the community and be on the map of the entrepreneurship innovation scene."

McWaters, a former Virginia senator and CEO of Amerigroup, told the crowd about a moment during his senior year at the University of Kentucky. He walked down the hallway after his last class and he glanced at the business school hall of famers' plaques. McWaters said he thought his name would never be on that wall. Years later, it did, and now he will have a plaque on Old Dominion's Hall of Fame wall, too.

"For the first time, we can explain to young Americans how this country operates, how it was built, how people became successful, how people get their names on these walls and that they have that exact same shot." McWaters said.

Angela D. Reddix was named Entrepreneur of the Year at the annual induction ceremony.

Reddix brought some in the audience to tears with her personal story about triumph and faith. She explained how her faith brought her through a tough time last year. ARDX, a Norfolk-based IT firm, faced its greatest challenge in January after a significant cut in its largest contract after the Trump Administration reduced funding for the Affordable Care Act. With nearly a 60 percent cut in that budget, Reddix said she and her firm were forced to find new ways to cover the shortfall.

Since then, the firm has regained the 60 percent and exceeded revenue this year. Reddix said she was happy to be able to give her employees a bonus and a raise this year.

"This is a confirmation of faith," Reddix said. "It's so much deeper than the revenue and it is about making a decision in the best interest of not just myself but also my associates."

Reddix, citing her nonprofit Envision Lead Grow which helps young girls achieve their dreams of becoming entrepreneurs, said she wants be an example of strength and perseverance.

"When my girls watch me, it makes me stand up straight," she said.

More on the 2018 Strome Entrepreneurial Hall of Fame honorees:

Travis Priest serves as entrepreneur in residence for Vocap Investment Partners, providing strategy and growth consulting to its portfolio companies.

After graduating from Old Dominion University with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science in 1993 and serving as a computer systems analyst at NASA Langley Research Center, Priest co-founded URLabs.

Symantec Corporation acquired URLabs in 1999, and the technology developed by URLabs still sits at the core of some of Symantec's consumer and enterprise products.

In 2010, Priest founded Sundrop Mobile, which was acquired in 2012 by the company that is now Worldpay, the world's largest payments processor.

As an innovative business leader, Priest identifies marketplace gaps and creates practical, dynamic products to satisfy the market and drive business growth.

Cheng has over 25 years of experience as a technology entrepreneur, angel/private capital investor, business leader, and a senior state government executive.

He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Old Dominion University, an MBA from the University of Virginia and a JD from Georgetown University.

James S. Cheng is an executive lecturer of entrepreneurship at the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science and the co-founder of CAV Angels, an angel investment club for University of Virginia alumni. He's also a member and advisor to several angel groups and private equity firms.

Previously, Cheng served as Secretary of Commerce and Trade for Virginia from 2010 to 2014. As a senior member of the Governor's cabinet, his portfolio included 13 state agencies with a focus on business, economic development and entrepreneurship.

Before serving in state government Cheng was a tech entrepreneur in the government IT contracting industry.

Jeffrey L. McWaters is the founder, chairman, and former CEO of Amerigroup, a managed health care organization launched from Virginia Beach in 1994.

Under McWaters' leadership, the organization saw substantial growth and filed for its initial public offering in 2000, moving from NASDAQ to the New York Stock Exchange. In 2012, WellPoint, Inc. - now Anthem, Inc. - acquired Amerigroup for approximately $4.9 billion.

McWaters is also a former member of the Virginia Senate, representing the 8th District in Hampton
Roads from 2010 to 2016. During his tenure, he focused on healthcare, military, education, transportation and jobs and economic development.

He graduated with a bachelor of science degree in accounting from the University of Kentucky and was inducted into its Gatton College of Business and Economics Hall of Fame in 2003.

McWaters' early career began with CIGNA Healthcare and Ernst & Young. He's also served as vice rector on William & Mary's board of visitors.

Angela D. Reddix serves as the president and CEO of ARDX, an award-winning healthcare management and IT consulting firm headquartered in Norfolk.

Reddix is also founder, chairman and CEO of Envision Lead Grow, a Norfolk-based nonprofit organization aimed at aspiring girls of all ages by teaching them the critical skills and dedication needed to accomplish their dreams through entrepreneurship.

She serves as a board member and trustee to various local organizations, including the United Way of South Hampton Roads Foundation, the YWCA of South Hampton Roads, Junior Achievement and the Hampton Roads Chamber Regional and Trustee Boards.

Reddix received her bachelor's degree in business administration from James Madison University, a master's degree in organizational development from Bowie State University, and her Ph.D. from Oklahoma State University.

Reddix was honored with various awards for her work in entrepreneurship, including the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities Humanitarian Award, the Old Dominion University Women of Achievement Award, the Still Hope Foundation's Entrepreneurial Excellence Award and Inside Business' Women in Business Award.

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