Alum Spotlight: William Blair

In a less-than-ideal job market, many recent college grads are finding it difficult to secure full time work.

This was not the case for Dan Marquart (Minn. ’12).

A recent Evans Alum, Marquart understands the Evans Scholarship is more than just a college degree. Through its Alumni Association and the networking options it presents, the Scholarship has the potential to set students up professionally for the rest of their lives.

“The Evans Scholarship Program is the opportunity of a lifetime. It takes a group of hardworking, responsible and honest young leaders, and transforms them into well-respected members of the community,” Marquart said. “Evans Scholar candidates begin as top caddies, peer leaders and volunteers, and emerge as invaluable professionals, community leaders and philanthropic forerunners.”

In the fall of his junior year at University of Minnesota, Marquart was introduced to Laura Van Peenan, a managing director at William Blair. Much of Van Peenan’s time is spent recruiting new employees for this award-winning investment bank, which has been ranked as one of Chicago’s top workplaces for three years in a row by the Chicago Tribune.

The chances that Marquart would have gotten a job at William Blair without the Evans Scholarship are slim. With seven Evans Alumni working at William Blair, the Evans Scholars community was instrumental in connecting Marquart to the right people so he could get an interview.

“University of Minnesota isn’t a place we visit, so we never would have met him on our own,” Van Peenan said.

Fortunately, Marquart found his way to William Blair thanks to a connection made through the Evans Scholarship. He was one of the privileged Scholars to be mentored by WGA Director Peter Thompson and WGA vice president Bill Kingore.

Thompson and Kingore had been keeping their eyes open for Scholars who showed promise of fitting in at William Blair. When they found a match, the Evans Scholars network kicked into action.

“Our Alumni, Directors and the donor community give us infinite opportunities to share each Scholar’s story. They form a tight chain of connections that lead to a rich relationship between the business community and the Evans Scholars,” Kingore said. “The fact that we have seven Alumni at William Blair is a testament that the success of the Evans Scholars Program goes beyond the opportunity to receive a diploma.”

Today, Marquart has been on the William Blair team for over a year. One employee he works closely with, Joe Niemiec (Ill. ’04), was also an Evans Scholar.

“There is a strong connection between William Blair and the Evans Scholars Foundation. They both search for personable and passionate people, and both have headquarters in the Midwest,” Niemiec said.

Marquart knows his relationship with Niemiec is unique from other employees.

“Working with other Evans Alumni is excellent because there is an instant bond. I am very lucky to have a colleague who was an Evans Scholar. I feel comfortable approaching him for advice or asking for feedback when I might be more reluctant to ask others,” Marquart said.

In addition to bonding coworkers, William Blair itself is a perfect fit for graduating Scholars who have known the value of hard work and perseverance since their caddie days.

“In finance, the days require an exceptional level of energy that Evans Scholars learned to embrace during tireless rounds on the golf course,” Marquart said.

These aren’t the only traits William Blair and the Evans Scholars Foundation have in common.

William Blair is a selective operation. Each year approximately 20 analysts are hired right out of college.

“We really handpick people,” Van Peenan said.

The company actively recruits graduates from 11 places – 10 top universities, plus one more category: Evans Scholars.

The Evans Scholars landed a spot on this list after Van Peenan hired several Scholars and recognized a running theme among them.

“They were consistently hardworking, professional and polite,” Van Peenan said, equally impressed by their academic and interpersonal skills. “One notable distinction about the Evans Scholars is that they always send me handwritten thank-you notes. Nobody does that these days.”

Van Peenan believes more Evans Scholars will be candidates for future hires based on shared characteristics of intelligence, energy and a passion to take on any task.

“We’d love to hire multiple Evans Scholars every year if possible,” she said.

This year, her goal has already been fulfilled. In the fall, William Blair was connected with another Evans Scholar, Pat Atwood (NU ’14), who was hired to be a summer intern.

Again, Van Peenan believes the two would not have crossed paths without an Evans Scholars connection. Though William Blair does recruit at Northwestern, Atwood is an engineering major and would not have interviewed with a company sought after by finance majors.

Thanks to the Evans Scholarship, Atwood was introduced to William Blair early.

“We had him hired before we even got to Northwestern’s campus,” Van Peenan said.

Atwood was introduced to William Blair during the Evans Scholars Foundation’s 2012 Leadership and Career Expo, an event where Scholars attend a career fair and presentations on how to stand out amongst other job seekers.

“The resources at the Expo are incredible. The opportunity to learn from panel presentations, which highlight topics such as networking and setting yourself up for success, is invaluable.” Atwood said.

Thanks to the introductions made at the Expo, Atwood was given the initial guidance necessary to get a foot in the door at William Blair, among other companies.

After following up and accepting an offer for the internship, Atwood joined a growing group of Alumni at William Blair. Despite being the new kid on the block, he already has a close bond with employees he interacts with on a daily basis thanks to their shared history of the Evans Scholarship.

In the fall, Atwood will be a senior at Northwestern, and thanks to the connections made through the Evans Scholarship, he will already have work experience at a leading global investment banking firm.

“Upon receiving the Evans Scholarship, you enter into one of the greatest networks of people. The amount of support and genuine advice that I continue to receive from this community is unmatched. I am extremely blessed to be surrounded by such a caring group of individuals,” Atwood said. “Words serve as a mere understatement for what the Evans Scholarship means to me as it encompasses so much more than the college degree it ultimately provides.”