Vimal "Victor" Patel '91
BBA in economics, BBA in management
Alumnus achieves American dream and offers a dose of Lumberjack hospitality
By age 22, Patel was one of the youngest franchisees with the Bass Hotel Group, now known as Intercontinental Hotel Group. In addition to IHG Holiday Inn properties, he proudly owns and operates more than 20 properties under the Hilton, Choice, Best Western and Wyndham brands. He is now president of Pegasus Hospitality Hotel Group and U.S. Hospitality Management, both of which are based in Irving.
"Rusche College of Business taught me how to communicate. Improving my communication skills was key because English wasn't my first language," he said. "SFA was welcoming and helped me assimilate more comfortably. It felt like home."
He still uses the knowledge he gained in his business law class during deals today.
"That's how I know the right questions to ask and the important things to look for in a business deal," he said.
Mike Karns '86
BBA in general business
SFA alum enjoys success as CEO of several restaurant brands
Mike Karns '86, founder and CEO of Dallas based Local Favorite Restaurants and Karns Commercial Real Estate, owns and operates over 50 restaurants across 10 unique brands in four southern states as well as substantial real estate holdings (at the time of the Summer 2022 Rusche Review publication). Karns bought the El Fenix chain in 2008 and has since acquired or created nine other restaurant brands, including Snuffer’s, Meso Maya, Taqueria La Ventana, Village Burger Bar, WokStar and Twisted Root Burger Company.
Karns was the SFA commencement speak during the four ceremonies that celebrated May 2022 graduates.
David Fabricant '93
BBA in accounting
Senior vice president and deputy controller of American Express discusses his career
David Fabricant '93 chose to attend SFA because he liked the idea of smaller class sizes that would allow him to interact with faculty members. While he thought he'd pursue the typical career route through a public accounting firm, his professional life took different turns.
"I was very driven and had a timeline in mind for how I wanted to progress to the next level," Fabricant said. "I wanted to continue to grow, and there are more opportunities in the headquarters of an organization than in a satellite office."
In 2006, Fabricant was hired by the American International Group, better known as AIG, as vice president and controller for the consumer finance division.
Gerald W. "Jerry" Schlief '70
BBA in accounting
Energy CEO continues to give back to SFA
Gerald W. "Jerry" Schlief, SFA alumnus and president and CEO of Auterra Energy LLC, served as an innovative leader in the independent oil and gas industry in Houston. He has served on the SFASU Foundation Board of Trustees since 2008 and currently serves as chair. Schlief and his wife, Candy, were inducted into the Stephen F. Austin Society in 2006 for their generous giving to the university, including funds to support the Gerald W. Schlief School of Accountancy in perpetuity, as well as the Gerald and Candace Schlief Tennis Complex and the Gerald and Candy Schlief Lobby in the McGee Business Building.
Schlief gave the commencement addresses during the university’s three graduation ceremonies in December 2021.
Jodie Thompson '92
BBA in finance
SFA alum provides service to keep the environment clean
A refocus on his faith, and his bachelor's degree in finance, plays a major role in Thompson's leadership of Mister Sweeper, a company his family purchased in 2006.
"When we bought this business, we were blessed that the employees were individuals with a lot of experience. We employ approximately 60 people with a record 610 years of combined service. You don't find that longevity everywhere. We value employees — they are a company's greatest asset. We try to go above and beyond to make it like a family."
Eric Pierre '03
BBA and MPA through the five-year accountancy program
CPA advocates for up-and-coming entrepreneurs
First and foremost, Eric Pierre '03 is an entrepreneur. And it's in that role, as CEO of Pierre Accounting, that he hopes to achieve his biggest accomplishment — serving the needs of his clients while also inspiring minorities to pursue and achieve careers in accounting, finance, law and other distinguished professions.
Fred Poston '92
BBA in marketing
From SFA to LA: Business graduate enjoys successful career as TV executive
"Starting a television network — or a business — is very different than working with an organization that's already established. You have to build everything from the ground up," he said. "An advantage for me was coming out of the College of Business at SFA. Even though it was media work, I was a good partner to the people who were creating the product, that product being the creative business of telling stories. My priority was keeping an eye on what it takes to do storytelling as a business, and ultimately getting that product to the viewers."
Poston gave the commencement address during the university’s August 2021 ceremony.
Michelle Bythewood '89
BBA in marketing
Business alumna achieves success in the restaurant industry
At Field Marketing Focus, Michelle Bythewood '89 consulted with Salata’s marketing department, worked on the brand, and conducted research and field work. After a year of consulting, she was asked to join the company as its first full-time chief marketing officer.
“This was a big deal for the brand,” she said.“Salata had never hired a chief-level employee before I came on board.”
As Salata’s first CMO, Bythewood helped take its local success story to the national level. She also set a goal for herself to become president of the company. She accomplished that goal in only 18 months.
“I’m in my role today because when my boss asked me at my annual review what I wanted to do next, I said, ‘Run the company.’ Six months later, I took on the role of president."
Read about Bythewood's incredible journey from her first post-grad job to president of Salata in the spring 2020 issue of Sawdust Magazine.