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By 

JOHN M TURNER

October 2, 2020

Pramodita “Dita” Sharma, PhD a leading expert in the international field of family business studies, has been named the inaugural Schlesinger-Grossman Chair of Family Business at the University of Vermont’s Grossman School of Business. A formal investiture ceremony was held virtually, with guests joining from around the world, on October 1, 2020.

Watch the investiture ceremony here.

The chair was established in 2019 by Steve Schlesinger ’83, Steven Grossman ’61, and the Grossman Family Foundation with the aim of ensuring that family business is reinforced as an integral part of the curriculum as the Grossman School continues to build its reputation as one of the nation's most distinctive business schools. When the two alumni met for the first time in August 2019, they immediately recognized their shared passion for family business and entrepreneurship. They agreed to join forces, each making significant contributions that, along with support from the Grossman Family Foundation, created what is now the ninth endowed chair or professorship in business education at the University of Vermont. With the chair in place, the school will have additional resources to inspire students to become entrepreneurs and to join or start their own family businesses, and also continue to build world-class research and events such as the Annual Global Family Enterprise Case Competition in family business.

Steve Schlesinger graduated from UVM with a B.S. in biochemical science in 1983 and in 1985 joined the Schlesinger Group, which had been founded by his mother Sarah in the 1960s. In his 37-year career as an entrepreneur, Steve has created a thriving family business that continues to expand globally. Under his leadership, the Schlesinger Group has built a reputation as one of the largest and most innovative research service companies in the world. In 2016, the Schlesinger Group received the Grossman School’s Multi-Gen Global Enterprise Family Business Award.

Schlesinger was a charter member of the UVM Foundation’s Leadership Council, and he has served as a judge on the Grossman School of Business Family Business Awards Committee. In addition to helping establish the Schlesinger-Grossman Chair of Family Business, Schlesinger and his family have also made a major philanthropic commitment to support UVM’s Annual Global Family Enterprise Case Competition, the premier family business case competition in the world.

“I had a great undergraduate experience at UVM, filled with wonderful experiences that helped form my journey over the next four decades. I wanted to do something more to create a lasting legacy around family business,” said Schlesinger.

Steven Grossman earned a B.S. in manufacturing & management engineering from UVM in 1961. He joined his family’s business, Southern Container Corporation, leading it to become the largest independent corrugated box manufacturer in the country before selling it in 2008. Upon the sale of Southern Container, Steven established the Grossman Family Foundation, which in UVM’s last capital campaign made the historic $25 million gift to support the business school.  UVM honored this gift by naming the school the Grossman School of Business.  

As a result of this gift, the Grossman School has become one of the top business schools in the nation. Its Sustainable Innovation MBA program has been ranked the number one Green MBA Program by Princeton Review three years in a row. In January 2020, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the Grossman School was ranked amongst the top nine business schools internationally (one of only three in the U.S.) as having the highest positive societal impact.  

Besides providing generous financial support, Grossman has served as a volunteer for UVM, most notably as a founding member of the UVM Foundation Board of Directors from 2012 to 2018.

“After witnessing how the Grossman Chairs of Entrepreneurship, Finance, and Sustainable Business made it possible for the school to recruit and retain leaders in these fields, I felt there should also be a Chair of Family Business since the school has been building a global reputation for excellence in this area,” said Grossman. “Dita Sharma’s appointment is a fitting recognition of her many contributions and accomplishments. Not only is she one of the world’s leading scholars in family business, but under her leadership, the Family Business Program at UVM has become one of the most distinguished in the world.”

Dita Sharma earned her M.B.A. from Punjab Agricultural University and her Ph.D. in entrepreneurship and family business from the University of Calgary. She joined the UVM faculty in 2011 after distinguished service at Dalhousie University, Wilfrid Laurier University, Concordia University, and Babson College. Her research on family enterprises has been published in over fifty articles and ten books, and has spanned topics such as succession, governance, innovation, next generation commitment, entrepreneurial leadership, sustainability, and spirituality. 

From 2008 to 2017, she served as the editor-in-chief of Family Business Review, the pioneering and leading academic journal in the field of family business.  She chairs the annual UVM Family Business Awards and is the co-founder of the Annual Global Family Enterprise Case Competition that has brought together UVM students and competitors from around the world at UVM since 2013.  She has been honored with several international awards, including prestigious lifetime achievement awards such as the Barbara Hollander Award of the Family Firm Institute and the Lifetime Influence and Impact Award of the Family Enterprise Research Conference.  Family Capital recently named her one of the Top 100 Family Business Influencers in the world. 

Sharma is a visiting professor at the John L. Ward Center for Family Enterprises at the Kellogg School of Management and the Senior Research Fellow at the Thomas Schmidheiny Center of Family Enterprise at the Indian School of Business.  She holds honorary doctorates from the Jönköping University in Sweden and the University of Witten/Herdecke in Germany.

“Mr. Schlesinger and Mr. Grossman, we at the Grossman School of Business aspire to become the world’s leading institution for research and education on family business and sustainability,” said Sharma.  “Thanks to my colleagues, we’ve already begun this journey.  And with your generous support, we will get there faster.”

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