Alumni Speak at Business Leadership Conference

Several alumni of East Carolina University were among the speakers and panelists at the second annual Business Leadership Conference held April 12-23 and organized by the College of Business.

During a session titled From ECU Student to CEO and CFO Leadership, four College of Business alumni spoke about their experience in leadership and how ECU students can prepare themselves for successful careers.

“Show up, on time, and be ready to go,” said Thomas Arthur (’71), president and CEO of ASAP Capital. “Whoever you work for is going to notice it and appreciate it.”

Click here to read more from ECU News Services.

Alumni Spotlight: Paul Alar ’78

Paul AlarBy Jennifer Brezina

Paul Alar ’78 has led the way as a top investor for 30 years, focusing primarily on various alternative investment strategies. He founded his own Atlanta-based fund, West Mountain Partners LP, in 2002, which was soon recognized as the number one Emerging Manager Fund of Funds by InvestHedge magazine. By 2013, West Mountain Partners had become the best performing fund of funds in the world according to the Barclay Managed Funds Report.

Alar says the success he’s had as an investor is the immediate ability to “see through” a manager’s pitch and determine whether he or she truly understands a strategy or is simply reading from a script. He credits ECU with helping him to hone that skill, which stems from his exposure to a broad swath of students from different areas of the country and different economic backgrounds. He earned his bachelor of science in business administration with an emphasis in marketing from the ECU College of Business.

Before launching West Mountain Partners 12 years ago, Alar managed risk arbitrage portfolios for institutional and private clients at Bear Stearns, developed hedging strategies for Oppenheimer’s Alternative Asset Group, and introduced domestic private placement insurance to Deutsche Bank as a strategy for making hedge fund investments more tax efficient.

In addition to investing, Alar is passionate about running, which is what brought him to ECU in the first place. Growing up in New Jersey, he says he wanted to move to the south for its warm climate. His cross country coach, who was also his guidance counselor, suggested East Carolina.

“ECU offered an outstanding cross-section of students, which I found stimulating,” Alar explained. “I use this term loosely, but ‘anyone’ can get a good formal education, at almost any college, if they apply themselves. ECU’s advantage in my view was being able to assimilate one’s self to a truly diverse student body. This was ‘real world’ training and can’t be duplicated.”

Alar says he also enjoyed becoming a member of TKE fraternity and all of the related Greek activities.

Today, Alar lives in Smyrna, GA with his wife, Donna ’78, who also graduated from the College of Business. Their son John attends Rhodes College in Memphis, where he runs track and field; Mark is a freshman at Texas Christian University.

In his free time, Alar serves as the community coach in track and field at Whitefield Academy. During his 10 years of coaching, he has had three State Champions who have won 12 individual State Championships.

Dynamic Duo: Alumni Brothers Revitalize Neighborhoods

By Sara Strickroot

Twin brothers Chris Edwards ’02 and Kelly Edwards ’02 are finding success as co-owners of Raleigh- based real estate firm The Edwards Companies. “We specialize in property management, property maintenance, real estate investments, and real estate brokerage,” says Kelly.

Chris&KellyEdwards-ECUAlumBlogPostThrough The Edwards Companies, the twins focus on revitalizing neighborhoods. “We consider what we do an artwork in many ways, no matter if we are working on a flip or a rental property to build our portfolio,” says Chris. “We leave our signature on any project we touch. We focus on vintage real estate with an eye towards doing what is environmentally friendly. Our hope is that when you drive through one of our neighborhoods you will be able to say, ‘that’s an Edwards Companies home.’”

“We found a mentor who took us under his wing and taught us many of the things that have led to our business growth. It was seeing his long-term success that kept us going even when things became challenging,” says Chris. “We are still very close with our mentor today but spend a good deal of time teaching others how to start and grow their business just as he did for us.”

The twins had many family members graduate from the various colleges ECU has to offer, including the College of Business, the Brody School of Medicine, the College of Allied Health Sciences, the College of Health and Human Performance, and the College of Engineering and Technology. Ultimately their decision to attend the College of Business for their MBAs was an easy one. They were members of the Campus Crusade for Christ organization during their time at ECU.

“This has typically been the school of choice for many of our family members. At family reunions we jokingly refer to it as Edwards Carolina University,” says Chris. “We both knew that the combination of the skills we would gain from ECU’s MBA program plus our strong work ethic would make the university the right choice for us.”

“It’s no secret we are proud PIRATES! We love ECU and what the university stands for. It has opened doors for us that we could have never dreamed of. Some of our fondest memories are from our days at East Carolina. We look forward to continuing to give back to the place that gave us so much,” says Kelly.

The Edwards twins are still very involved with ECU today. They will be speaking at the College of Business Leadership Conference this March & April and they are involved in the COB Alumni Mentor Program.

They are also the co-owners of Edwards Insurance and Financial Strategies, a Raleigh-based insurance and financial services firm with five offices located throughout the Triangle.

Stay tuned for more about the twins as their success continues to grow!

Ready, Set, Go to Italy!

Group photo Italy 2014

Make plans to travel to Italy this summer with the ECU College of Business! Faculty, staff, alumni, and friends are welcome to join this two-week trip from June 26 to July 10, 2015.

Your group will be traveling to many wonderful cities throughout northern Italy. Most travel will be done on a Gran Turismo bus to locations such as Lake Como, Turin, Asti, Florence, and the Italian Riviera. During the trip, there will be plenty of free time for you to explore and many enjoyable preplanned group explorations.

As a group, you will start in Milan and travel to Lake Como. From there, you will go on to Turin, which will include an exciting visit to Fiat, the car company. After this, you will continue on to Asti, where you will visit a vineyard and winery for wine tasting.

The trip continues on to Genoa, one of the busiest port cities in Italy, where your group will visit an olive oil production company. The next stop will be the fabulous Italian Riviera, where you will enjoy day trips to Portofino, Cinque Terre, and Portovenere. The base for this portion of the trip will be in La Spezia where you will take boats and ferries to each of the beautiful cities.

Your group will also stop in San Gimignano, the medieval walled town outside of Lucca. The trip ends in beautiful Fiesole right outside of Florence.

Other highlights include the Uffizi Gallery, the Duomo and Baptistery, the Accademia Gallery, Boboli Gardens, and more. You will also visit a local artisan.

The estimated cost per person (not including airfare) is between $2,100 to $2,800 depending on the number of participants.

For more information on this trip, please visit or contact Dr. Amy McMillan in the Department of Management at or 252-258-6463.