Bob Sasser (B.S. '73)
President and Chief Executive Officer
Dollar Tree Stores
He leads the nation's largest discount variety store selling everything predominantly for $1. Bob Sasser, one of the nation’s top marketing professionals, is the president and CEO of Fortune 500 company Dollar Tree Stores.
Under Sasser’s leadership, Dollar Tree has grown from a small regional company to an international chain with more than 4,200 stores, distribution centers in the U.S. and Canada and over 60,000 associates across all 48 contiguous states and Canada. Since 1998 sales have grown from over $900 million to over $6 billion forecast for 2011.
According to Sasser, “Our quality of earnings is the highest in our sector and earnings are growing faster than sales.”
Over the past five years Dollar Tree stock value has increased 294 percent.
Sasser sees FSU as contributing to his climb to the peaks of business success.
“My time at FSU served me well,“ he says. “As a student, I saw FSU as an opportunity to grow and mature. I did not have a definite career goal, and the College of Business gave me an opportunity to see a broad range of career opportunities. At the same time, I was working part time in retail, and I found it both fun and interesting. Retailing is a career that requires elements of many disciplines.”
Sasser was inducted into the College of Business Hall of Fame in 2009 and returns regularly to share his experience and exchange ideas with students and faculty. In addition to regular financial support for the College of Business, he and his wife Pam established the Bob and Pam Sasser Endowed Scholarship for Marketing Excellence in 2011. Sasser, who recently endowed a position scholarship in football, is a lifetime member of the Alumni Association and a Seminole Boosters Golden Chief.
Sasser counts a number of FSU graduates among Dollar Tree’s associates, and the firm plans to continue recruiting on campus as opportunities arise.
Meg Crofton (B.S. ’74, M.B.A. ’75)
Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Operations, U.S. and France
This alumna’s executive-suite position depends on magic — a lot of it.
Meg Crofton serves as president of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Operations, U.S. and France. She also serves as president of Walt Disney World Resort, overseeing a work force of more than 58,000 cast members at the world's premier vacation destination.
Since Crofton joined the Disney organization in 1977, her corporate climb has been steady, holding a wide range of executive leadership roles in human resources, hotel operations and convention sales. She led an international task force responsible for opening six resort hotels at Disneyland Paris in 1992.
Although Crofton has spent most of her career at the Walt Disney World Resort, she also has broad international experience, most recently as executive vice president of human resources for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, serving 90,000 global cast members at five worldwide vacation destinations.
As a student at FSU, she was captivated by her first marketing course.
"It just hooked me," she said. "Marketing is a great way to look at the world. Whether you're talking about selling products and services or you're talking about shaping minds and hearts as a leader, there are a lot of marketing principles that you can translate, almost literally, from marketing products and services into leading people."
While earning her M.B.A., Crofton accepted a graduate assistantship with Professor Emeritus Persis Rockwood, who specialized in market research. Crofton also served as president of the FSU Marketing Club, which worked to give students real-world experience.
"I'm grateful for the experience I had at FSU. I have very warm, fond memories of my time there, and I know that the students there are getting a great education."
In 2008 she was inducted into the College of Business Hall of Fame, the first woman to receive this honor.
Crofton has shared her experience and insight with Florida State students as a presenter in the Charles A. Bruning Distinguished Speaker Series.
Tom McAlpin (B.S. ’81)
President and Chief Executive Officer
This CEO’s customers are world travelers who never have to leave home.
Thomas McAlpin is president and CEO of the company responsible for operations, administration, sales and marketing for The World, the only residential community at sea. With 165 private accommodations, The World circumnavigates the globe continuously, allowing residents to visit the world and its wonders from the comfort of their home.
McAlpin says he takes great pride in providing his clientele with experiences that can’t be matched anywhere on the planet.
A veteran in the cruise line industry with more than 25 years of domestic and international experience in ship management and operations, McAlpin spent 14 years at Disney Cruise Line, most recently as president. He was responsible for the successful launch of Disney's entry into the cruise industry and led its expansion efforts to add two new mega-ships to the fleet.
McAlpin says Florida State played a role in his success as a CEO by providing him a great foundation. He recalls how professors would take the time to really recognize students for their efforts and test scores.
“It was quite motivating for me and made me want to do even better. A double major in accounting and finance was not easy, but the faculty inspired me.”
McAlpin is a lifetime member of the Alumni Association, a member of the College of Business Board of Governors and a guest lecturer for the college and the Dedman School of Hospitality.
“I love getting back into the classroom and providing a different perspective to the students,” he says.
McAlpin believes strongly in community service and was recently named national board chair of the Make-a-Wish Foundation, which grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. Founded in 1980, the foundation is now the largest wish-granting charity in the world and has realized more than 200,000 wishes in the United States since its inception.
McAlpin recruits top interns from top universities for work on The World and notes that the two FSU interns who have worked aboard the ship were standouts, the only ones of their peers who received offers for permanent work.
McAlpin’s daughter, Nicole, graduated from FSU in May 2010. Daughter Natalie is a senior.
William G. Smith, Jr. (B.S. ’76)
Chairman, President and CEO
Capital City Bank Group, Inc.
The CEO of one of the nation’s top-performing mid-tier banks is Florida State University alumnus William G. “Bill” Smith.
Smith is chairman, president and CEO of Capital City Bank Group, Inc., among the largest publicly traded financial services companies headquartered in Florida. Smith joined CCBG in 1978. Since 1989, when he took over as president and CEO, Capital City has grown from $626 million to $2.7 billion in assets, and its office network has expanded from 26 to 70.
With almost 1,000 employees, the company provides a full range of banking services. Its bank subsidiary, Capital City Bank, founded in 1895, has offices and ATMs in Florida, Georgia and Alabama. Headquartered in Tallahassee, Capital City Bank serves as a hometown bank for Floridians throughout the state.
Smith credits Florida State for the success he has had as a banker and as a leader.
“FSU was an incredible learning ground for me,” Smith says. “Leadership in my fraternity, Kappa Alpha Order, was a great experience. I thought the liberal arts education increased my ability to think critically, and the business school experience helped further develop the thought process I had learned from my dad, Godfrey Smith, who led the bank for over 50 years.”
Smith’s leadership extends to his community and his university. A native of Tallahassee, he has been active in a host of local and professional causes. He served as chairman of the FSU Foundation and led its $600 million CONNECT capital campaign. He has also served as chairman of the Alumni Association’s National Board of Directors and has served on the Florida State Athletic Board, the Florida State University Research Foundation and the Florida State University Student Investment Fund, Inc.
Smith has been honored with the Alumni Association’s Circle of Gold and was inducted into the FSU College of Business Hall of Fame in 2009.
Sharon Lechter (B.S. ’76)
Founder and Chief Executive Officer
Pay Your Family First
She’s a CEO who knows that the world needs more CEOs — millions of them — and she’s on a mission to make that happen.
“My passion is to allow people to take control of their own financial lives, to create their own balance sheets, to create their own wealth — to be the CEOs of their own lives,” says Florida State University alumna Sharon Lechter, founder and CEO of Pay Your Family First, a firm that focus on sparking children’s entrepreneurial spirit and teaching the next generation how to become masters, instead of slaves, to money.
Co-author of the worldwide bestseller Rich Dad Poor Dad, Lechter co-founded and led the Rich Dad Company, producing over 20 books, board games, websites, CDs, audio cassettes and seminars focused on financial literacy.
Lechter also wrote the bestselling Think and Grow Rich — Three Feet From Gold and recently updated Outwitting the Devil by Napoleon Hill — a long-hidden manuscript that identifies and confronts life’s greatest obstacles to success.
Lechter is the financial literacy spokesperson for the American Institute of CPAs and appointee to the first President’s Advisory Council on Financial Literacy.
A magna cum laude FSU graduate, Lechter joined the ranks of a Big Eight accounting firm, but, she says, “The entrepreneurial bug bit in my mid-20s. My parents’ goal for me was a long career with a stable firm, but they had raised me in an entrepreneurial home, and I decided that if I was going to work that hard, I wanted to work for ownership, not just a paycheck.”
FSU provided strong support for her academic pursuits and leadership training, Lechter recalls.
“The bottom line is that FSU gave me a tremendous foundation for creative success. My experience is proof positive that you can start with modest means and become successful. The right education, like I received at FSU, can promote success.”
Daniel T. Hendrix (B.S. ’77)
Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer
He carpets the world while working to safeguard the environment.
Daniel T. Hendrix leads Interface, Inc., the pioneering worldwide leader in design, production and sales of environmentally responsible modular carpet for commercial, institutional and residential markets, and leading designer and manufacturer of commercial broadloom. Interface, a $1 billion company with manufacturing on four continents and sales in over 110 countries, has 4,000 employees.
Honors Florida State graduate Hendrix joined Interface in 1983 and was quickly elevated to chief financial officer. In 1989, at age 33, he was identified as the youngest CFO at a Fortune 500 company. President and CEO since 2001, Hendrix was appointed chairman of the company’s board of directors in 2011.
Hendrix has played a key role in many of the company’s most significant milestones. He helped take the company public in 1983, helped globalize the company through over 50 mergers and acquisitions in the years after the initial public offering and then managed the company through three significant economic downturns: 2001, 2003 and the most recent recession. Through each of these downturns, Interface emerged leaner but more nimble, rebounding more quickly than its competitors and maintaining its 35 percent market share.
Hendrix gives credit to the university.
“Florida State put me on the path to a successful career in finance,” he says. “I firmly believe that I could not have been better prepared for my role as CFO and eventually, as CEO, if it were not for the accounting program at FSU and for my professor, Ross Heck, in particular. He was not only an incredible instructor; he also prepared me for the corporate world by modeling what a successful financial executive would do. He wore a suit and tie to class every day, he set extremely high expectations for us and he held the bar high in the best possible way.”
Hendrix, whose wife and son are also alumni, serves on the board of governors of FSU’s College of Business.