Gifts at Work

By Michele Flynn

Bill Wales

Longtime University at Albany supporters J. Spencer Standish and Patricia Standish donated $1.5 million in 2014 to endow positions for three professors who will work with students interested in creating and managing their own businesses. This fall, Bill Wales, Ph.D., becomes the School of Business’ first Standish Professor in Entrepreneurship. 

Dean Donald Siegel said Wales, who comes to UAlbany from James Madison University (JMU), is “the ideal person for this professorship.” Added Siegel, “The position is going to someone from the region who is an expert and who can help us enhance student entrepreneurship on campus and in the region.”

Wales, who grew up in South Colonie, is thrilled to be returning to the Capital Region. “It is really my home. I have a great deal of love for the Albany area,” he said. Wales described New York’s capital as “a great place for entrepreneurship, with access to tremendous research universities, a Small Business Development Center, tech meet-ups and other opportunities for networking.”

Wales holds a B.S. in information technology, an M.S. in industrial and management engineering, and a Ph.D. in management, all from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. His research focuses on corporate entrepreneurship, particularly identifying where organizations fall on the entrepreneurship continuum in terms of their innovativeness, risk taking and proactivity.
One concept Wales will bring to the School of Business is a hands-on class in entrepreneurship. He created and offered the course when he was a visiting professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at Skidmore College and continued it at JMU, where it is among the most popular electives. For his efforts related to the development of an experiential approach to entrepreneurship education, Wales was awarded JMU’s Kenneth Bartee Endowed Teaching Innovation Award in 2012.

His classroom approach, Wales explained, involves spending less time creating a business plan and more time doing. “Deeper, richer learning occurs when one is tasked with attempting to start and run a new business. Entrepreneurship is about problem solving. Entrepreneurs care about building new solutions to problems they encounter. They don’t want to be in a lecture hall. They are creators. They are competitive. They rise to a challenge,” added Wales, who will teach at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

J. Spencer Standish, chairman emeritus at Albany International, and Patricia Standish, a retired college lecturer, are well known to Capital Region residents for their support of numerous educational and civic interests. Their gift combines with a SUNY 20/20 grant to create this professorship in entrepreneurship and two others.