Prof's experience yields keys to success

December 21, 2012
Frank DeGeorge

Frank DeGeorge could teach finance students how to throw a baseball.

He is most well-known for teaching financial statement analysis and business finance to graduate students and undergrad students at the College of Business and Economics, but his pitching records still stand at Robert Morris University all these years after his 1982 graduation from that institution.

DeGeorge is quick to point out, however, that the sport was discontinued shortly after he left, which might explain the frozen records there.

But more than that, he wants to teach students the Four Keys to Success.  He learned them between 1988 and 2001 at Mylan Laboratories Inc., where he served as the principal accounting officer and reported directly to President and CEO Mike Puskar and Chairman of the Board Roy McKnight.

Mylan, headquartered in Canonsburg, Pa., expanded from $88 million in sales and 420 employees when DeGeorge started there to a pharmaceutical behemoth with $880 million in sales and 4,200 employees when he retired in 1999. "It was a very exciting time," he said. "It was a lot of work, but it was a lot of fun." 

Puskar, who died in 2011, was a top-notch entrepreneur and McKnight, who died in 1993, was an extraordinary business leader, DeGeorge said. The two teamed up in 1976 to manage Mylan, then a small drug maker, and created the nation's largest independent generic drug company.

They operated under four broad rules that permeated every aspect of the company's operations: Never Break the Law, Do What is Right, Make Money and Have Fun. These, DeGeorge said, are the Keys to Success. "The Mylan story is a legacy that too few students know," he said. That story is a tale of extraordinary growth and an uncompromising dedication to getting it right. In 2002 the company reached sales of more than $1 billion, and then it went global in 2007 when it acquired a controlling interest in Matrix Laboratories, an India-based supplier of active pharmaceutical ingredients.  

Ultimately Mylan went from being the third largest generic pharmaceuticals company in the U.S. to being one of the largest generic and specialty pharmaceuticals companies in the world. The company's most recent published numbers indicate that Mylan has revenues of more than $6.13 billion, commercial operations in approximately 150 countries and territories, and a workforce of more than 18,000 worldwide with more than 1,100 separate products.

McKnight and Puskar
McKnight, left, and Puskar at the Mylan shipping facility in the 1980s.

DeGeorge was there in the middle of that spectacular growth. "We made a lot of money, and it was a lot of fun," he said. "But it was a lot of work, too."

Today at every opportunity, DeGeorge tells students how important the Four Keys to Success are. "At Mylan, when we made mistakes, when we stumbled, it was when we had lost track of the Four Keys," he said.

Although he currently teaches in the Department of Finance, his background is in accounting. He received a master's degree in accounting from Duquesne University in 1985, and for him accounting was fun. "It is pretty much black and white. It's like a riddle, and I like solving riddles and puzzles," he said. But more than that, he likes providing a service to clients. "The profession of accounting is all about service — providing a service people need and doing it well."

After he retired from Mylan, DeGeorge entered service at WVU teaching financial and managerial accounting to MBA, Executive MBA and undergraduate students. He has found that it suits him, too. "I love teaching!" he said. "It has all the frustrations of the corporate world with a fraction of the pay. What more could a person ask for?" 

Generally, DeGeorge teaches what he knows, spending much of his lecture time sharing stories of his experience in the professional world. "Students are interested in personal experiences. They can read a textbook if they want, but I think the information gets absorbed best through real-life, real-world examples and experiences."

Two such experience-based educational opportunities are the Association for Corporate Growth (ACG) Cup competitions and the Certified Financial Analysts Research Analysis competition. The ACG Cup is a case study competition designed to give students from leading MBA programs across the country real world experience and invaluable insights into mergers and acquisitions, investment banking, financial advisory and private equity. The competition is a series of intra-school and regional competitions, with regional winners awarded the prestigious ACG Cup title and cash awards.

Likewise, the CFA competition is a globally recognized, graduate-level curriculum competition for graduate and undergraduate students that provides a strong foundation of the real-world investment analysis, portfolio management skills and practical knowledge needed for professionals in finance.

"I think the ACG Cup and the CFA competition have really opened the eyes of companies in our region to WVU," DeGeorge said. "These are both opportunities for our students to be business people before they are business people. They connect the classroom to the real world of business."

DeGeorge, who was born in Pittsburgh, lives in Morgantown with Allison, his high school sweetheart and wife of 29 years. Their son Domenick, 27, lives in Heidleberg, Germany; daughter Courey, 26, lives in Pittsburgh; son Vincent, 24, is a Ph.D. candidate at Carnegie Mellon University; and son Stephen, 23, is the soon-to-be co-owner of Pizza Al's on the Evansdale Campus.  "Hands down best pizza in Morgantown," DeGeorge said.