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External Advisory Board

External Advisory Board

To continually improve our programs, curriculum, and delivery strategies, the Close School has established a committee of distinguished external advisors comprised of entrepreneurs, business and industry experts, and community leaders to provide valuable input and service.

Close School External Advisory Board Members

Al Altomari

Al Altomari serves as the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Agile Therapeutics since October 2016 and has been a member of the Board of Directors since February 2004. Mr. Altomari served as President and Chief Executive Officer from 2010 to 2016. Previously he served as Agile's Executive Chairman from 2004 to 2010. From 2008 to September 2010, he was also a consultant to Agile. From 2003 to 2008, Mr. Altomari held multiple senior management positions at Barrier Therapeutics, Inc., including Chief Commercial Officer, Chief Operating Officer, and Chief Executive Officer. In 2008, in his role as Chief Executive Officer and as a member of Barrier's Board of Directors, Mr. Altomari completed the successful sale of Barrier to Stiefel Laboratories, which was subsequently acquired by GlaxoSmithKline plc. From 1982 to 2003, Mr. Altomari held numerous executive roles in general management, commercial operations, business development, product launch preparation, and finance with Johnson & Johnson. Mr. Altomari also serves on the Board of Directors of Insmed Inc. and Recro Pharma, Inc. Mr. Altomari received an M.B.A. from Rider University and his B.S. from Drexel University. He currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship at Drexel University. In addition, he currently serves as Executive Chairman for TASK (Trenton Area Soup Kitchen).

Mr. Altomari received his BS (’82) from LeBow College. He serves as Chairman of the Advisory Board for the LeBow College of Business. He was inducted into the Drexel 200 in 2017. His daughter Alison graduated from Drexel Magna Cum Laude with a BS from LeBow College. She was also in the Pennoni Honors College. Alison was selected as one of the Drexel “40 Under 40” in 2017.

George M. Danko

George Danko is currently an independent business advisor that provides strategy development, marketing, sales, channel development, business development and operational consulting services to companies with diverse business needs; driving the quick return to profitable growth, global expansion or exit. Mr. Danko currently serves as a the board member of Onpoint Medical Diagnostics, UpdateLogic, Reshare Commerce, LLC, SinuGenix, LLC and a board observer for YesVideo, Inc.

Michael F. Doyle

Michael Doyle is a Trustee for the Estate of Charles D. Close and The Charles and Barbara Close Foundation. He is the President and CEO of CDS Analytical, Inc., a designer and manufacturer of laboratory instruments for sample preparation and analysis that has been in business for over 30 years, located in Oxford, Pennsylvania. He is a member of the Advisory Council for the Laurence A. Baiada Institute for Entrepreneurship at Drexel University.

Michael Edwards

Mike Edwards is the Founder and Former CEO of eBags.com and has led brand transformations and business turnarounds for some of the leading names in the industry in both the fashion and hardlines categories. He was the former head of global merchandising for Staples and was responsible for the merchandising strategy and new business development, assortment planning as well as the vendor programs for the retail, online, and contract sales divisions. He also managed the global private label group and innovation teams supporting divisions in 26 countries and generating over 5B in sales.

Prior to Staples he joined Borders in September 2009 as Executive Vice President, Chief Merchandising Officer, and was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of Borders, Inc. and President, Borders Group, Inc. in June 2010 through 2011. Mike received many accolades for his ability to handle an extremely challenging restructuring effort by his team and vendors for his leadership and integrity.

Mike brings a demonstrated track record of success to consumer brands having served as President and CEO of lucy activewear, where he led the reinvention of the speciality retailer, taking it from just 10 stores and no e-commerce capability to over 60 stores and a successful web business. The International Council of Shopping Centers recognized Mike's leadership at lucy by naming it 2007 "Brand of the Year." Lucy was sold in August 2007 to VF Corporation. Mike was also a finalist for the E&Y Entrepreneur of the year.

Mike was part of a turnaround team that moved fabric and craft retailer Jo-Ann Stores Inc. (NYSE: JAS) from near bankruptcy to a highly profitable company with $2 billion in annual sales. During Mike's tenure at Jo-Ann, where he served for three years as Executive Vice President, Operations.

He began his career with merchandising positions at The May Department Store Company and Target Corporation.

BS from Drexel University in Philadelphia.

David Geltzer

David Geltzer is the founder and director of the Geltzer Family Foundation, established in 2003 and the retired president of the specialty clothing stores Aéropostale and Chelsea Campbell. He had an extensive business career at Macy’s New York and helped Macy’s develop and start the Charter Club and Aéropostale Specialty Store chains. In 1998, as a principal owner, Mr. Geltzer was instrumental in taking the Macy’s Specialty Store Division business private and then helped the company prepare to go public.

Karen Jehanian

Karen Jehanian has been an entrepreneur since childhood. First with an apple business (before Steve Jobs), then t-shirts, key fobs, children's educational products and now an engineering consulting firm. Entrepreneurship is her passion. Whether it is a product or service, this is what makes her tick.

Karen founded KMJ Consulting, Inc., (KMJ) in 1998 and currently serves as its President. KMJ is an innovative transportation engineering and consulting services firm based in Ardmore, Pa. In her spare time, she serves as an elected member of the Alumni Association Board of Governors and former College of Engineering Advisory Council member. She is a frequent guest lecturer and panelist in the College of Engineering and LeBow College of Business. She is a registered professional engineer in Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Stanley W. Silverman

Stan is the former president and CEO of PQ Corporation, a global company operating in North America, South America, Europe and Asia Pacific in two core businesses – chemicals and engineered glass materials. He writes a weekly nationally syndicated column on leadership, entrepreneurship and corporate governance in the Philadelphia Business Journal and 42 affiliated business publications in major cities across the U.S.

He is vice chairman of the board of Drexel University, serves as chairman of the board’s complex transactions committee and is the former chairman of the board’s finance committee. He is the former chairman of Drexel University College of Medicine and former chairman of the Soap and Detergent Association.

Stan serves on the boards of Friends Select School and Faith in the Future, an organization that operates the 17 high schools within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He also serves on the advisory boards of Drexel’s Close School of Entrepreneurship and the LeBow College of Business. He has served on the boards of numerous public company, private company and private equity company boards.

He has been an invited guest lecturer on leadership at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and at the LeBow College of Business at Drexel University. As well, he has been a speaker on leadership and governance issues at Private Company Governance Summits and at numerous other conferences.

Stan earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering and a MBA degree from Drexel University. He is also an alumnus of the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School.

Wade Charles Barnett

A 1984 graduate of Drexel University, Wade began his career with Philadelphia based investment firm, Butcher & Singer. While retail stock brokerage did not resonate with Wade, he was drawn to working with institutional clients, specifically financial cooperatives, after a chance meeting with a credit union. After some early success developing portfolio strategies for his growing credit union client base, Wade made his way to Wall Street joining Oppenheimer and Company in 1986 to create the Credit Union Financial Services Group (CUFS). Shortly thereafter, Wade became a frequent speaker at credit union conferences and a volunteer educator of regional examiners for the National Credit Union Administration. While a Senior Managing Director at Bear Stearns (1995 – 2008), Wade and the CUFS group created numerous innovative products and services exclusively for credit unions including CUAuto, CUPlus, CUMAC, and the Managed Leverage Program (BSMLS), a registered 40 Act fund and National Credit Union Administration approved investment pilot program for federally chartered credit unions. Now almost three decades later, currently a Managing Director at JP Morgan Securities, Wade continues to pursue his passion for ‘helping credit unions do well, so they can do good'.

Joe Callahan

Joe Callahan, Founder and CEO of the Ciright Companies is an Internet of Things (IoT) expert. Combining a mix of engineering, programming and creative marketing, Joe specializes in eliminating traditional technology barriers across all industries. He is a highly sought after thought-leader serving the needs of businesses striving for growth, governments seeking efficiency, social service organizations attempting to scale, and manufacturers interested in creating meaningful careers.

As CEO and Founder of The Ciright Companies, Joe oversees more than 100 employees spanning several continents and over 15 brands. Each Ciright Company is focused on developing next-generation tools for small and large entities.

The Ciright Companies also offers a TE (Technology Equity) Program whereby individuals who have a compelling idea for a new product or service can pitch an internal team and ultimately partner and leverage Ciright's technology. This program significantly reduces the amount of time entrepreneurs bring their idea to market.

A native of Philadelphia (aka the "Liberty Valley") and proud graduate of Northeast Catholic High School and Drexel University, he earned degrees in Engineering, Information Systems Management, and Marketing. In June of 2016, Joe was named Technology Entrepreneur of the Year by EY for the Philadelphia region.

Connect with Joe on LinkedIn or read his latest thoughts.

William R. Schutt

Mr. Schutt is the founder, former owner and Chairman of MATCOR, Inc., a forty-year old engineering and manufacturing company serving the worldwide oil, gas, infrastructure industries and governments. Mr. Schutt is a Drexel University graduate, holder of six US patents and several foreign patents.  He has been recognized by the US government as one of the top experts in infrastructure corrosion and was part of a White House delegation to the Soviet Union.  Mr. Schutt is certified as a NACE International Corrosion Specialist and is an ICORR Fellow of the United Kingdom Corrosion Society. He has authored and published numerous technical papers and lectured in more than twenty-five countries.

Mr. Schutt has been featured for his business and technical achievements in TIME Magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, the Philadelphia Inquirer and many other publications, radio and television.  He has appeared on national radio and television including Good Morning America, Hannity & Colmes, MSNBC, FOX News, NBC, CBS and others. He has received numerous awards for his work and worldwide projects and in 2016 received an Honorary Doctor of Letters from Delaware Valley University in Doylestown, PA.

Mr. Schutt spends much of his time with non-profit organizations and serves or has served on the board of several organizations. He mentors established business owners and is a mentor for students at Drexel University in Philadelphia. A saxophone player, Bill plays in the Delaware Valley University Symphonic and jazz bands, does classical solo work and has played with the Bucks County Symphony. He is the founder of the Delaware Valley Saxophone Quartet that has played in venues from the Philadelphia Constitution Center to concerts on Nantucket, MA. The group made their first studio CD in March 2017. He also serves as the resident saxophone professor and “Know-It- All” philosopher at the Schutt Institute for Exceptional Grandchildren.

Emily Bittenbender

Emily’s career focus has been the design, construction and renovations of public buildings and spaces. Early in her career she was hired by the Rendell Administration to jumpstart the paralyzed system of completing over 300 backlogged capital construction projects within city government. As Philadelphia’s first Capital Program Director for the CPO, Emily was charged with the responsibility of bringing private sector business practices to the city and completed $454 million of capital projects in 3 ½ years time.


In January 2000, Emily was hired as the Vice President of Design & Construction for the National Constitution Center to lead a team once again in the design and construction of a $137M museum in Independence Mall.


After the completion of the National Constitution Center in 2003, Emily started Bittenbender Construction, LP, a commercial general contractor and construction management firm specializing in the new construction and renovations of museums and historic sites, retail, higher education and corporate fit out projects (the only woman owned, union affiliated general contractor in the local area).


In 2009 Emily launched Philadelphia Carpentry Systems, LP, a woman owned carpentry and exhibit Installation Company, providing quality carpentry services to general contractors and building owners in the Philadelphia region.


In 2011, Emily was awarded The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce Excellence Award for Small Business Person of the Year. Most recently in 2016, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce awarded Emily with Paradigm Award, the region’s most prestigious award for businesswomen.


In 2015, The Philadelphia chapter of the General Building Contractors Association named Emily L. Bittenbender as its new chairwoman — the first female to hold the top post in the organization's 124-year history.


Emily currently sits on the following boards: Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce Executive Committee, GBCA Executive Committee, Philadelphia Carpenters Company Executive Committee, Drexel University’s Close School Advisory Board, American Cancer Society CEOs Against Cancer and more.


Bittenbender Construction’s most recent high profile project is Love Park, which will be opening late fall of this year. This past September, Bittenbender Construction, LP was ranked #2 on the “The List” for Women-Owned Businesses by the Philadelphia Business Journal – based on Company Revenue in 2016.

Nick Bayer

Nick Bayer has always been in the business of bringing people together, whether it’s as one of Philadelphia Business Journal’s Most Admired CEOs or as a consummate team captain since Little League. So when he created Saxbys in 2005, he never really considered it to be a coffee company — instead, it’s a hospitality company fueled by great coffee. Saxbys has since grown from one corner café to a 30-unit, Philadelphia-based hospitality business with a mission: Make Life Better.

Driven by deep-seated core values and O.D.D. (outgoing, detail-oriented, and disciplined) team members, Saxbys is headquartered in Center City Philadelphia with cafés in six states and on many college campuses — and growing fast (30% a year fast). In April 2015, Saxbys opened its first experiential learning café. The product of a partnership between Saxbys and Drexel University’s Close School of Entrepreneurship, it’s the nation’s first entirely student-run café where students earn full academic credit through a university cooperative education (co-op) program.

Nick is currently the Entrepreneur in Residence at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and an adjunct professor at Drexel University, where he teaches a course in entrepreneurial franchising. As a frequent guest lecturer at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University’s Fox School of Business and Penn State’s Smeal College of Business, Nick loves supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs and encouraging everyone he meets to believe in the Saxbys mission and core values.

He serves on the Board of The Franklin Institute, Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence Region, the Community College of Philadelphia, Drexel University’s Close School of Entrepreneurship and Drexel’s Steinbright Career Development Center and is a Corporate Council Member for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. In 2017, he was named the Entrepreneur of the Year by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce as well as EY’s Social Entrepreneur of the Year.

He resides in Center City Philadelphia with his wife and son.

Anthony M. ImbesiĀ­

Anthony M. ImbesiĀ­ is Vice President of Patriarch Management, a private real estate investment firm which owns, manages, and develops commercial real estate. He is also a director of Meridian Bank of Malvern PA. In addition, Mr. Imbesi is a trustee for the Patriarch Family Foundation, which supports education, health, and well being in the Delaware Valley. Mr. Imbesi is a graduate of Villanova University and received his MBA from Drexel University.

Jim Berneski

Mr. Jim Berneski serves as General Manager of EST Group, Inc.

Raj Singh

Raj Singh is the Executive Director at Singh Ventures.

Doc Parghi

Doc Parghi is a venture capitalist with operational experience running and scaling businesses globally. Doc is a Partner with SRI Capital, an early stage venture capital firm. With over 30 investments, SRI Capital provides funding, advice and liquidity solutions to early stage start-ups primarily in enterprise software and deep tech. Previously, Doc was the Global GM of the Mobility, Social, and IoT business unit at CSC (now DXC Technology), with complete responsibility for building the business globally. DXC (NYSE: DXC) is a $20 Billion IT services and consulting company.

Doc was on the founding team at AppLabs, the world’s largest independent software testing company with over 2,500 QA professionals in US, UK and India. He helped lead AppLabs through various transformations into what became the largest company of its kind. AppLabs was funded by Sequoia Capital. CSC acquired AppLabs, providing Sequoia with a sizeable return. Doc was involved with other early stage companies prior to AppLabs including iCoop (group purchasing dotcom).

Doc received his BS and later his MBA from Drexel University.

Doc is a member of the boards at Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania and Bunker Labs. In addition, Doc is a co-Founder of Broad Street Angels and is a founding member of TiE-Philadelphia. Doc also serves as a Civilian Aide to Secretary (CASA) of the Army for Pennsylvania-East, appointed by the US Secretary of the Army. CASAs provide individual advice to the Secretary of the Army, the Chief of Staff, and commanders at all levels.

Robert J. Knorr

Robert J. Knorr is founder and managing partner of The COGENT Group, a boutique private equity investment/advisory firm specializing in early stage medical technologies. His work in healthcare reimbursement strategy has helped millions of patients with chronic metabolic and cardiovascular conditions access novel technologies. Over the past decade, Mr. Knorr has served as the lead investor/advisor in more than 12 new ventures backed by COGENT.

Mr. Knorr teaches a graduate-level course in entrepreneurship at the University of Pennsylvania and serves as a mentor/advisor to student-led businesses. He also serves as Entrepreneur in Residence at Baylor University where he teaches an undergraduate course in entrepreneurship and serves in several board capacities related to Baylor's Angel Network, Student Incubator, and New Venture Competition.

During his 25+ year international business career as a senior executive and entrepreneur, Mr. Knorr founded more than 10 new business ventures in both corporate and start-up settings including one of the nation’s fastest growing private companies, Tapestry Medical Inc. After Tapestry was acquired by Alere Inc, Mr. Knorr served as CEO of that company's fastest growing division, building it into the nation’s leading disease management companies.

Mr. Knorr serves on several corporate and non-profit boards and is a frequent guest lecturer on health care and entrepreneurial matters. Mr. Knorr is an undergraduate alumnus of Drexel University (BS) and a graduate alumnus of Fairleigh-Dickinson University (MBA) and The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania where he received two graduate degrees (MS, MPhil).

Paul Melchiorre

Paul brings to Anaplan 30 years of business solutions leadership experience. Prior to Anaplan, Paul was the President of iPipeline, a provider of insurance and financial services software, where he oversaw the company's global growth and operations. Prior to iPipeline, he built global operations for cloud-based B2B software provider Ariba, successfully growing the company until its acquisition by SAP in 2012. Earlier in his career as SAP's Senior Vice President of Global Accounts, Paul and his group were responsible for over 85 percent of the company's revenue. Paul also serves on the board of non-profit Spark.org and holds a B.S. in Marketing from Villanova University and an MBA from Drexel University.