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ASU alum receives lifetime achievement award

Four people in eveningwear smile at the camera as one holds an award.

From left: Andre Farr, Vada Manager, Chef Julian Serrano, owner of the five-star-rated restaurant Picasso in the Bellagio Resort, and Jay Farr. Photo courtesy Vada Manager

February 16, 2024

Arizona State University alum Vada Manager was honored for over 30 years in business and politics with a lifetime achievement award on Feb. 10 in Las Vegas.

Manager, who graduated from ASU with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1983, was recognized with the 2024 Executive Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual Million Dollar Executive Dinner hosted by the Executive Member Group and André Farr International.

The dinner hosts dynamic and accomplished Black leaders and celebrates executives, entrepreneurs and educators focused on advancing creativity, innovation and sustainability at the intersection of sports, entertainment and business.

The event attracted high-level executives and influential leaders in sports, entertainment and business. Among them were Las Vegas Raiders Head Coach Antonio Pierce, Aerial Investments Founder and Chairman John Rogers and MGM Resorts International board member Rose-McKinney James.

“It was a special evening for my family and me to celebrate. These lifetime achievement awards don’t come around often,” Manager said. “It encompasses a lot of work, which began at ASU with the education I received and the relationships.”

Manager is the founder and CEO of his independent consulting firm, Manager Global Consulting Group, which provides consulting services to global corporations, professional athletes and other partners. 

A businessman and strategist, Manager has worked for Nelson Mandela and former Arizona governors Bruce Babbitt and Rose Mofford. He also worked as a senior manager for Levi Strauss and as a senior director of global issues management for Nike.

Manager attributes much of his success to his experience at ASU, considering his years there as a launching pad for his career.

He continues to engage with the ASU community, last year being honored with an Alumni Service Award, and is an inductee into The College Leaders program, which recognizes exemplary alumni in business, research and community service.

“Many of the good things that have happened to me began at ASU,” he said. “My family, my wife, the experiences I’ve received professionally. The root of it is ASU, and I’m extremely grateful.”

ASU News caught up with Manager as he was bestowed this latest honor.

Question: How did your time at ASU inform your career and life path?

Answer: When I came here in 1979 as a skinny freshman from East St. Louis, I found a welcoming and nurturing environment. It gave me an excellent foundation for some of the global career and other work I’ve done.

The combination of my desire to succeed and the welcoming nature of the university, even though there weren’t a whole lot of people at the time who looked like me at the university, I found very little adversity for me to build relationships and find people who were willing to invest in me so I could succeed. Many people I met at ASU as a student who helped provide me with tools to succeed are still very close friends. 

My love and affection for the people, administration and the ASU experience couldn’t be greater, and I share that with everyone I can.

Q: When you look back at your career, what stands out?

A: I would never have thought I’d be in rooms with Mikhail Gorbachev and helping to advise Nelson Mandela as he was becoming the president of South Africa, walking the ship docks in Vietnam with Bill Clinton as he opened up trade between the two countries again, given the war. It’s been a great career that I continue to cherish, and now I try to inspire young people to fulfill their potential.

Q: What advice would you give the younger generation, either searching for a path or working toward achieving their goals?

A: Don’t limit yourself; dream big. I think that is the first thing, because if you limit yourself, there will be limits. 

The second thing to remember is that people are more willing to help than you think. I was a significant beneficiary of people willing to give me advice and invest in me.

Then the other lesson is to never leave a room without building a relationship with one or two people at the same event or classroom. You never know how they will impact your life in the short or long term.

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