Stewart Thornhill Named Executive Director of the Zell Lurie Institute to Usher in Next Era of Entrepreneurial Education

Shannon Beeman
July 23, 2013

University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business has appointed  Dr. Stewart Thornhill as the next executive director of the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies and the Eugene Applebaum  Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies, pending approval of the University of Michigan Board of Regents.  In this role, which he will assume effective September 1, Thornhill is charged with maintaining the Institute’s leadership position as a top destination for entrepreneurially-minded MBA students; evolving its robust portfolio of coursework and programs; and continuing to extend and foster the growth of entrepreneurial initiatives across the university. He is the successor to Tom Kinnear, who has been the executive director of the Institute since its founding in 1999.

“U-M Ross is the leading school in the country for entrepreneurship education, in large part due to the innovative programs delivered through our Samuel Zell and Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies,” said Alison Davis-Blake, dean of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. “Since its inception in 1999, strong leadership has been an institute hallmark. I know Stewart will carry on that tradition and ensure the institute’s continued growth, innovation and success.”

Thornhill joins the Zell Lurie Institute from Ivey Business School at Western University in London, Ontario, where he served as the executive director of the Pierre L. Morrissette Institute for Entrepreneurship and a member of the faculty, focused on strategy and entrepreneurship. At Ivey, he has championed a number of new initiatives and has sizable experience helping entrepreneurs through his involvement in QuantumShift™, an Executive Development program for high-growth entrepreneurs. Thornhill’s extensive background also includes global experience, having held the Karel Steur chair in entrepreneurship at the Universidad de San Andreas, Buenos Aires and various professorial roles at Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany, the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris in France and the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto.

“The Zell Lurie Institute is an incredible institution and highly respected as the premier location for the very best entrepreneurial learning,” said Thornhill. “I am excited to be a part of it and know that becoming its executive director is an incredible opportunity. I’m eager to continue the tremendous efforts of Tom Kinnear and others at the Institute who have created an action-based approach to teaching entrepreneurship that is unmatched anywhere else in the world.”

Kinnear successfully built out a scalable entrepreneurship education model comprised of a comprehensive curriculum and robust portfolio of experiential programs that has engaged more than 5,000 students since the Institute’s inception. This includes the creation of the first student-led venture fund, the $5.5 million Wolverine Venture Fund, Dare to Dream grants, which move students through the business creation process, and spearheading efforts to provide students with more than $3 million in the form of grants, internships and funding to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors.  As a result, the Institute has ranked among the nation’s top five graduate programs for entrepreneurship by the Princeton Review and Entrepreneur Magazine every year since 2010.

In addition to his work at the Zell Lurie Institute, Kinnear supports the U-M Office of Tech Transfer and is Chairman of the state-backed Venture Michigan Fund. He also is on the board of the Michigan Venture Capital Association and co-founded several successful Michigan-based companies over the last 20 years. After stepping down as executive director of the Institute, Kinnear will serve as D. Maynard Phelps Collegiate Professor of Business Administration and professor of marketing at the Ross School of Business and will remain an active member of the University’s entrepreneurial community.

“The most fulfilling part of my 14 years at the Institute has been the opportunity to work with creative, bright young people who are exploring their entrepreneurial interests and have lots of new ideas, but lack experience in creating and launching a business,” said Kinnear. “It has been a thrill to guide them, to see them do well and, ultimately, to change their lives. As I step down as executive director and return to teaching full-time, I look forward to helping the Institute shape the next generation of serial entrepreneurs, venture investors and corporate intrapreneurs. After all, that’s why we’re all here.”