ATLANTA– Georgia State University’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business honored seven alumni and two honorary alumni at its 2023 Alumni Awards celebration on April 13.
“This impressive group inspires us through their impact in business and the community, and through their commitment to the next generation of business leaders who are students at Robinson and Georgia State,” said Richard Phillips, dean of the Robinson College. “To say they are role models is an understatement.”
Meet the 2023 Robinson College Alumni Award recipients.
Distinguished Alumni Award
Rahim Charania (B.B.A. ’96, EMBA ’09)
Rahim B. Charania is founder and managing partner of Woodvale, a leading alternative investment firm focused on commercial real estate investments and developments. Charania created Three Ring Studios in 2016, and is now chair of Cinelease Studios - Three Ring, the ninth largest movie studio in the nation. In 2011, he founded American Fueling Systems a national leader in the fueling industry, providing gasoline, diesel, compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas to the transportation and energy sectors. Charania has been recognized as one of the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Top 40 Executives under 40, Robinson’s Outstanding Young Alumnus Award, and Businessperson of the Year from the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. His extensive philanthropic work focuses on projects in education and personal development for those most in need. He provides his knowledge and expertise to projects and public speaking opportunities, and serves on Robinson Dean’s Board of and Georgia State’s Center for International Business, Education and Research (CIBER).
GROW (Globally Responsible Organization and Work) Alumna Award
Alaina Percival (MBA ’09)
Alaina Percival is CEO and co-founder of Women Who Code, the world’s largest and most active community of engineers dedicated to inspiring diverse women to excel as technologists and leaders. Under Percival’s leadership, the organization has grown to 343,000 members in 147 countries. She has been published by Forbes, Huffington Post, and The Wall Street Journal, among others. Percival also has spoken at leading technology conferences, including WSJ.d Live, CodeMotion Milan, Grace Hopper, Columbia University’s Social Enterprise, and Harvard WECode. She also has spoken on topics including development and retention models, intersectional diversity and equity-centered decision-making in data strategy for the United Nations to Social Justice and Advocacy in STEM at Harvard University. Percival is an angel investor, a venture partner at Valor Ventures and a scout for Picus Capital. In 2022, she taught WomenLead in Technology at Georgia State University, giving her the opportunity to support and inspire the next generation of leaders.
GROW (Globally Responsible Organization and Work) Alumna Award
Joey Rosenberg (MBA ’10)
Joey Rosenberg is president of product and communications, for Women Who Code (WWCode), the world’s largest and most active community of engineers dedicated to inspiring diverse women to excel as technologists and leaders. She is behind WWCode innovations including the new member experience, deep learning technical tracks and its practice-based leadership model for engineers. An accomplished tech speaker, Rosenberg has addressed the U.N. on intersectional diversity and equity-centered decision making in data strategy, and recently co-founded b.bold to empower more women in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine) to step boldly into leadership. She has volunteered for more than 30-years, developing leadership and advocacy programs in cross-cultural contexts. Notable roles include serving as a world board member and Western Hemisphere chair for the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, and supporting grassroots development in Africa, where she helped build health and hygiene programs to educate and empower girls in rural Kenya.
Service to Robinson Award
Frank Blount (MBA ’69)
Frank Blount is chairman and CEO of JI Ventures, Inc., a high-tech venture capital company. In 1992, Blount was recruited by the Australian government and appointed CEO of Telstra, the government-owned telecommunications company. He transformed it into a publicly listed company, and it was the world’s largest initial public offering in1996. Prior to Telstra, Blount was group president of AT&T in New York. At the behest of President George H. W. Bush, he was the interim part-time basis CEO of the New American Schools Development Corporation – a nonprofit organization established by American business leaders to launch the design of high-performance learning environments for children. Blount has held numerous board positions, among them serving the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, Rochester Institute of Technology, Georgia State University Foundation, and the President’s Advisory Board at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He was awarded the Order of Australia by the Australian Parliament in 1999 and received Georgia State University’s Lifetime Achievement Award in Leadership in 2007.
Service to Robinson Award
Steve Tanner (B.B.A. ’66)
Steve Tanner is the president and CEO of Arylessence, Inc., the Marietta, Ga.-based fragrance and flavor creator and manufacturer. A U.S. Army veteran, he saw active duty in two overseas theaters and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for Valor while serving with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam. Tanner was awarded the Commanders Award for Civilian Service by the U.S. Army and was inducted into the U.S. Army Reserves Officers’ Training Corps National Hall of Fame in Fort Knox, Kentucky. Tanner is an active participant on a variety of industry boards, both domestically and internationally, and recently received the Elva Walker Spillane Distinguished Service Award from the American Cleaning Institute in 2022.He served on the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce for many years, has been on Robinson’s Dean Board of Advisors for 10 years, and is CEO of the Arylessence Foundation. A member of ROTC while at Georgia State, he is a long-standing supporter of its programs at the university.
Young Alumna Award
Nitcelle Emanuels (MBA ’11)
Nitcelle B. Emanuels leads the global consulting and best practices team for belonging, diversity, and equity (DEIB) at UKG. In this role, she partners with the company’s senior leaders, HR business partners, talent leaders, and other stakeholders to help business units embed DEIB principles into people strategies, policies, practices, tools, and programs. She also connects business needs with DEIB strategy to improve equitable outcomes across the entire employee lifecycle. Prior to joining UKG, Emanuels was inclusion and diversity director of policies, practices, learning and talent development at the Starbucks Company. She also served as a strategic advisor and the chief of staff to the chief diversity & inclusion officer at Dell Technologies. As a member of the senior leadership team, she led the Women in Technology Consortium comprised of customers and partners in collaboration to advance the representation of STEM-ready girls and women by innovating technologies to demystify STEM. The Austin, Texas resident is part of Georgia State’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2019.
Young Alumnus Award
Weston Kirk (B.B.A. ’12)
Weston C. Kirk is a managing director with Willamette Management Associates and director of the firm’s Atlanta office. His practice includes business valuation, economic analysis, and financial opinion services for clients in the firm’s wealth transfer valuation practice. At Robinson, Kirk was captain of the 2011 Panthers on Wall Street program. After graduation, he became a founding member of the Panthers on Wall Street alumni board, which evolved to be the Panthers Immersion Programs alumni board. Today, Kirk is chairman emeritus of the board, which benefits the Panthers on Wall Street, Panthers in the District, and Panthers in Charlotte programs. He is a frequent guest speaker for various college finance courses and other educational programs. He has served as a judge for the National Business Valuation Challenge and a reviewer for the Southeastern Hedge Fund Competition. Kirk is part of Georgia State’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2020. He holds a B.B.A. in finance with honors and a certificate in economics from Georgia State’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies.
Honorary Alumnus Award
Ken Bernhardt is Regents Professor of Marketing Emeritus at Georgia State University's Robinson College of Business. In addition to teaching, Bernhardt chaired the Department of Marketing, served as special assistant to the dean for corporate and community relations, and special assistant to the provost for strategic planning. He also has published twelve books and monographs and numerous articles on marketing and consumer behavior. Bernhardt also has consulted and conducted research for Chick-fil-A, UPS, Primrose Schools, Leapfrog IT Services, the Federal Trade Commission, Delta Air Lines, and the Center for Disease Control & Prevention, among others. He is chair of the board of WABE (Atlanta’s NPR and PBS stations), treasurer and past chair of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, and member of the executive committee for Junior Achievement of Georgia and 48in48, and a member of the boards of Grady Health Foundation and Alliance Theatre (and a past chair). Bernhardt is a past chair of the Atlanta Braves Fan Advisory Board and the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta.
Honorary Alumna Award
Geri Thomas is principal of GPT Consulting which provides clients with strategic vision and thought leadership on global human resource, corporate diversity and inclusion and staffing business decisions.
After 46 years at Bank of America as the chief diversity executive and Georgia State President for Bank of America, Thomas retired from her leadership role in 2016. As Bank of America’s Georgia State President, Thomas was responsible for driving business integration opportunities across the state to grow market share and deliver the full power of Bank of America to individuals, companies, and institutional investors. She also oversaw the company’s corporate social responsibility strategy in Georgia, including philanthropic grants, community development lending and investing and volunteerism activities. Thomas is a former member of the Consortium of Chief Diversity Officers at Georgetown University. She is also a former member of the Georgia State University Foundation Board of Trustees and is currently a member of the Trustee Emeriti Society. She serves on the Dean’s Advisory Board of the Robinson College of Business.
Laura R. Howell (EMBA ’09) emceed the 2023 Alumni Awards. Howell is senior manager of distribution programs for the Americas at MillerKnoll and chairs the college’s Dean’s Board of Advisors.