The Omaha Business Hall of Fame was inaugurated in 1993 to honor the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce’s 100th anniversary. Since then, the chamber has recognized more than 100 men and women for their leadership in Omaha’s growth. Stories of the honorees inducted during the past 20 years are on display at The Durham Museum.
Five successful business leaders will join them at the museum after they are inducted on April 23 at the Holland Performing Arts Center: Susan Jacques, Mogens Bay, Marshall Faith, William “Willy” Theisen, and James Young.
Proceeds from the Omaha Business Hall of Fame gala support a permanent exhibit at The Durham Museum and provide funding for the Chamber’s Greater Omaha Young Professionals Summit.
President and CEO
A gem of an executive, Susan Jacques is one of five business leaders headed for the Omaha Business Hall of Fame. While studying at the Gemological Institute of America in Santa Monica, Calif., Susan Jacques met a classmate who would change the direction of her career.
Alan Friedman suggested she come work for his father’s store in Omaha to gain retail experience. His father, Ike Friedman, owned Borsheims at the time.
Sol “Coke” Friedman remembers that his late brother, Ike, had high regard for Jacques. “She probably knew more about gemstones than anybody in the store.”
Jacque’s passion for gems and jewelry began during her childhood in Rhodesia. She earned her graduate Gemology diploma in 1980 from the Gemological Institute of America. Jacques graduated with distinction from the Gemological Association of Great Britain and in 1982 was named “most outstanding student worldwide.”
Her knowledge, along with business savvy, propelled Jacques from a sales clerk and appraiser in 1982 to the store’s top position in 1994. Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway—Borsheims’ majority owner since 1989—named Jacques president and CEO.
Borsheims has become one of the nation’s largest independent jewelry stores, with 62,500 square feet of space and 100,000 pieces of inventory.
“I’ve watched her grow as an individual and as a business person with the company as it has grown,” says Coke, a retired businessman. “She is just a good person. That might be the highest compliment you can pay a person.”
Jacques is presently chairman of the Gemological Institute of America where she studied. She received the 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women’s Jewelry Association and was inducted into the 1997 National Jeweler’s Retailer Hall of Fame. She serves on the Creighton University board of directors and is a trustee of the Business Ethics Alliance.
She and her husband, Gene Dunn, have three sons. The couple recently bought Gorat’s Steakhouse from the family that had owned the restaurant since 1944. Shareholders have gathered for dinner at Gorat’s during the Berkshire Hathaway meeting for years.
In a business that depends on trust and a handshake, Susan Jacques has found her niche at Borsheims.
“She is one of those people if you didn’t know her, you would want to,” says Coke. “Susan has the knack of treating everyone as if they are a friend, which in the retail business is very important.”
On April 23, Susan Jacques will join her former boss, the late Ike Friedman, and her current boss, Warren Buffett, in the Omaha Business Hall of Fame.
Mogens C. Bay
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Valmont Industries Inc.
A career with Valmont has taken Mogens Bay to Hong Kong, Madrid, and to Omaha’s corporate headquarters. He has led Valmont through a significant period of growth over the past 20 years to become the world’s leader in engineered products for infrastructure and efficient irrigation equipment for agriculture. He heads an organization with 100 worldwide manufacturing locations and more than 10,000 employees committed to making products that make the world a better place to live.
Vice Chairman of the Board
The Scoular Company
In 1967, Marshall Faith purchased a majority interest in The Scoular Company. Now with nearly 700 employees and 70 locations, Scoular serves customers in food, feed, and renewable fuel markets. Annual sales are more than $6 billion. In his 45th year with Scoular, Faith continues his philosophy of providing employees good jobs, good pay, and good opportunities. With a son and grandson in the business, Faith is counting on Scoular continuing at least another 120 years.
William (Willy) M. Theisen
Business Ventures LLC
Many entrepreneurs come up with restaurant concepts. Making the idea work on a national level is how Willy Theisen stands out. He founded Godfather’s Pizza in 1973 and, by the time he sold the company 10 years later, Godfather’s was the country’s fastest-growing restaurant chain. The entrepreneur stayed “ahead of the curve” as owner of the Green Burrito chain in 1992 and Famous Dave’s in 2000. Theisen is now owner/founder of Pitch Coal Fire Pizzeria in Dundee.
James R. Young
Union Pacific Corporation
Since joining Union Pacific in 1978, Young has steadily risen in the ranks to the top position. He chairs an internationally focused company that employs 45,000 people in 23 states and 8,000 communities. Young remembers when railroads had a shrinking workforce and concerns about the future. Today, Union Pacific is strong and integral to the U.S. economy. Young has led the evolvement of U.P.’s culture to a dedication to vision, commitment, teamwork, and respect.