Michael J. Coles College of Business Launches Business Hall of Fame

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KENNESAW, Ga. — The Michael J. Coles College of Business at Kennesaw State University…

Georgia (Feb 19, 2015)

KENNESAW, Ga. — The Michael J. Coles College of Business at Kennesaw State University launched the Coles College of Business Hall of Fame during an inaugural induction ceremony on Feb. 18 in the Kennesaw State Convocation Center.

The honorees are:

  • Michael J. Coles – president & executive chairman, Global Onboard Partners
  • Gene Henssler – president & CIO, Henssler Financial
  • Connie Engel – partner, Childress Klein Properties
  • Thomas Hughes – president and CEO, MEA, Inc. & NEA, Inc., retired
  • Kerstin Valdes – VP of finance, Georgia-Pacific (North American Consumer Business)
  • Mark Wilson – president and CEO, eVerifile, Inc.

“These six individuals have paved remarkable paths in business and industry and serve as role models for us all,” said Kathy Schwaig, dean of the Coles College of Business. “It is a great honor to have such tremendous partners and my distinct pleasure to highlight the contributions of these individuals within our community.”

The Hall of Fame recognizes the accomplishments and contributions of business leaders who promote and embody personal integrity, community leadership and an entrepreneurial spirit. Honorees are inspirational, and their actions compel others to act. Through their leadership and service, these professionals demonstrate their commitment to innovation, community service and global engagement, elements that speak to the heart of the Coles College mission.

More about the honorees:

Michael J. Coles is an accomplished entrepreneur, businessman and community leader. After over a decade in the clothing business, he co-founded the Great American Cookie Company in 1977 and grew it into the largest franchisor of cookie stores in the U.S. with sales over $100 million. In 2003, Coles became chairman, CEO and president of Caribou Coffee Company, and under his direction the company grew domestically and internationally and became a publicly traded company. He is president & executive chairman, Global Onboard Partners. Coles has a long-standing relationship with Kennesaw State, receiving an honorary doctorate and the Beta Gamma Sigma Medallion. In 1994, the college of business was renamed the Michael J. Coles College of Business in recognition of his success, leadership and support.

Gene Henssler is the president and CIO of Henssler Financial. Well known as a leading wealth manager, he was named to the FIVE STAR Wealth Managers list three times and hosts “Money Talks,” an Atlanta investment advice radio show. Henssler was a professor of finance in Coles College from 1986 to 1996, and holds the title of professor emeritus of finance. He remains an active supporter of Kennesaw State and with his wife Pat has established the Student-Managed Investment Fund (SMIF). Through this fund, students are able to experience a state-of-the-art trading room and learn the techniques of assets management firsthand.

Connie Engel has made a lasting impact in her field and the community. As a partner at Childress Klein Properties, she oversees development and leasing at the Atlanta Galleria.  In 2010, she was given the Award of Excellence from the Georgia Chapter of NAIOP for her lifetime achievements. She is past president of Commercial Real Estate Women and the Georgia Chapter of NAIOP. Engel is also deeply involved with Kennesaw State, serving as an executive in residence and chair of the KSU Foundation Board of Trustees and is an alumna of the MBA program. She also serves on the Cumberland Community Improvement District board and is the governor’s appointee to the Georgia Board of Dentistry.

Thomas Hughes has a long career as an angel investor, senior executive and philanthropist. He has owned and run multiple companies, including National Electronic Attachment, Inc., Medical Electronic Attachment, Inc., Electronic Claims and Funding Inc. and Premier Dental Practice Management System. A dedicated philanthropist, Hughes serves as treasurer for the Alliance for Children Everywhere, a group that supports crisis nurseries and schools for children in Zambia. Hughes is a dedicated supporter of the Michael J. Coles College of Business serving, on the College Advisory Board and with his wife Barbara, funding the Hughes Leadership and Career Program, created in 2013.

Kerstin Valdes is an accomplished multi-lingual executive with more than 20 years of success in complex global business environments. She has built a career on her ability to combine strategic vision with practical execution. Valdes is the VP of Finance for Georgia-Pacific’s North American Consumer Business, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of paper goods. In this divisional CFO role, she guides the largest division of Georgia-Pacific in all financial areas. A 2002 EMBA graduate of the Coles College of Business, Valdes serves as guest lecturer, career panelist, and mentor to the program and also as a member of the College Advisory Board. In 2013, during her chairmanship of the Coles College Advisory Board, she was honored with the KSU Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni Award. 

Mark Wilson is an entrepreneur and business leader with more than 25 years of experience in the business information services industry. He is president and CEO of Atlanta-based eVerifile Inc., a company specializing in web-based workforce screening and support systems. Before joining eVerifile, Wilson founded RYLA Teleservices Inc., growing the company to more than 3,000 employees and was named to Wall Street Journal’s Top Workplaces, Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 2009 Fastest Growing Companies and the Inc. 5000 list of the nation’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies for four consecutive years. His work as an entrepreneur has earned him both Ernst & Young’s and TiE Atlanta’s 2010 Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

The Michael J. Coles College of Business at Kennesaw State University is the second-largest business school in Georgia, offering 12 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, including a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA), and is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). The College’s part-time MBA program was ranked first in the state among public institutions and 22nd in the nation by Bloomberg Businessweek in its 2013 business school rankings and among the country’s top 50 programs by U.S. News & World Report in its annual “Best Graduate Schools 2014.” 


-- Tim Turner

-- Photo by: Anthony Stalcup



A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu