Newswise — Babson College, the #1 college and world leader in entrepreneurship, will celebrate its tradition of innovation by inducting Founder & CEO, SPANX, Inc. Sara Blakely, Founder Jesse Itzler and the late former Chairman and CEO, PepsiCo Inc., former Executive Chairman, DreamWorks, and former Trustee, Roger Enrico ’65, H’86 into Babson’s Academy of Distinguished Entrepreneurs during ceremonies on Babson’s Wellesley campus, Thursday, November 15, 2018.

Since its inception, the Academy of Distinguished Entrepreneurs has recognized and honored entrepreneurs who have contributed significantly to the development of free enterprise throughout the world. Babson was among the first to establish such a recognition program for entrepreneurs.

Nominations of world-class entrepreneurs who have created great economic and social value are solicited from the Babson community as well as from outside the institution. Through the years, Babson has celebrated entrepreneurs of all kinds as illustrated by the impressive list of inductees. Collectively, the 110 members of the academy have created millions of jobs and improved societies around the world.

Sara Blakely, Founder & CEO, SPANX, Inc.

Sara Blakely founded Spanx, Inc. in 2000. A frustrated consumer turned entrepreneur, she created a product that revolutionized an industry and changed the way women around the world get dressed. Sara’s invention of footless pantyhose got her foot in the door, but the inspiration to continue inventing was driven by her passion to make things better and more comfortable for women.

Obsessed with inventing problem-solving garments, Sara and the Spanx team have expanded well beyond the company’s shapewear roots, Spanx now offers a variety of solutions to help women look and feel their best every day, from bras and panties to tights, leggings, jeans, active and swim.

In 2006, Sara created the Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation to pursue her dream of empowering women. To date, Sara and Spanx have donated roughly $25 million to the Foundation that supports education and entrepreneurship among women.

Remaining self-funded and profitable since she used her own savings to start the company, Spanx continues to show incredible growth. In addition to Spanx retail stores, SPANX are sold in America’s finest retailers and boutiques including Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, Dillard’s and Lord and Taylor, as well as high-end retailers in more than 50 countries around the world.

Sara was selected as one of TIME Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the world and was featured on the cover of Forbes Magazine. In 2013, she signed the Giving Pledge to donate half of her wealth to support her larger mission of supporting women. Sara and her family reside in Atlanta, Georgia. Sara is a native of Clearwater, Florida, and a graduate of Florida State University.

Jesse Itzler

Jesse Itzler only eats fruit until noon, loves Run-D.M.C., and enjoys living life “out of the box,” actually, he doesn't even have a box.

He cofounded Marquis Jet, the world’s largest prepaid private jet card company in 2001, which he and his partner sold to Berkshire Hathaway/NetJets.

He then partnered with Zico coconut water, which they sold to The Coca-Cola Company in 2013.

He is a former rapper on MTV and he produced and sang both the NBA’s Emmy Award-winning “I Love This Game” music campaign and the popular New York Knicks anthem “Go NY Go.”

Itzler is also the author of Living With a SEAL (New York Times Bestseller, #1 LA Times, #1 Amazon, #1 iTunes audiobook) and Living With the Monks.

When he's not out training for his next 100 mile run or being a dad, Jesse can be found at the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks games, where he is an owner of the team.

He is married to Spanx founder Sara Blakely and the couple and their four children live in Atlanta, Georgia.

Roger Enrico

Over the course of 30+ years at PepsiCo, Roger Enrico combined a piercingly sharp business mind with a flair for the dramatic. He had the ability to instantly get to the heart of the matter and communicate in a way that was understandable and memorable.

Originally from Minnesota, Roger attended Babson College on a scholarship, and became the first in his family to graduate from College. After graduation he joined General Mills for a year before joining the Navy ROTC program and was then deployed to Vietnam as a supply officer. Following his service he returned to General Mills. His success quickly attracted the attention of Frito-Lay and he was appointed brand manager for Funyuns. He went on to lead PepsiCo’s regional operations in Japan and Brazil and became chief executive of Pepsi-Cola USA at the unprecedented age of 38.

Roger immediately launched the “Cola Wars” by signing a multimillion-dollar sponsorship deal with Michael Jackson. The campaign included Lionel Ritchie, Madonna and Michael J. Fox and successfully grew Pepsi’s market share. This success led Coca-Cola to change its formula. Roger famously said on the day that Coca-Cola announced the change: “After 87 years of going at it eyeball to eyeball, the other guy just blinked.” Seventy-nine days later Coca-Cola revived its old formula in response to customer outcry. 

After being named Chief Executive and Chairman of PepsiCo in 1996, Roger spun off the restaurant division, composed of Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut chains, as an independent public company. He oversaw PepsiCo’s acquisition of Tropicana, Quaker Oats and Gatorade.

At PepsiCo, Roger devoted considerable time to mentoring talent by creating a Leadership Development program and the first frontline recognition program which celebrates hundreds of plant workers and route drivers from across the globe every year. He gave generously to employees and their children through scholarships and other opportunities.

Following his PepsiCo retirement in 2003, Roger was named Chairman for DreamWorks Animation. Roger also served as a board member of the National Geographic Society, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the American Film Institute.

For more than three decades, the generous philanthropy of Roger Enrico inspired the Babson Community. To date, Roger and Rosemary have supported 35 students through the Roger and Rosemary Enrico Scholarship, which was established to provide full-tuition, need-based scholarships for economically disadvantaged students from Dallas Public Schools. The scholarship is life-changing for the recipients. In 2015, Roger was awarded The Babson Medal—the highest honor Babson bestows on an individual for outstanding achievement and commitment to the College. It is presented to a dedicated graduate or friend for distinguished service to the community and College. Roger also supported Babson Athletics through The PepsiCo Pavilion. The Pavilion serves as an indoor practice facility for Babson's varsity teams, as well as numerous intramural and recreational activities. It will be rededicated “The PepsiCo Enrico Pavilion” on November 15, 2018. Roger is survived by his wife, Rosemary, his son and daughter-in-law, Aaron and Catie, and three grandchildren, Daniel, Gisele and Joseph.

About Babson College

Babson College is the educator, convener, and thought leader for Entrepreneurship of All Kinds®. The top-ranked college for entrepreneurship education, Babson is a dynamic living and learning laboratory where students, faculty, and staff work together to address the real-world problems of business and society. We prepare the entrepreneurial leaders our world needs most: those with strong functional knowledge and the skills and vision to navigate change, accommodate ambiguity, surmount complexity, and motivate teams in a common purpose to make a difference in the world, and have an impact on organizations of all sizes and types. As we have for nearly a half-century, Babson continues to advance Entrepreneurial Thought & Action® as the most positive force on the planet for generating sustainable economic and social value.