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John Alexander '74 named Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year

John Alexander '74, MBA '76, a founder of the CBORD Group Inc., has been named Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year 2012. He will be honored on campus during the Entrepreneurship@Cornell Celebration, a two-day conference, April 19-20.

Alexander founded CBORD in 1975, when he was a physics major in the College of Arts and Sciences, in partnership with two other Cornellians, inspired by his food-service experience gained while working at Cornell Dining. The company operated out of his apartment in New York City before moving to its first office, a house on State Street in Ithaca. The business, which initially focused on computer software systems for food and nutritional services, made its first sale to Syracuse University.

Alexander served as CBORD's CEO and president until 2004, when the corporation had grown to more than 240 employees, serving more than 4,000 clients worldwide. The company now provides cashless campus card systems, food and nutrition service management software, nationwide student discount and off-campus commerce programs, housing and judicial process management software, and integrated security solutions. Alexander sold the majority of his shares in the company in 2004; he served as chairman until 2008, when CBORD was sold to a public company.

In the philanthropic arena, Alexander works with the United Way of Tompkins County, serving as an emeritus member of its board, and the Food Bank of the Southern Tier, where he is heading its first capital campaign. John and his wife, Elaine '77, were co-chairs for the Hangar Theatre's capital campaign in 2009-10, which resulted in major renovations to the Ithaca theater.

Alexander has been a limited partner in the Cayuga Venture Fund since its inception and continues to mentor entrepreneurs and invest in Cornell startups. He serves on Tompkins Financial Corp.'s board of directors.

Prior to CBORD, Alexander was a vice president in the money market division of Bankers Trust Co. (now Deutsche Bank). While in New York City and building CBORD, he also formed TYMAR Management Services, a provider of Eurocurrency arbitrage and Euro/Canadian dollar trading software. This provided sufficient capital to relocate to Ithaca and to begin work at CBORD on a full-time basis in 1979. The Alexanders, along with two other Ithaca partners, also operated a Mexican restaurant in Ithaca, Coyote Loco, 1991-2003.

Alexander was an alumni-elected Cornell trustee from 2000 to 2004 and a trustee-at-large from 2004 to 2008, and he served on numerous committees and chaired the Audit Committee for four years. He now serves on the boards of the Cornell Center for Technology, Enterprise and Commercialization and the Cornell Research Foundation, and on the Entrepreneurship@Cornell Advisory Council. He is an emeritus member of the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management's Advisory Council.

Alexander also has served on several other trustee committees, including the Executive, Buildings and Properties and Student Life committees, and several task forces, including the Downtown Ithaca Office Building Advisory Committee, the Land Grant Technology Transfer Panel, the Life Sciences Technology Task Force, the Capital Project Cost Team and the Alumni Affairs Steering Committee.

The Alexanders live in the mountains of Malinalco, Mexico, in the winter and return to New York for the summer.

The Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year award is given annually to a Cornell graduate who best exemplifies entrepreneurial achievement, community service and high ethical standards. Alexander will give a public address April 19 at 4:30 p.m. in the Statler Auditorium.

Kathy Hovis is a writer/editor for Entrepreneurship@Cornell.

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Joe Schwartz