2008 Forward under 40 Award Honoree
UW Major: sociology
Age: 40 | Livingston, New Jersey
CEO of MarquisJet
Kenny Dichter has been an entrepreneur since his freshman year at UW-Madison, when he opened a retail shop called Bucky's on State Street. From there, his ambitions in sports-based marketing only grew. Working with the UW's athletic department and then-chancellor Donna Shalala, he helped create Late Night with the Badgers, a pep rally hosted by ESPN personality Dick Vitale.
After graduation, he returned to his native New York, where hes founded three companies: Alphabet City, a recording label that produces music compilations for collegiate and professional sports leagues; Tour GCX Inc., which offers New York area golfers access to private golf clubs; and most recently MarquisJet, a $750 million company that sells prepaid cards that offer access to private jet travel.
But Dichter's goals are hardly merely financial. His entrepreneurial success provides the means to give back to the community around him. MarquisJet includes a program called MarquisCare, which supports more than fifty different charities. Further, Dichter sits on the board of the Turn the Corner Foundation, which aids efforts to fight Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses, and hes a member of the executive committee for the Jack Martin Fund to provide inpatient and outpatient treatment for people with HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases at New York's Mt. Sinai Hospital.
UW-Madison made a deep impression on Dichter he met his wife, Shoshanna Kamis Dichter '92, on campus and hes responded with avid interest in the university. He spearheaded an effort among young alumni in New York and California to raise $1.5 million to remodel the university's football offices, and he claims that his wardrobe is about 50 percent Badger gear.
In his own words
My University of Wisconsin experience has impacted my life in many ways. It layed the foundation for many lifelong friendships. It layed the foundation for my business career. And it layed the foundation for my family (I met my wife, Shoshana class of 92 at UW). To this day, every Saturday in the fall I reconnect via ABC/ESPN or via MarquisJet to the Badger Football games and I still spend nights awake trying to figure out how to re-enroll (a la Rodney Dangerfield in Back to School) as a freshman.
My wife and I recently took our two daughters to UW on a family pre-teen tour where both girls (ages 3 and 6) declared UW their first choice for college. The biggest impact the University of Wisconsin has had on my life is my current wardrobe, which is about 50% Badger Gear.