William Blair Veterans, Colleagues Celebrate Patriotism on November 11

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

William Blair panelists and moderators: Tye Clark, Evan Brainerd, Jonathan Kong, Corwin Marbly, Dave Merjan, Sarah Owen, Bob Fix, Mark Wicherek, and John Moore


William Blair panelists and moderators from left: Tye Clark, Evan Brainerd, Jonathan Kong, Corwin Marbly, Dave Merjan, Sarah Owen, Bob Fix, Mark Wicherek, and John Moore


William Blair military veterans inspired colleagues with their patriotism, courage and commitment to service at the firm's annual Veterans Day celebration held on November 11 at global headquarters in Chicago.

The standing-room only gathering featured a luncheon discussion with seven colleagues who served in the Armed Forces or had a family member in the service as well as guest speaker Lieutenant Mark Thompson, command chaplain at the Great Lakes Naval Station in North Chicago.

This year's event was particularly notable as it marked the 100th anniversary of Veterans Day and the 5th anniversary of the day's host, William Blair Veterans' Alliance. The Alliance, which now has more than 40 members, was created to connect and support veterans.

Colleagues and guests underscored the value of helping veterans in their transition from military service to civilian life during the gathering. In recent years more than one million men and women in uniform, many of them veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq, have completed their military service.

"Our veterans will tell you themselves that they may have put away their uniforms but they are not finished serving their country," guest speaker Lt. Thompson told the crowd, asserting that veterans have vast experiences leading missions in and out of combat zones and are great assets to our society and the workforce.

"Veterans are some of the most talented and capable people on the face of the earth," Lt. Thompson added.

Lt. Thompson made the point that besides finding jobs, supporting veterans struggling with mental health and the aftershocks of combat is among the greatest gifts civilians can give.

"With service comes unique issues and the introduction to things like PTSD that bring a truck load of other issues to work through," he said.

Panelists share experiences

William Blair panelist Jonathan Kong, a former Navy medic who served with ground forces in Afghanistan, said service men and women are great at completing missions: fulling their warrior creed to defend the country. But many veterans struggle coming home, especially after coming off such a long war and are not getting the help they need. 

"We have great programs but veterans aren't seeking them out because they're being told they're broken—they think they're not good enough," said Kong, who is with the San Francisco investment banking team. "Letting them know that the warrior ethos doesn't stop when you come back from deployment—it continues on for the rest of your life—is really important."

Like Kong several of the panelists were in grade school when 9/11 happened.    

"I'll never forget September 11. It left an incredible mark on my life," said Sarah Owen, now with investment banking and a former Marine who served two tours in Afghanistan.

"I realized that I was going to go to bed that night because I knew there were others keeping watch—there were others who had my back. They were creating this sense of peace and calm. I wanted to be part of that and that's why I joined."

From left Robert Nachman with Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve-Illinois; Evan Brainerd and Tye Clark, co-chairs of William Blair Veterans’ Alliance; John Ettelson, President & CEO of William Blair; John Moore, head of William Blair Institutional Equity group


From left: Robert Nachman with Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve-Illinois; Evan Brainerd and Tye Clark, co-chairs of William Blair Veterans’ Alliance; John Ettelson, President & CEO of William Blair; John Moore, head of William Blair Institutional Equity group, at the firm’s Veterans Day celebration which included a pledge to support ESGR.


William Blair has supported veterans since its founding and in recent years has partnered with community groups including Bunker Labs, a nonprofit that helps military veterans start businesses, and Rush Road Home, a provider of mental health services for veterans. William Blair leaders have also made a clear commitment to hiring veterans for their character and experience and pledged support of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. ESGR is a federal program that fosters a culture among employers to support and value employees who serve in the National Guard and Reserves.

"From a business standpoint it's essential that we embrace inclusivity, diversity and the best talent we can possibly get in our client-facing activities. What better source than our veterans to help us achieve those goals," said John Moore, head of William Blair's Institutional Equities & Sales and the executive sponsor of the Alliance.

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