The Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes one graduate who has exhibited outstanding leadership and service in both the professional and philanthropic realms. The recipient will have also contributed significantly to the Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management by donating time, energy, talent or financial support and will have built networks through class activities, regional programs such as CityOwen, board involvement and service to current students and faculty.

The Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Management annually grants the Distinguished Alumnus/a Award, not only to honor worthy recipients, but also to inspire students and alumni.


Congratulations to Virginia "Gigi" Banks Lazenby

Virginia “Gigi” Banks Lazenby, BA ’67, MBA ’73, graduated from Vanderbilt with a degree in European history and fine arts—and few job prospects. When family friend Henry Hooker, BA ’54, said that he would hire her as his assistant if she learned to type and take dictation, she was more than willing to oblige. As Gigi witnessed these ventures take shape, her interest in business grew. At Hooker’s encouragement, she decided to enroll at the Owen Graduate School of Management. “What I really learned at Owen was the ability to work with people and deal with them,” she says. “There’s a lot more to running a business than crunching numbers.”

After graduation she joined up again with Hooker, who was then in the oil business. It was in this industry that Gigi found her calling, and she struck out on her own in 1988 to form Bretagne LLC, an oil and gas exploration and production company with 40 employees in eastern Kentucky, where she continues to serve as the chairman and CEO.

She served as the chair of the Independent Petroleum Association of America from 2011 through 2013, previously serving as vice chair, and was also president of the National Stripper Well Association. Gigi testified before Congress many times on behalf of the National Stripper Well Association and the Independent Petroleum Association of America and was awarded the IPAA Leadership Award in 2001.

She served on the board of the American Petroleum Institute from 2011 through 2015. She is a member of the National Petroleum Council, a post appointed by the Secretary of Energy, as well as a board member of the Kentucky Oil and Gas Association, which awarded her the 2016 Robert G. Alley Service Award.

Her business interests include an interest in Kentucky Downs LLC. Kentucky Downs conducts a live turf racing meet each September and it is home more than 600 Vegas-style gaming machines, live music and entertainment, year-round simulcasting and charity bingo events. She is a significant shareholder in Exacta Systems, LLC, a provider of Vegas– style gaming machines based on historical horse races whose clients include Kentucky Downs and several other race tracks.

She assumed management of her brother’s Thoroughbred racing stable after his death in 2014, and together with her husband, Ted, has had success racing flat and steeplechase horses—most recently a Stake Race at Belmont Park.

She is also a leader in the Nashville community, where she sits on the board and finance committee for Cheekwood Botanical Garden. She has served as vice president of the Board of Directors of Belle Meade Plantation, a historic property in Nashville, Tennessee that represents a history of agricultural and Thoroughbred breeding encompassing a full century of Southern history. This summer she served as honorary co-chair for the 2016 Steeplechase in Nashville. She and Ted, also a Vanderbilt alum, have provided leadership in both the business and civic Nashville communities for decades and proudly share their Vanderbilt and Owen experiences with friends and colleagues.

In addition to her professional organizations and community service projects, Gigi has continued to serve in various volunteer roles at Owen and Vanderbilt. She has served as the president of the Owen Alumni Association, as a reunion volunteer, as a Vanderbilt Aid and as a member of the Owen Board of Visitors.

Past Distinguished Alumni Recipients

2015 Heiki Miki (MBA '96)

2014 Brent Turner (MBA '99)

2013 Eric Noll (MBA '90)

2012 Jim Sohr (BE '86, MBA '90)

2011 David B. Ingram (MBA '89)

2006 A.J. Kazimi (MBA '84)

2005 Amy Jorgensen Conlee (MBA '77)

2004 William Douglas Parker, Jr. (MBA ’86)

2003 David C. Kloeppel (MBA ’96)

2002 James H. Herring, Jr. (MBA ’89)

2000 Kimberley G. Newton (MBA ’99)

1999 Brad Williams (MBA ’94)

1998 J. Smoke Wallin (MBA ’93)

1997 Donald E. Townswick (MBA ’92)

1996 Robert W. Davis (MBA ’91)

1995 Thomas Eckert (MBA ’90)

1994 James Welch (MBA ’89)

1993 Mark Hilling (MBA ’88)

1992 Brian M. Cote (MBA ’87)

1991 Carin L. Barth (MBA ’86)

A plaque listing all Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management Distinguished Alumni Award recipients hangs in Management Hall at Owen.


Do you know of an alumnus making an impact in the world? Complete this form and nominate them today!