“It’s pretty darn cool for a ritual scholar to get a ritual,” Cele Otnes said at her investiture as the Anthony Petullo Professor of Business Administration.
Held on September 22, 2017, the investiture ceremony celebrated Otnes and her accomplishments as both a scholar and a teacher. College of Business Dean Jeffrey R. Brown said at the opening of the event, “When you have someone who is an accomplished researcher, an award-winning teacher, with an exceptional record of service, about the only other thing you can ask for is that they be a nice person. And she is about as nice as they come.”
Otnes joined the Department of Business Administration in 2000 and currently serves as the interim head of the department. Her research focuses on how micro, macro, and marketplace factors shape consumption rituals such as gift-giving, holidays, and culturally embedded occasions. She is the co-author of Royal Fever: The British Monarchy in Consumer Culture and of Cinderella Dreams: The Allure of the Lavish Wedding (both by the University of California Press). Her research has appeared in the Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Consumer Psychology, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Journal of Advertising, Journal of Retailing, and other journals and edited volumes. Her current research explores consumers’ quests for tranquility-inducing products, services, and experiences.
Julie Ruth, a professor of marketing and associate dean of graduate programs in the School of Business at Rutgers and a long-time co-author and friend, said of Otnes’ research impact, “Cele has been a pathbreaker of using qualitative methods of the highest caliber to generate new knowledge about phenomena that are important in the emotional and social lives of consumers, such as consumer rituals like gift exchange. . . . With scholarly grace, she navigates the seemingly disparate nature of phenomena that are at once deeply personal and yet universal.”
Sharon Shavitt, the Walter H. Stellner Professor Marketing in the College of Business, described the positive impact Otnes has had on the Department of Business Administration and the College as a whole: “She always brings the joy, the enthusiasm, the positive energy. It’s hard to overstate how important that is to the morale of the unit. Cele can find the good in just about any situation, and she can usually find the humor, too. Cele can recruit people to Illinois and the College better than anyone. She is a one-woman Chamber of Commerce for all the things that make us great.”
When it was Otnes’ turn to speak, she first thanked Anthony Petullo, whose generosity made the professorship possible: “Thank you wholeheartedly for allowing me to embody your generous philanthropic work at this university. My pledge to you is to try to find ways large and small to help make our College experience more affordable or sustainable, if you will, and to encourage others to do the same.”
She described how much she has enjoyed her work in the College of Business, and how positive her interactions with fellow faculty, the administration, and staff have been. “I want us to ponder how lucky and privileged we are to work here,” she said. “We have a civil, friendly, and even—dare I say it—fun environment.”
Otnes regularly appears on the “List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by Their Students.” She twice received the Outstanding Teaching Award in the College of Media at Illinois, where she was a member of the faculty from 1990 to 1999. She is a member of the Association for Consumer Research (ACR), the American Marketing Association, and the Society for Consumer Psychology. She served as Treasurer, and Board Member for the Association for Consumer Research, and conference co-chair for ACR’s North American and European conferences. She serves on the editorial review boards of the Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Service Research, and Journal of Current Issues and Research in Advertising.
About Anthony J. Petullo
Anthony J. Petullo earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the College of Business in 1961. Following graduation, he spent three years as a US Navy officer and five years with Mobil Corporation. He then founded and was president of Olsten Staffing Services, a very successful temporary help firm in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Following the sale of Olsten Staffing Services in 2000, Petullo became president of the Anthony Petullo Foundation, and he is now one of Milwaukee’s most respected community leaders.
During the 1970s, he developed a keen interest in works by self-taught and outsider artists from Europe and the Americas. Since then he has been an avid collector and student of this field of art. He has become a recognized authority on self-taught art and has written three books on the subject.
Petullo attributes his success in business, in collecting art, and in civic engagement to the experiences and education he received at the University of Illinois. Over the years, he has become a very loyal and enthusiastic supporter of the University. He was a leader in establishing core programs at the Illinois Leadership Center, including the Petullo Insight Leadership Program, which assists students in developing the skills needed for effective leadership. In addition to the Anthony J. Petullo Professor of Business Administration in the College of Business, he generously supports the Anthony J. Petullo Professor in Design in the College of Fine and Applied Arts. He also supports the Anthony J. Petullo Design Fellowship in the School of Art and Design, the Anthony J. Petullo Advertising Fellowship in the College of Media, and the Anthony J. Petullo Leaders in Business Scholarship, which benefits a number of undergraduate Business students. Furthermore, Petullo provides support to the Ricker Library of Architecture and Art for the acquisition and preservation of collection materials in the area of fine arts.