Michael Tokarz, ’73 MBA, is the 2018 recipient of the University of Illinois Distinguished Service Award, an honor presented by the Alumni Association for meritorious service to the University.
Tokarz has worked tirelessly to advance the mission of the University and to support the initiatives of Gies College of Business. A successful investment professional who was a general partner with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. for 18 years before founding The Tokarz Group, a private merchant bank, Tokarz has lent his extraordinary financial knowledge and talent in service to the University and the College.
“We are extremely fortunate to have an alumnus like Mike Tokarz supporting our College and our University,” says Dean Jeffrey Brown. “His exceptional business acumen, loyalty, and leadership all make him a source of wise counsel. And he’s not only a thoughtful strategic thinker, he’s absolutely a committed doer.”
As co-chair of the Campaign for Business Education at Illinois, Tokarz was instrumental in helping the College raise an ambitious $75 million to construct the Business Instructional Facility in 2006, says Brown, and to double the College endowment for named chairs, programmatic initiatives, research, and student scholarships. “Mike continues that commitment, serving on the University’s current ‘With I’ campaign leadership committee. He is extremely generous with his time, despite his many professional commitments.”
That generosity extends to serving the University as one of five corporate members of the IllinoisVENTURES Board of Managers. IllinoisVENTURES is a seed and early-stage technology investment firm created to help commercialize University of Illinois technologies. He is also the chairman of the board of directors of the Illinois Emerging Technologies Fund, the first venture fund raised by the IllinoisVENTURES venture capital firm, and serves on the board of directors for the University of Illinois Foundation.
Over his 45-year career, Tokarz has earned an international reputation as an expert in diverse leveraged buyouts, financings, restructurings, and dispositions. The Chicago native began his career at Continental Illinois National Bank & Trust Co. after earning his B.S. in economics from Illinois in 1971 and his MBA in 1973. His son Andrew also earned his MBA from Illinois in 2017.
Tokarz’s relationship with the College has another strong tie as well, one that was forged long after he completed his MBA. The late Paul Magelli was a beloved mentor, teacher, and friend to the Tokarz family, which also includes Mike’s wife Nancy and their son Justin. Mike was a speaker at the celebration of life held for Dr. Magelli at the College last year.
“Mike Tokarz is someone who believes deeply in providing the kind of mentorship and enthusiasm that he saw in Paul Magelli and in humbly serving the missions of the University and the College,” says Brown. “He is an exceptionally worthy recipient of the University’s Distinguished Service Award and an alumnus whose service, loyalty, and commitment brings great pride to the College.”