Drawn to Charlottesville, Darden Alumni Make Big Impact on Life of the Community

By Dave Hendrick

Alumni of the University of Virginia Darden School of Business span the globe, with a thriving network of 16,000-plus spread across 90 countries. They hold leadership positions at top companies in New York and Beijing, San Francisco and Delhi.

However, the pull of Darden’s geographic home in Charlottesville remains impossible to resist for many.

During two transformative years at Darden, many students are surprised that a metropolitan area of little more than 200,000 can support the level of culture, restaurants and career opportunities found in the area, where small-town charm belies significant opportunity and ambition.

Some students graduate from Darden and retire to the area, while others return and start successful ventures. Some graduate and never leave, deeming the area an ideal fit for their professional and personal goals. In addition to the economic engine of the University itself, Charlottesville was named the fastest-growing venture capital city in the U.S. in 2015–16 by the National Venture Capital Association, and the city boasts an increasingly diversified, skilled workforce.

Many of the roughly 600 Darden alumni living and working in the area could not imagine leaving the area where they lead large companies and startups, and work at nonprofits and UVA itself.

Below are snapshots of six alumni who play a role in making the area a diverse and vibrant place to live and work.

Rob Archer (MBA ’94)

Co-founder and managing partner of Commercial Real Estate Properties and executive lecturer at the UVA School of Engineering and Applied Science.  Also assists his wife, Sandy Archer (MBA ’96) with Flavor Exceptional Catering. (And yes, founder of Arch’s Frozen Yogurt.)

Rob ArcherHow did you find your way to Darden?

We started Arch’s before going to business school and my thought process at the time was that Darden would prepare me for a corporate management career, but the small business thing just sort of took over! For me, the Darden experience was about growing a skillset and making these unbelievable connections to the faculty and my classmates. Little known secret: I wanted to walk down The Lawn again!

Why are you in Charlottesville?

We have fallen in love with the community. Our undergrad experience at UVA was so positive that we came back to start a business and raise a family. The community embraced our business in a way that made working so much fun.  Many of our customer relationships have developed into life-long friendships.

What’s your favorite part about living in the area?

There are so many wonderful things about Charlottesville. The people of Charlottesville are our favorite part; closely followed by UVA Athletics.  As former athletes, we are big fans. Go Hoos!

How does what you do contribute to the Charlottesville community?

Feeding and teaching UVA students is one way we serve our community.  I have also coached youth sports for more than 25 combined seasons (football, basketball and lacrosse). When you have four kids involved in sports, you have lots of coaching opportunities.  Also, serving in our church has given us the opportunity to encourage others spiritually.

Leslie Gregg (MBA ’95)

CEO, director and co-owner of The Market at Grelen

Leslie GreggWhy are you in Charlottesville?

We moved here in 1992 for my husband to start Grelen Nursery. He actually started it in 1990 at 28 years old, but we moved in 1992. I started Darden in 1993.

What’s your favorite part about living in the area?

I love the views, the downtown mall and the fabulous restaurants such a small town can support!

How does what you do contribute to the Charlottesville community?

The Market at Grelen is a wonderful place to come and celebrate Central Virginia. We offer five miles of hiking trails, free of charge, to the community and offer a gorgeous place where residents from all over Virginia can come and unplug. We also have pick-your-own fruit, a fab selection of Virginia beer, cider and wine and a garden shop, so it’s a special place to bring out-of-town guests and family. What’s not to love? We are all about sharing the beauty of Virginia and are only 35 minutes from downtown Charlottesville.

From a business and/or cultural perspective, where do you see Charlottesville going in the future?

I think Charlottesville and Albemarle will continue to grow and mature as a town and a county. I love that there are farms and wineries popping up in the area, not only to entertain our citizens but to help preserve the phenomenal landscape that makes this area so special. Hopefully, we will continue to manage the growth while still maintaining our small-town charm and rural beauty.

Toan Nguyen (MBA ’94)

Co-founder of C’ville Coffee and co-founder of The Community Investment Collaborative (CIC)

Toan CharlesHow did you find your way to Darden?

I wanted a career with a corporation that has a presence in Vietnam. My father gave his life to help the Vietnamese people have a better life, and I wanted to continue that tradition. I joined Carrier Corp. after Darden with the goal of becoming Carrier country manager in Vietnam. However, our family circumstances made us go back to Charlottesville.

Why are you in Charlottesville now?

What I realized after living in Charlottesville and learning about the tragic history of Vinegar Hill is that I don’t have to go back to Vietnam to help people. I can better the lives of the people right here in Charlottesville. That’s when I started CIC, a nonprofit organization that provides individuals in the Charlottesville area, particularly those who come from low-income households and lack college degrees, with training, mentoring and loans to launch their own businesses.

What’s your favorite part about living in the area?

Charlottesville is such a joyful, caring and engaging community. It’s a wonderful place to start anything new, such as a pharmaceutical company, internet startup or a nonprofit. There is so much energy and enthusiasm in the air!

Charlottesville is now indeed home as most of our family went to UVA. I got my bachelor’s in architecture and my MBA from Darden. My wife got her law degree there and my daughter got her bachelor’s in French. We love it here!

How does what you do contribute to the Charlottesville community?

I am very proud of the creation of CIC, as it has been a positive and powerful force in the community. Also C’ville Coffee is continuing to be a warm and welcoming center for the whole community.

Sarah Rumbaugh (MBA ’15)

CEO and co-founder at Relish

How did you find your way to Darden?

Sarah RumbaughAfter spending a few years working in consulting post-undergrad, it felt like business school was the next step in my career, whether I stayed in a corporate role or decided to follow my dream to start a business. I was excited about Darden because of its strong entrepreneurial resources, the case method culture and because I love Charlottesville.

Why are you in Charlottesville now?

Because Charlottesville is such a wonderful place to live. I could move anywhere in the country and run the business from there, but I truly believe Charlottesville is one of the best places to live. It has a great balance of the pros of living in a major city (great places to eat, music, art and a lot of young people) and the pros of living in the beautiful country side (great hiking, views, vineyards, breweries). Charlottesville is an easy place to live combined with a lot of great stuff to do and see as well as a great entrepreneurial ecosystem. I live in Charlottesville because I want to be in Charlottesville. I stayed in Charlottesville post-Darden for the same reason.

What’s your favorite part about living in the area?

It’s the ability to have city and country living simultaneously without the high cost and high traffic of a major city and with the strong pros of city living — great restaurants and things to do.

How does what you do contribute to the Charlottesville community?

What I do contributes to the entrepreneurial community and the Darden community. I participate and support a lot of the entrepreneurial events and ecosystems in Charlottesville as well as am involved with Darden alumni events, the i.Lab, and I continue to work with current students and faculty. While on a small scale, I also help contribute to the Charlottesville working economy by growing a business here.

David Kalergis (MBA ’80)

Chairman, CEO and co-founder of Diffusion Pharmaceuticals Inc.

How did you find your way to Darden?

David KalergisI graduated from the UVA College of Arts and Sciences and worked here in Charlottesville for a few years after graduation. I had married a local girl with whom I recently celebrated our 45th anniversary. I decided I wanted a higher education in business, finance and law, which I could apply to a desired career in the founding and management of the newly emerging biotech sphere. So I enrolled in the Darden/Law School joint program to help prepare me for the work that I still do today.

Why are you in Charlottesville now?

After some very intense time spent working in New York City following graduation, we decided we wanted to raise our children as Virginians, so we moved back and bought a small farm west of town. The facts that my wife had family here, that we were both avid equestrians and Albemarle County is ground zero for certain types of horse activities had a lot of influence.

How does what you do contribute to the Charlottesville community?

Diffusion Pharmaceuticals provides good employment to over a dozen people and is helping to establish Charlottesville as a biotech hub, which produces more good jobs and fosters a non-polluting, non-resource intensive source for growth. It also demonstrates the world-class science being done at UVA and offers hope for the improved treatment of some pretty horrendous unmet medical needs.

On the nonbusiness side, I enjoy singing in the church choir on Sundays and acting in local theatrical productions.

From a business and/or cultural perspective, where do you see Charlottesville going in the future?

For those who can afford to live here, I see it only getting better, with more cultural, dining and entertainment opportunities, great schools, interesting rural and in-town neighborhoods, and a beautiful environment, which is being preserved from over-development. But the widening income distribution gap in this country is also manifesting itself here, causing the possibility of some divisiveness between newly stratified groups of have-a-lots and have-just-enough-to-survives.

Damian Warshall (MBA ’14)

Owner of cold brew coffee company Snowing in Space

Why are you in Charlottesville now?

Damian WarshallAfter business school, I wanted to work in the craft beer industry. I was able to find a job with a small local craft brewery, which kept me in Charlottesville. After some time, I moved to run the operations at another local beverage company, during which time my two co-founders and I started to plan the launch of Snowing In Space. We launched the business in June of 2016 and haven’t looked back since.

What’s your favorite part about living in the area?

The community. The people who live in this area are about as friendly and supportive as any I’ve ever experienced.

How does what you do contribute to the Charlottesville community?

Firstly, we’re bringing great coffee to the Charlottesville community. Second, we intend to continue building our business within Charlottesville, creating good jobs (already employing eight full-time and 10 part-time employees), and generally spreading the Charlottesville “brand” everywhere we bring our product. We will always pride ourselves on being a Charlottesville-based business, and we’re able to promote that to our customers throughout Virginia.

From a business and/or cultural perspective, where do you see Charlottesville going in the future?

I see Charlottesville continuing to really develop entrepreneurs and small businesses. There are so many smart and motivated people in this community. Charlottesville has done a lot (though still has a lot of work to do) to really promote the startup and small business ecosystem. And I think we’re seeing the fruit of that labor really start to develop with the number of high-quality businesses that are emerging in multiple industries.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


Press Contact

David Hendrick
Associate Director, Editorial & Media Relations
Darden School of Business
University of Virginia