2015 Best EMBA: Peter B. Saba

Peter Saba

Peter B. Saba

Duke University, Fuqua School of Business

Imagine being a faculty member at Duke and seeing Peter Saba in your class. A Harvard Law graduate, Saba has served as an assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Energy and taught at Georgetown and American University. He led a team that prevailed in a U.S. Supreme Court tariffs case. And he works as a senior vice president and general counsel for a top uranium enrichment firm. Pretty intimidating? Not at all, says John Gallagher, associate dean for Executive MBA programs. He ranks Saba among the 10-best students he has ever encountered. He adds that while many students have much to say, “Peter is someone who has a lot to contribute.” And his fellow students agree,  electing him as the graduation class speaker. A prolific volunteer, Saba is heavily involved in his local church, YMCA, and Boy Scouts troop.

Age: 54

Location: Great Falls, VA

Family Members: My wife, Carolyn, and our four children, Claire and Gabrielle (twins, age 24), Andrew (19) and Isabelle (14)

Undergraduate School: University of Virginia

Undergraduate Degree: Bachelor of Arts, Economics and Foreign Affairs, with Highest Distinction

Post-Graduate: Harvard Law School, Juris Doctor cum laude

Where are you currently working? Centrus Energy Corp., a global energy company that enriches uranium for nuclear fuel. I hold the position of Senior Vice President, General Counsel, Chief Compliance Officer & Corporate Secretary

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…while watching a movie at home with my wife, she asked me if I had any regrets in life and I realized that if I did not earn my executive MBA now, then I never would and that is something I would have regretted.  I wanted to pursue an executive MBA because I believe that continuous learning and new challenges are the keys to keeping life interesting and to personal development, I wanted something positive and forward looking to work on while my company went through Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and I felt that a MBA would strengthen my leadership and business skills and make me a stronger business partner as general counsel.  As I complete the Duke GEMBA program, I can definitely say I have no regrets.

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…doing the same old things in the same old way and would be a less effective general counsel and business partner.  I would also be a less effective leader as one of the key things we learned in the GEMBA program was the importance of paying attention to both sides of the leader-follower relationship and how to apply the full range of leadership skills and actions to become accomplished leaders.

What are your long-term professional goals? To be part of the executive management team as General Counsel of a Fortune 100 multinational company and to apply my experience more broadly by serving on corporate boards.

Favorite Courses: Leadership for Global Executives; Operations Management in a Global Environment

Which academic or professional achievements are you most proud of? Leading a legal team that won a case at the Supreme Court that was vital to our company’s future, and working with export credit agencies from 15 countries to put in place $2 billion of trade credit facilities that played an important role in the reconstruction of Iraq.

Who would you most want to thank for your success (and why)? My family: My wife and children, who have supported me in my work and school and my parents who had the vision and courage to immigrate to this great country when I was five and who taught me the values of hard work, perseverance and integrity.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I chose [Fuqua] because of its global focus, its leadership development program and its emphasis on teamwork.

What did you enjoy most about the executive MBA program? Getting to really know and work with my international classmates during the global residencies.

What is your most memorable moment from business school? Visiting and teaching English at a migrant school outside of Shanghai as part of an immersion experience. We were able to see firsthand the difference of the learning system in a collectivist culture that has important implications for managing diverse workforces.

Fun fact about yourself: My first job during high school was as a porter at a bowling alley where I cleaned up (yes, that included the toilets) and worked the pin setting machines. I still can bowl a mean game of 10 pin.

Favorite book: Any novel by John Grisham

Favorite movie: Citizen Kane

Favorite musical performer: The Beatles

Favorite television show: House of Cards

Favorite vacation spot: Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

What are your hobbies? Golf

What made Peter such an invaluable addition to the class of 2015 for your executive MBA program?

“In my role as Associate Dean for Executive MBA Programs, I have come to know approximately 4,000 Executive MBA students. Peter Saba is clearly in the top 10 students I have known in terms of his overall impact on the program experience for all of his fellow students, faculty, and staff.  There are several factors that enable Peter to have such a broad and positive impact. 

 First, his educational background and employment history is quite extraordinary. Peter is enrolled in our most senior Executive MBA Program. It is not uncommon for these students to bring outstanding credentials. But, Peter truly stands out among some very elite participants.  His academic achievement in his current program is simply superb. Second, his commitment to his program and the experience of his fellow students is deep and sincere. At every opportunity, Peter finds a way to contribute in a meaningful and impactful manner. He engages with people with a very authentic and personal manner. Most importantly, he speaks only when he has something unique and valuable to contribute, deferring to his classmates and recognizing their contributions when appropriate. There are many students who have “a lot to say”.  Peter is someone who has a lot to contribute. His fellow students recognize his leadership and natural ability to model appropriate executive behaviors. They have elected Peter as their Class Speaker for the upcoming graduation ceremony. The faculty in Peter’s program are very experienced executive MBA educators. They have consistently mentioned the very positive role Peter has played in the overall effectiveness and quality of their classroom discussions. Finally, in independent conversations individual members of Peter’s class have described to me the impact Peter has had not only on the class as a whole, but on them individually.  Peter has become a trusted advisor and coach to many of his fellow students. We tell our students that their education is “co-created.”  The value they derive from the program is a function of their and their classmates’ contributions to the experience over the long-run.  I have not known an individual student who exemplifies these ideals to a higher degree than Peter Saba.”

– John Gallagher, Associate Dean for Executive MBA Programs