2017 Best EMBAs: Edward John Kroger, Rice University (Jones)

Edward John Kroger

Rice University, Jones Graduate School of Business

“Focused life-long learner who values respect, understanding, experiences and meaning.”

Age: 55

Hometown: Houston, Texas

Family Members: Patti and I have three teenage children: Abraham (18), Samuel (18) and Regan (16).

Fun fact about yourself: I ride a BMW K1600 motorcycle! The K1600 is an incredible machine: 6-cylinders, wickedly fast, beautifully designed and engineered.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Baylor University, BS (biology), 1981

The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School at Dallas, MD, 1985

The University of Texas at Houston Medical School, Internship in Internal Medicine, 1986

The University of Texas School of Law, JD, 1989

The University of Texas at Houston Medical School, Residency in Internal Medicine, 1991.

Rice University Jones Graduate School of Business, MBA, graduation in May 2017

Where are you currently working? I am the owner and managing partner of Kroger Burrus, a nine-attorney specialized law firm providing legal and consulting services to health care entities across Texas.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

  • Paul United Methodist Church – Member, Sunday school teacher
  • Spring Branch Independent School District – Started, led and taught multi-year Great Books after-school initiative at elementary and middle school levels.
  • Led Kroger Burrus firm’s contribution to handle pro bono cases for Houston Bar Association.
  • With my teenage kids, two-year effort to walk, then run, swim and bike culminating in completion of Galveston 70.3 mile Ironman race in 2014.
  • Lakewood Yacht Club – Sailing a remarkably unimpressive 32-foot sailboat.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? As the father of three teenagers, the owner of a business and a trial attorney representing clients, I have deep responsibilities to my children, my employees and my clients that were potentially placed at risk by the intellectual and time demands of my MBA program. As I complete my degree, I am most proud of the fact that I more than met my responsibilities outside of the program. My children are doing wonderfully, my firm is successful and I resolved the most complex litigation case of my career over the final eight months of the program.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of having created a business. I left a multinational law firm in 1999 shortly after making partner to set up a solo law practice. The practice has grown, become financially successful and enjoys an excellent reputation. Most importantly, it has given me the opportunity to mentor very talented young professionals and set them on paths to successful careers and to support, over the years, several hundred employees and their families.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Any course during my first semester, because I was assigned to an incredible and diverse team of four other individuals. I have successfully led many teams in my medical, legal and business careers, but only felt comfortable as a leader, not as a team member. Going into my MBA program, I had a rather negative view of teams and team membership. My first semester MBA team smashed these biases. Our team was so capable and dominant that it easily surpassed any result that a single individual could have accomplished. It changed my entire conception of teams and what they can accomplish.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I am interested in the intersection of law, medicine and business. Rice has excellent academic credentials, is across the street from the Texas Medical Center (the largest in the world) and is developing its health business offerings.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? The opportunity to work in teams and problem-solve with some of the most interesting and gifted people I have ever met.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? My litigation practice involves frequent travel. A typical evening might find me in some nondescript west Texas hotel finalizing an outline for the next day’s deposition, completing a draft of a case write up then talking at length with my college freshman son about his class on chaos theory. It has been a very challenging and very satisfying two years.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Insufficient time to experience everything my school offered. My professional practice and the assigned class work required me to choose carefully among the many offerings. Thankfully, my program offers the ability to return after graduation to audit courses and a very strong alumni network to maintain my school engagement.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Chris E. Staffel. Chris graduated with an MFA and had an early career in music and theater. She then successfully started and ran multiple pipeline companies. Chris is deeply spiritual, athletic, wickedly smart, intuitive and funny – and only 35 years old. She is one of the most talented and gifted people I have ever met and has taken advantage of her gifts to live a very full life.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I began realizing that many of the problems being brought to me by my institutional health care clients called for business (not medical or legal) answers. My 18-year on-the-job business education starting and running a law firm left me unprepared to answer my client’s questions.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…finishing a degree in a different academic area. We no longer live in a world where your academic life ends and your business career begins. Unless you embrace life-long education – formal and informal – you will be unable to take advantage of all of life’s professional and non-professional opportunities.”

What is your favorite company and what are they doing that makes them so special? The Memorial Hermann Health System is a large nonprofit health care corporation located in southeast Texas. The health care industry is facing many challenges. Memorial Hermann is leading change in strategy, physician alignment, physician leadership, technology adoption, data analytics, patient engagement, etc. They are a model for health care innovation and success.

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the executive MBA experience? Prioritize diversity. The executive MBA classroom experience is very interactive. The quality of this interaction is directly related to the ability of the students to bring their professional and life experiences to the discussion. Every type of diversity is critical: sex, ethnicity, nationality, professional experience, etc. While the Rice EMBA student makeup is very diverse, there is still a disproportionate number of men, and oil and gas industry professionals.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I want to use my knowledge of medicine, law and business to help shape the next 20 years of the health care industry.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My mentor, Charles D. Boston, the head of my practice group at an international law firm. He was the dominant force in my early legal career and my model for professionalism.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like to be thought of as respectful, intelligent and always willing to help.

Favorite book: Catch-22. The book encourages you to laugh, rather than rage at the absurdities of war, leadership, enterprises and man.

Favorite movie or television show: Black Hawk Down. It demonstrates the many facets and difficulties of leadership and mission planning in an uncertain and difficult environment

Favorite musical performer: Radiohead. Their music is a mystical journey into the meaning of life in an often random and difficult world.

Favorite vacation spot: Pensacola Beach. It has been the perfect location to spend time with my three children over the years – outdoors, low pressure, beautiful, and great places to run, swim, bike.

Hobbies? Triathlons. Sailing. Motorcycles. Reading and writing.

What made Edward such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“Edward brings a unique diversity to the EMBA class which is full of leaders and senior executives. He is a self-made man from rags to riches, having received minimum support for his college education, obtaining medical and law degrees, and successfully running a health law firm in Houston which boasts of the largest medical center in the world. Despite his vast experience, Edward always has an open mind and strong desire to learn new ways of doing things. His inquisitive mind is always asking questions, challenging himself and his peers, and making insightful comments. He demonstrates a great ability to understand many new business/financial concepts while relating to those from his own experience.

Edward’s emotional intelligence helps bring wisdom and maturity to the class discussions. He has a very engaging style, warm and approachable. Importantly, in some of the specialized electives outside of the regular EMBA curriculum, he is able to engage non-discriminatorily with students a lot younger and from different industries.

He has been a great ambassador of our school, always willing to provide constructive feedback. When I started planning for a new offering in health care, I have had long discussions with him which was invaluable in designing the new curriculum.”

Binata Mukherjee MD
Director, Health Care Initiative