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Spring 2012
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Alumni News

The Ultimate Fighter

By Krisy Gashler

Wall Street broker by day, professional mixed martial arts fighter by night. It may sound like the setup for a comic book, but it’s real life for John Cholish ’06.

John Cholish
Credit: Rey Del Rio

John Cholish ‘06, right, in the ring at a UFC match.

At Cornell, Cholish excelled in applied economics and management while helping the Big Red’s Varsity Wrestling Team place fourth and fifth in the NCAA Division I National Championships. He said camaraderie among Big Red wrestlers is one of the reasons he chose Cornell.

After graduation, Cholish took a job with Morgan Stanley. Wanting to stay in shape, he found the Renzo Gracie gym one block away and began training in jiu jitsu.

Just six months later, Cholish did his first professional MMA fight. Though he lost that first fight, he’s won all eight since. Ultimate Fighting Championship, signed Cholish to a professional contract over a year ago. His next fight is May 5 at the IZOD Center in New Jersey, and it’ll be broadcast on FOX.

Somehow, Cholish’s phenomenal MMA rise hasn’t dampened his Wall Street prospects. He now works at Beacon Energy Group, a subsidiary of Intercontinental Exchange, where he brokers natural gas and crude oil options.

“I don’t have a lot of free time, but I love both of my jobs,” Cholish said. “That’s the biggest thing I took from Cornell: when you’re a Division I athlete, you really have to be good with time management.”

Cholish credits his parents with the support and work ethic that led him to Cornell and now to double-professional success. And while Dad comes to every fight, Mom can’t watch, Cholish said.

“She’s hilarious. I called one time after a fight to say, you know, ‘Mom, I won,’ and she said, ‘How’s the other guy? Is he OK?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m fine, mom. Thanks.’”

Pelletier Completes Degree After 14-year Pro Hockey Career

After his sophomore year at Cornell in 1997, Jean-Marc Pelletier was drafted into the NHL.

Jean-Marc Pelletier
Credit: Lindsay France/University Photography

Jean-Marc Pelletier ‘12 with daughter Jane at the December Recognition Event for January Graduates.

“It was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make, but the Philadelphia Flyers made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, and I don’t regret it,” Pelletier said. “But I always finish what I start. It was important for me to say to my daughter: ‘I graduated from a great school.’ Nobody can ever take that away from me.”

Pelletier continued to take classes during his years as a pro, and when he retired a year and a half ago, he needed only 12 credits to earn his degree from Cornell’s Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. He returned to campus for the fall 2011 semester, attending classes with students who were four years old when he left Cornell.

Fourteen years after leaving the Hill for the ice, Pelletier was one of about 300 graduates in the Dec. 17 ceremony in Barton Hall. He began his new job with Lego, the Danish toy manufacturer, Jan. 3.

Pelletier said taking the road less traveled–or skated–has paid off: “A Cornell degree is really worth something, and I’m proud to have one.”

Leading the Pack

It’s the athletes who get all the glory, but for sports to move beyond neighborhood courts or icy ponds, it takes managers. That’s why sports fans in Toronto should keep a special place in their hearts for Larry Tanenbaum ’68. As Chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Limited, Tanenbaum is a management-style triple threat: he’s a Governor of the NBA (Raptors), the NHL (Maple Leafs), and Major League Soccer (Toronto FC). At Cornell, Tanenbaum was a student manager of the Big Red hockey team and an economics major. Much of Tanenbaum’s professional career has been spent in heavy construction and broadcasting: his Kilmer Van Nostrand Co. built subways in Caracas, Atlanta, Calgary, and Toronto; and CUC Broadcasting Limited, where he sat on the board, helped introduce cable TV to the United Kingdom. A lifelong philanthropist and volunteer, Tanenbaum has served on a host of educational, municipal, and community boards, including the Cornell University Council.

For Toronto Raptors fans and hard-core NBA enthusiasts, Bryan Colangelo ’87 is a household name. The Raptors president and general manager has twice been named NBA Executive of the Year by Sporting News for his skillful turnarounds of the Phoenix Suns and then the Raptors. Colangelo is an applied economics and management graduate who played reserve guard for the Big Red men’s basketball team and lettered in 1986-87. Colangelo worked for the Phoenix Suns for 15 years, including seven as team president, before joining the Raptors. He was part of the new ownership group that purchased the Toronto franchise in 2004.

Two other CALS graduates are help shaping American basketball with high-level management positions in the NBA. Chris Granger ’93 and Mark Tatum ’91 are executive vice presidents for the National Basketball Association. Granger oversees Team Marketing and Business Operations, advising NBA, WNBA, and Development League teams on issues like ticket sales, marketing, and customer retention. Tatum is in charge of global marketing partnerships for the NBA, WNBA, NBA Development League, and USA Basketball, working with top executives from brands like Gatorade, Nike, and Coca-Cola. He also oversees NBA media sales, including with league partners ABC/ESPN and TNT. Additionally, he is a member of the CALS Advisory Council.

A native New Yorker, Jon Daniels ’99 made history in 2005 when at age 28 he became the youngest general manager in Major League history. After earning a degree in applied economics and management from Cornell, he first worked for wine and food conglomerate Allied Domecq in Boston. Drawn into the world of baseball by his Cornell classmate and fraternity brother A.J. Preller ’99, he landed an internship with the general manager of the Colorado Rockies in 2001. The following year, he joined the Texas Rangers as an operations assistant and quickly rose through the ranks to director of operations in 2003, assistant general manager in 2004, and general manager in 2005. As general manager, Daniels helped lead the Texas Rangers to an American League pennant and the team’s first-ever World Series in 2011.