Alumnus of the year awards tend to go to graduates with weathered State U. stickers on their bumpers and the dates for homecoming annually circled on their calendars, alma mater loyalists who fondly recall the campus friendships and academic challenges that helped define their young adulthood.
Dale “Dusty” Wince, the 2014 Mason Alumnus of the Year, is none of those things. He didn’t attend the university as a wide-eyed 18-year-old. He attended Mason in his late 40s, as an esteemed businessman with teenage children, to satisfy a nagging urge to add an MBA to his extensive résumé and experience academia in a way he never could have before.
Wince, 51, dropped out of a small California college his freshman year in the early 1980s to return to the East Coast to help bail out the business of his grandfather, a Pearl Harbor veteran who had raised him. Wince went on to launch and sell businesses of his own, and in 2000 he founded Knowledge Consulting Group (KCG), a cybersecurity firm that now has 250 employees. He is KCG’s CEO.
College came later. Wince earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Phoenix in 2007 and an Executive MBA from Mason’s School of Management in 2012. When Wince graduated, he was chosen by the faculty—Dean Sarah Nutter was one of his professors—as Outstanding Graduate and was inducted into the Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society.
That was only the start of his contributions to Mason. Wince donated $100,000 to establish the Mason Student Venture Fund that awards the winners of the School of Management’s annual Dean’s Business Plan Competition, an event where he served as a judge. Wince secured funds to help establish the recently opened Mason Innovation Lab and is the founding member of the Center for Global Business Advisory Board, whose resources benefit budding student entrepreneurs.
Despite his many professional accomplishments and busy home life, Wince fell hard for Mason, as hard as any 18-year-old with a head full of ideas and a boundless future.
“I thought I would go and be done and never be connected to the school,” he says. “There’s just something about it that I’m drawn to, from the students to the professors to the entire staff. I was able to learn from the professors, and the students never cease to amaze me.
“There were always a lot of discussions after the lectures were done. [My classmates] would come to me and say, ‘I heard what was said in class. What happens in the real world?’ I found I enjoyed that a lot. Not saying what I know is right or wrong—just sharing my experience.”
That experience is vast. Before founding KCG, Wince served as vice president of CIBER Enterprise Integration Practice, which came after a stint as cofounder and vice president of Business Impact Systems. He began his career with Electronic Data Systems.
Wince believes the educational adversities he had to overcome ultimately aided in his success. Even so, he and his wife, Shari, have wished for a more traditional path for their children—Mason graduate Chelsey, 24; Dustin, 21; and Bryce, 18.
Helping students launch satisfying careers will be one of Wince’s many missions at Mason. He continues to guest lecture and serve on the Dean’s Advisory Council for the School of Management.
“I really think my work is just beginning at the school,” the alumnus of the year says. “I have another family and another life—and that’s Mason.”