Entrepreneur and businessman Dave Zilko named commencement speaker for Eastern Michigan University graduation ceremonies on Sunday, April 28

Dave Zilko color portrait
Dave Zilko

YPSILANTI – Dave Zilko, a creative and energetic entrepreneur who is CEO of FUEL Leadership, has been named the commencement speaker for the spring graduation ceremonies at Eastern Michigan University.

Zilko will speak at both the 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. ceremonies at the EMU Convocation Center on Sunday, April 28, and he will receive an honorary Doctor of Commerce degree. His inspirational message will touch on his varied professional path and the many opportunities that can arise along the way. The University’s Board of Regents approved the speaker at its regular meeting on Tuesday, April 23.

Zilko founded his first specialty food company more than 20 years ago on a $2,500 credit card loan. He remains an equity partner in several food-oriented enterprises, but recently exited active involvement in the industry when he engineered the sale of Garden Fresh Gourmet, makers of the number one brand of fresh salsa in North America, to the Campbell Soup Company for $231 million. He was a partner at Garden Fresh for 13 years, serving as Vice Chairman, with primary responsibility for strategy and sales.

Today, he has an equity stake in and is CEO of FUEL Leadership, a digital media property that also organizes business events that feature a strong list of high-level speakers, including from the areas of business to entertainment.

Zilko is also an operating partner at Huron Capital, a Detroit-based private equity firm with more than $1 billion under management. He also has served on numerous boards, both public and private.

He graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in finance and earned a Master of Business Administration in marketing from The George Washington University.

The 9:30 a.m. commencement ceremony will involve the College of Arts and Science and the College of Education, and the 1:30 p.m. ceremony will include the College of Health and Human Services, the College of Business and the College of Technology.

About Eastern Michigan University

Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 19,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Health and Human Services; Technology, and its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.

April 10, 2019

Written by:
Geoff Larcom

Geoff Larcom