Doug Villhard recognized for excellence in teaching

  • November 3, 2023
  • By Sara Savat
  • 3 minute read

Doug Villhard, a professor of practice in entrepreneurship at the Olin Business School, is one of nine Washington University in St. Louis faculty members who were selected as Emerson Excellence in Teaching Award recipients for 2023.

Villhard returned to Olin, his alma mater, in 2019 following an immensely successful career as a serial entrepreneur—starting, selling, buying, advising and investing in companies. Where others may have chosen to retire and enjoy a more leisurely lifestyle, Villhard saw an opportunity to give back and support the next generation of entrepreneurs through teaching.

“I've been trying to live my life in three phases: learn, earn and return. I'm proud to have entered the return phase,” he said.

“The best part is that when you teach, you are actually learning at the same time. My students have taught me far more than I've taught them. Every day at Olin is a dream come true.”

Villhard teaches both graduate and undergraduate level entrepreneurship classes at Olin. One of his most famous courses is The Hatchery, where students pitch business ideas and work in teams with the goal of launching their businesses by the end of the semester.

My students have taught me far more than I've taught them. Every day at Olin is a dream come true.

He also serves as the academic director for entrepreneurship at Olin. Under his guidance, the program has consistently been ranked first by Poets & Quants.

Current and former students say Villhard’s guidance, honest feedback and vast network within the St. Louis startup community were instrumental in helping them launch their companies.

“Doug 100 percent believes in the potential of student entrepreneurs and will do anything he can to help his students improve,” said Sydney Nagorsky, who graduated from WashU in 2023 with a bachelor of science degree in computer science. “Whether it be giving brutally honest—but necessary — feedback, connecting us to his large network of people, or being the first customer of a student’s new business, he will always find a way to support his students and push their ventures forward.”

Current Olin MBA student Franklin Taylor added: “If I have a problem or something I am thinking about, he asks questions so that I can come up with an answer myself rather than it being his opinion. I think that is incredibly important when it comes to entrepreneurship, being able to get help without being told what to do. Overall, he is a very effective professor in getting you to come up with the best solution for the problem you are trying to solve without influencing the situation at hand.”

In addition to teaching and philanthropy work, Villhard is the author of the 2022 novel “Company Of Women,” based on a real-life St. Louis entrepreneur, E. G. Lewis, and the sequel “City of Women,” which will be released on Nov. 14.

The Emerson Excellence in Teaching Award, now in its 34th year, is one of the St. Louis region’s most distinguished teacher recognition programs. WashU honorees are chosen annually by the deans of their schools and by the university’s Center for Teaching and Learning for their achievements and leadership in teaching. See the full list of WashU recipients here.

When asked about the honor, Villhard said, “Olin is full of incredible professors, many of whom I had when I was an MBA student here myself. I appreciate the deans' recognition. I hope to keep getting better and better every semester. I teach students how to be innovative. I intend to keep doing the same myself.”

About the Author

Sara Savat

Sara Savat

As a senior news director for social sciences, I write about political science, religion (and their intersection), sociology, education, anthropology, philosophy and linguistics. I have a passion for storytelling and enjoy working with our world-renowned faculty and members of the media to bring research to life for the public. Prior to joining the Public Affairs team, I worked in public relations at SSM Health and covered academic medicine at Saint Louis University. I have a master’s degree in communication from SLU. Outside of work, I am most likely to be found at a dance studio or cheering from the sidelines of a soccer field. My family and I also love traveling, camping and visiting national parks.

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