As top players in their respective fields, alumni Ed Fernandez and Saylor Frase are arguably two of Central Michigan University’s most successful business products.
Fernandez, the vice president and general manager of WXYZ-TV in Detroit, is responsible for overseeing all of the operations of the station. Similarly, Frase is the CEO of Nuspire Networks, a company he founded in 1999.
Despite their different paths and responsibilities, the two men have something in common: They still cite their time at CMU as one of their most influential experiences.
Keeping watch on a news empire
Fernandez graduated from CMU in 1984 with a Bachelor of Applied Arts degree in broadcast and cinematic arts. Aside from his gig as the vice president and general manager of WXYZ-TV in Detroit, he also serves as divisional general manager for the E.W. Scripps Company, which oversees a number of stations all over the country.
Before all that, he was just another young man with a passion for broadcasting, trying to get involved any way he could, said Peter Orlik, chairman of the School of Broadcast and Cinematic Arts.
“Before classes had even started during the fall of his freshman year, he was pulling cable and lifting cameras and doing everything else to get a really early involvement and focus with Moore Hall TV (MHTV),” Orlik said. “This example indicates the kind of work ethic he had.”
Fernandez credits his education at CMU and the extra-curricular activities he participated in for a good amount of his success in broadcasting.
“I owe everything I know today to Central,” Fernandez said. “The things I learned, the opportunities I had, and where I’m at today is because of Central.”
Fernandez also credits the bravery displayed by his parents to escape Cuba and bring his family to the U.S. While Fernandez’s mother was pregnant with him, the family fled the newly-communist country in 1962 and landed in Miami, Fla. They later ended up in Zeeland, Mich., where Fernandez spent his youth.
Neither of his parents spoke English upon their arrival, making adjusting to the U.S. more challenging.
“We moved to a town where nobody could speak Spanish and everybody was very different,” Fernandez said. “But we made a home there and because of that experience, I began to speak a lot of English. I actually learned a lot of English from watching television.”
Fernandez has been at WXYZ-TV for almost four years and has served as general manager for the entire time. He was assigned his vice president responsibilities approximately a year and a half ago.
Prior to his time at WXYZ-TV, Fernandez first worked as vacation relief in engineering operations at WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids after graduating from college. He also held positions at WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids, WSB-TV in Atlanta and Telemundo in Chicago among others.
Out of all the perks that go along with running a news station, Fernandez said getting to work in a variety of different fields is a major source of excitement for him.
“I get to play in a lot of different sandboxes each and every day,” he said. “Not only am I talking with my individual departments, but I get to dabble with business people, community leaders, sports celebrities and organizations. You’re constantly informed in lots of different areas; you get to be a jack of all trades.”
Orlik added that Fernandez’s ability to relate well with others was a trait that set him a step above some of his classmates and other students – a trait that suggested Fernandez was on to big things.
“Ed was very personable and was also multi-faceted,” Orlik said. “He was physically fit and was skilled at time management. He was a very good leader.”
Another aspect that Fernandez’s mentors noticed was his snappy appearance, as well as his gift for planning.
“I distinctly remember that, while he didn’t have an extensive wardrobe, he was always very tidy and what we would call today as professional looking,” said Joe Misiewicz, president and CEO of the Indiana Broadcasters Association and former BCA chairman. “He was meticulously organized. I never remember him being behind on anything so it always looked like he had everything under control.”
From kitchen counters to board rooms
Saylor Frase is another standout among CMU alumni.
Frase, of Pontiac, graduated from CMU in 1998 with a Bachelor of Science degree in geography and Earth science. He is the owner and CEO of Nuspire Networks, an organization he founded in 1999.
Nuspire is a company that specializes in network security services. Many organizations use Nuspire’s services, including General Motors.
The organization has two Michigan locations in Commerce Township and Utica. Frase said they are also looking to open a third location.
Frase started Nuspire after selling his first business he created out of his house at CMU.
“My junior year at Central, living on Franklin Street, I started my first company which was a small software development company,” Frase said. “I grew that company until the year after I graduated and the company was bought. After that, I founded my second company, Nuspire.”
Frase said starting Nuspire was not easy.
At times, he said staying the course was very testing, but after creating it, he did not want to quit.
“Looking back, as I go through the years, if I had known the challenges that were in front of me when I started, I never would have started in the first place,” Frase said. “Ignorance was the only thing that got me off the bubble. But once you start, you can’t quit, no matter what you run into.”
Frase is happy that he did stay to the course, however.
He said he enjoys what he does and feels his company supplies a vital service that is changing technology.
“We’re changing business and making things a little safer and better for the world,” Frase said. “In our mission statement, we talk about the company being ‘state of the science’, which literally means we create new technologies.”
When Frase first came to CMU, he did not know what he wanted to study. After taking a few classes and talking with faculty and staff, he knew where he wanted to take his career.
Chad Guilda was Frase’s roommate and friend for most of their college career. Guilda even worked as an intern with Frase’s first company and said Frase is a motivated worker whose dedication to innovation has paid off in spades.
“He was able to dominate his classes and was a well-rounded guy who knew how to get stuff done,” Guilda said. “His work ethic is pretty self-explanatory. He is a multi-millionaire now, with an amazing company and an amazing family. He is a true self-made man.”