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Recipe for Success

Champion of good food practices inspires nutrition entrepreneurs with scholarship

Bill Layden is a big-picture guy, one who's fearless in the face of the status quo.

When he was a congressional investigator with the Government Accountability Office, he concluded that the Environmental Protection Agency's pesticide safety review process needed a major overhaul, not just a few tweaks. That earned him a Government Accountability Office meritorious service award. Addressing Friedman School graduates in 2010, Layden, a member of the school's board of advisors, challenged them to break the food system—"and break it good." He added: "Sometimes you have to tear down something to make it better."

As owner and partner of the food and nutrition consulting firm FoodMinds, Layden helps food companies achieve something that may not seem an obvious recipe for success—grow their bottom line and do right by consumers.

"Entrepreneurship is the ability to create something that doesn't exist, to impact the public positively," he says, describing the business model that has guided his professional life. "We have demonstrated that a food company can compete and make money on nutrition, health, and wellness just as it competes and makes money on taste, price, and convenience."

To encourage Friedman School students to tap into their own inner entrepreneurs, Layden and his wife, Lee Anne, have created something new: the William and Lee Anne Layden Scholarship for Food and Nutrition Entrepreneurs. The scholarship will support students who want to pursue business development and other kinds of entrepreneurial activities at Tufts and after they graduate.

Their $100,000 gift will be doubled through Tufts' Financial Aid Initiative, which raised $95 million for endowed scholarship funds across the university during a four-year campaign that ended in June. In addition, the Laydens also pledged $25,000 to Friedman School Dean Dariush Mozaffarian's discretionary fund to support student projects related to entrepreneurship as well as other student priorities.

"This scholarship seeks to inspire students to have the courage to break through and create something new," Layden says. "It aims to inspire students to think about entrepreneurship with a business and social purpose."

Layden says he and Lee Anne chose to invest in Tufts because of the university's history of entrepreneurship and the international reputation of the Friedman School. He became involved with the school more than 12 years ago, when Professor James Tillotson invited him to speak to students in his course "Health Messages by the Food Industry" about the health benefits food companies can claim legally on their packaging. He returned to speak every year until Tillotson retired this past year.

Layden was appointed to the school's board of advisors in 2008 and supported the creation of the online certificate program, Nutrition Science for Communications Professionals, in 2010.

He says his appreciation of the quality of students the Friedman School attracts has grown steadily over the years. Four alumni work at FoodMinds, the latest in a long line of Tufts graduates at the firm. "FoodMinds depends on these graduates to provide the intellectual power that drives our vision and mission," Layden says. "When I'm recruiting, the first place I go is Tufts."