Alumnae to deliver “Devine” keynote adress

Justin Runquist

Parents and students are in for a real treat this weekend.

Health food entrepreneur and one of the University’s most successful alumni, Denise L. Devine ’77, will present the Parents Weekend keynote address tonight in the Pavilion.

Devine is an accountant by experience and her business accomplishments speak volumes.

But how does a CPA end up revolutionizing the food industry? Devine explained the reason was her burning desire to influence positive change.

“As a mother of three, I considered myself a frustrated consumer who felt she had to make a difference,” she said. “When I recognized problems with child nutrition and obesity, I became passionate about research and how I could reach out to the consumer marketplace.”

By 1989, Devine was a senior tax manager at Campbell Soup Co. and a mother of two children. That year she left her position to pursue healthier food options for children: a dilemma that disturbed her as supermarkets offered only sugar-saturated food and drinks.

Today, Devine Foods Inc., a subsidiary of Nutripharm Inc., has already captured the attention of the children, mothers, fathers and the brightest minds in nutrition advocacy. Her business has grabbed support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Ben Franklin Technology. Her leadership has seized headlines in the Philadelphia Inquirer, family and women’s magazines, and science and entrepreneurial journals. In 1999, Devine was named one of Pennsylvania’s 50 Best Women in Business.

“While I never imagined myself starting a business, I’ve always loved to push the envelope,” she said. “I get tremendous satisfaction creating something tangible – something that helps people.”

She says the marketplace is just getting ready for businesses like hers. In the meanwhile, she’s sold her healthy, nutrient-filled juices, shakes and snacks to school lunch programs and senior living communities. Continuing to have an impact in these environments is her ultimate hope.

“Mothers have called our company saying our products are a godsend,” Devine said. “Our fiber drinks provide fibers that AIDS patients are desperate for. Small companies like ours are where major innovations develop.” Her company has developed nearly 20 national and international patents for both nutritional and pharmaceutical products since its conception.

Devine, 47, will likely share her story and experiences with Villanovans tonight, along with other ways she’s used her business prowess to become a positive change agent.

After graduating at the top of her accounting class in the College of Commerce and Finance, Devine later earned a master’s degree in taxation at the Villanova School of Law and then an MBA at the Wharton School.

She was the first woman appointed to the board of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Devine has helped influence major CPA regulations, along with addressing issues from the Enron scandal. Along with contributing to the Commerce and Finance Dean’s Advisory Council, she has also served as chairwoman of the Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy and was cofounder of the Women’s Investment Network.

“I believe accounting is the best way to learn and understand business,” she said.

Persistence has paid off for Devine throughout the years. A self-described academic and professional overachiever, she emphasized that passion for policy has always been her guiding light.

“In entrepreneurship, I find that intelligence pales in comparison to the importance of stamina,” she said. “As a woman, entrepreneur, accountant and health activist, I like to believe I can continue to bring different, innovative perspectives to the table.”