• Fiona Roche

  • When Fiona Roche (MBA ’84) was 6, she experienced her first big adventure in the Australian Outback with her two sisters, then ages 3 and 7, and her mother. After leaving their hometown of Adelaide, South Australia, they explored the wide, open spaces, visiting sheep stations, iron ore mines and even the top secret nuclear testing facility at Woomera. On their way to the opal mining hamlet of Andamooka — a lawless town not fit for “women and children,” according to local police — their third car tire was punctured. “Fifty years later, I can still feel the exhilaration of being rescued by the police search party after having experienced the beauty of a desert sunset and the sudden rush of cold in the desert night,” Roche said. Fiona Roche

    Roche’s mother instilled in her a sense of adventure, that anything was possible and the need to manage risks. She also awoke in her daughter “a desire to travel and understand places and their people.” From her father, a businessman and local politician, Roche developed a pragmatic attitude and a strong work ethic. 

    Years later, when Roche attended Darden, where she learned “almost everything, from the technical to the ephemeral,” she sought to practice her father’s advice: “Treat others as you expect to be treated, and ensure you’re treated as you expect,” Roche said. “The technical knowledge will come with experience, but emotional intelligence isn’t always developed.”

    Roche’s courageous nature and strong core values have been instrumental in her success as managing director and now executive chair of the Adelaide Development Company and Estates Development Company Group (ADC/EDC), which is involved in property development, property investment and agribusiness, including one of Australia’s top-quality vineyards. The projects she and her team tackle consistently demand innovative ideas and bold solutions. “It is problem-solving across the diversity of the portfolio, our experiences and the opportunities that dominate what we do,” said Roche, who is also a member of Darden's Global Advisory Council.

    Under her guidance, ADC/EDC, which was founded by her grandfather in 1922, has garnered environmental and development awards, the grapes from their vineyards have produced many award-winning wines, and even the bulls from the cattle stud on their family farm receive high praise and prices. 

    But for Roche, success is more than a measure of professional accolades. “I rather like the Bhutan measure of gross domestic happiness,” she said. “For example, I am proud of the relationship I have with my Italian partner and his children, their girl friends and their children — I am Nonna Fiona.”

    And while she struggled to find decent wine in Charlottesville in the 1980s — “only Gallo’s bottom-end wine was readily available” — Roche has been delighted on her more recent returns to the School to discover “some seriously good wine” right in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains.