A few months ago, CNBC released a news article revealing that Penn State has graduated more CEOs than Harvard and MIT, instantly flooding Facebook and LinkedIn feeds of students and alumni alike. While this news generated great pride throughout the entire Penn State community, it left many wondering, “Who exactly are these CEOs?”
Mark Parker, Nike
Perhaps the most well-known Happy Valley CEO, Mark Parker, a student-athlete, graduated from Penn State in 1977 with a degree in political science. Shortly after graduation, in 1979, Parker began a position for Nike as a footwear designer. Parker continued to work his way up through the ranks within the company, and was named CEO in 2006. Since then, Parker has placed emphasis on making the brand more environmentally-conscious, launching the first “green shoe” after 10 years of development. Parker is frequently included on Forbes’ list of highest paid CEOs, and in 2015 Parker was named Fortune’s businessperson of the year.
Kenneth Frazier, Merck
Kenneth Frazier graduated from Penn State in 1975 with a B.A. in political science, later earning a law degree from Harvard University. Following law school, Frazier worked for Drinker, Biddle and Reath in Philadelphia, where he first interacted with Merck as a client. In 1992, Frazier began working at Merck, and in 2011 he was named CEO, making history as the first African American to lead a major pharmaceutical company.
This notable alum remains active in the Penn State community, specifically through a scholarship fund for liberal arts students that promotes diversity.
Patricia Woertz, Archer Daniels Midland
Patricia Woertz, former CEO of Archer Daniels Midland, graduated from Penn State in 1974 with a degree in accounting. Woertz worked for Chevron for 29 years, rising to executive vice president before moving to Archer Daniels Midland as CEO. During her tenure as CEO, Woertz was consistently ranked as one of the most powerful women in the world, breaking barriers as one of the few female CEOs in the United States. Woertz stepped down as CEO in 2014 after a long and successful career, and was ranked number 85 on the list most powerful woman in the world at the time of her retirement.
Other notable PSU alumni who belong to the exclusive ranks of American CEOs include Greg Lucier (‘86, NuVasive), John Surma (‘76, U.S. Steel), David Rusenko (‘07, Weebly), Louis D’Ambrosio (‘86, Sears Holdings Corporation), Dan Mead (‘75, Verizon Wireless).
These alumni reaffirm the power and reach of a Penn State degree, and will certainly inspire other Penn Staters to follow in their footsteps. These CEOs prove that a Penn State degree will set you on the course to a successful career – and maybe to break a glass ceiling or two.