Our AIESEC alumni community is filled with giants of industry, notable civic servants, and a myriad of trailblazers who are legends in their own right. To honor them, AIESEC Life will begin a series of blog posts that highlights them and passes on their wisdom. Join us as we honor and learn from these various alumni whose careers and legacies have inspired us.
First up, none other than AIESEC Life Founder – Joseph Loughrey! Joe Loughrey was President of AIESEC United States in 1971-73 and went on to enjoy a 35 year career at Cummins, Inc., where he attained the position of Vice Chairman as well as President and COO. Enjoy a slice of amazing AIESEC history in the interview with him below, originally written and published in the Spring of 2009 on the AIESEC Life website. Today, Joe sits on almost a dozen boards, where he passes on his extensive wisdom, world experience and sense of humor to all.
1. When, where, and how did you join and get involved in AIESEC?
In the summer of 1968, after my freshman year at Notre Dame, I read an article in an alumni magazine about a Notre Dame student (actually a star linebacker for the football team) who had taken an AIESEC traineeship in Europe and had a great experience. I had not heard of AIESEC before that. It caught my attention. Ironically, shortly after my return to Notre Dame for my sophomore year, my next door neighbor in my new dorm stopped by to introduce himself and ask me to attend a meeting to get an organization called AIESEC re-energized on campus. I went, and everything else flowed from that.
2. Please describe your AIESEC career (positions, traineeships, conferences).
Shortly after joining AIESEC I made my first visit to a company to try to raise a traineeship and walked out of the door with a signed green form. As a direct result of this I then became the VP-Marketing and raised a dozen or so traineeships that fall. After doing so, I became concerned about the quality of the reception program for the foreign students, so I stayed in South Bend the summer of 1969 and raised enough money to keep me afloat while I was Local Committee Reception Officer. I got elected LCP thereafter and built an LC with over 100 active members.
In the spring of 1970 I was elected Midwest Regional Director and that summer I lived in New York as the National Committee Reception Officer. That was fun. At the December 1970 National Conference in Houston I was elected NCP. I stayed on for two years.
I attended more Regional and National Conferences in the US than I can remember. I was even asked back to be the Chairperson for the 1978 (Seattle) and 1983 (New York) National Conferences. I was very fortunate to attend many International Congresses and International Presidents Meetings as well. As best I can remember, I attended International Congress in Tokyo (1970) as a US delegate, in The Hague (1971) as US NCP-elect, in Berlin (1972) and Copenhagen (1973) as US NCP, and Vienna (1975) and Boston (1988) as Congress Chairperson. As NCP I attended the 1971 Basle and 1972 Bangkok International Presidents Meetings. In 1973 I was a guest at the Barcelona IPM because I was fundraising for AIESEC Spain at the time, and had just done so for AIESEC France. In 1974 I was the Chairperson for IPM in Medellin.
I never took a traineeship. Had I not remained as NCP for a second year I would have had a traineeship in Sweden or East Africa.
3. When you were AIESEC US President in the early 70s, what were the unique challenges for AIESEC then, such as communications, travel, US/geopolitics, and others?
Where do I start?
The anti-war student movement was strong and growing in the US when I was in AIESEC. Students and business were not seeing “eye-to-eye” and it made it difficult to attract active members and keep LCs alive and well. On the international front the association was expanding fast to Eastern European countries and a major effort to kick South Africa out of the association was launched. The association adopted a theme around the importance of the 'Social Role of Management' to try to make the organization more relevant and to create ways to bring students and business people together to talk about substantive issues, with the hope that students would conclude that AIESEC was a good thing and worthy of involvement and business would decide to support it. It worked reasonably well.
As for communications, not only were there no PCs at that time but the fastest method for international communications were by using 'telex' machines which pre-dated the 'fax'. It's hard to imagine that now.
4. How did the AIESEC experience help you in your professional career?
It clearly broadened my international exposure as well as my understanding of the world and its issues. I learned that I could interact well with people of many different cultures, enjoy it, and be willing to go anywhere. I learned a lot about the challenges in running a large organization that was disperse and I gained a lot of confidence in my ability to approach anyone to gain support for what I was trying to do. I developed my skills of creating targeted presentations to companies and foundations, and motivating and organizing students to get actively involved. I learned that doing your homework well and getting to the point clearly and simply make all the difference (still do). All of my experiences and skills served me well when I joined Cummins more than 35 years ago and enabled me to move faster through the organization than I otherwise would have done.
Over my years with Cummins it has been great to keep in touch with a number of other AIESECers who became close friends as a result of the work we did and the fun we had together.
5. Were you involved in introducing AIESEC to Cummins and subsequent dealings?
Yes I was.
In 1972 AIESEC South Africa was told to extend AIESEC to the black and colored universities or risk expulsion from AIESEC International. When they began the extension process in earnest, a few other NCPs and I said we would raise money for travel scholarships for black and colored students who got traineeships as well as raise traineeships in the first place. Research played a big role in identifying which foundations and companies might support this effort in the USA. Cummins and the Cummins Foundation came across our radar screen. We mailed a proposal them and I flew out to pitch it. They decided to support both the travel scholarship effort through the foundation and also offered two one-year long traineeships. As it turned out, Cummins welcomed both a black and a colored South African student.
In the spring of 1973 I was asked to visit Cummins again to brief their new, young Employment Director (Tim Solso) about how universities and their placement processes worked in Europe. As a result of that meeting I helped set up Tim's first trip overseas - to Europe. While there, he met several AIESECers and even hired a couple. Tim went on to become Chairman of Cummins in 2000, which he still is today (Since this article was published, Tim Solso has announced his retirement.). When he returned from that 1973 trip I was asked to think about joining Cummins and I finally did in January 1974. At that time the company had about $600m in sales with 10% of it outside the US. In 2008 Cummins' sales were $14.3 billion with 60% of it outside the USA. It has been an honor and pleasure to help grow the company profitably and globally during my 35-year career. I had some great opportunities, such as running an overseas subsidiary, managing the company's worldwide manufacturing operations and developing a global production system, being the company's Chief Technical Officer for several years, improving and broadening the product lines even though I was a liberal arts graduate, helping to update the company's historically strong vision/mission/core value statements and bring them alive through the creation of a new operating system, being a big part of the company's effort to grow fast and profitably in the BRIC countries, and in the process, learning how to develop and manage partnerships and collaborations with global companies all over the world to the benefit of each partner.
I will be forever grateful for the opportunities I have had and for the doors it has opened for me for the future.
6. You have just retired recently as Vice Chairman and President/COO of Cummins Inc. What's next for you?
While I have retired from Cummins as of April 1st of this year (2009), it would be wrong to say that I am retiring. My passions are around better aligning education with the future skill needs of our country especially, but not only, regarding manufacturing. This is a subject I have spoken about widely around the USA because I believe, without major change soon, the lack of alignment will be the single biggest reason why the American standard of living as we know it will weaken significantly. I also believe strongly in the importance of supporting community-led development efforts, that carefully integrate simultaneously the improvement and alignment of education and workforce development, the pursuit of better health care at lower cost, and enhancement in the quality of life for everyone as part of any economic development effort.
My 'work' time and attention will be overwhelmingly aligned with these activities and as such I have joined three public company boards, a foundation boards, and I chair 2 new public/private partnerships that are all aimed at one or both of these areas. I will also become the Chair of the Advisory Council of Notre Dame's College of Arts and Letters, and have become directly involved in a Notre Dame initiative in Uganda to create a more robust model for helping very poor communities lead themselves out of poverty.
But my wife and I are planning to visit family and friends (including AIESECers) around the world and go to places we have dreamed of going together, with some time being reserved for my hobbies -- sea kayaking, and reading biographies and historical novels.
As I said earlier, I am not 'retiring'.