Having addressed numerous challenges corporate board members face, I now turn to a question I’ve been asked often, “How were you able to be selected to serve on corporate boards?” My answer was quite simple, networking. In this blog, I describe my selection to serve on the boards for Russell Corporation, Eastman Chemical Company, and Logility. Next week, I describe my selection to serve on the boards for Motorola and J. B. Hunt Transport Systems.
RUSSELL: My first board membership for a publicly traded company was with Russell Corporation; it occurred soon after I returned to Georgia Tech from NSF in 1991 to be dean of engineering. Prior to going to NSF in 1988, I held an endowed chair at Georgia Tech named for Eugene C. Gwaltney, chairman of Russell Corporation, and continued to do so upon my return.
While serving as Georgia Tech’s engineering dean, I was invited to speak to the Russell executive team in December on the subject of world-class warehousing. Russell’s chairman and John Adams, Russell’s president and CEO, both Georgia Tech graduates, attended. Following my presentation, Gwaltney asked if I’d consider joining the Russell board of directors. Given my affirmative response, I was placed on the ballot in the next proxy statement and elected to the board in the spring of 1992.
I remember very well my first Russell board of directors meeting. I entered the room where the meeting was held and stood, waiting for everyone else to take a seat. There was one vacant chair, so I knew where I was supposed to sit. Thereafter, for every meeting held in the room, I sat in the same chair.
EASTMAN: My second membership on the board of a publicly traded corporation was with Eastman Chemical Company. While serving as Georgia Tech’s dean of engineering, I was contacted by Joe D. Goodwin, managing partner of Lamalie Amrop International, an executive search firm to determine if I might have an interest in joining a board of directors being newly formed in anticipation of the chemicals, plastics, and fibers businesses of Eastman Kodak Company being spun off to form Eastman Chemical Company. Goodwin said Kodak had a university-based representative on its board and the new company wanted to continue the practice.
Goodwin was not aware of my previous employment with Tennessee Eastman Company (TEC) from 1961 to 1963, where the new company would be headquartered. In addition, Earnest Deavenport, who would be the chair and CEO of the new company, and I were friends from our days together at TEC; also, Deavenport served on my advisory board when I was NSF’s Assistant Director. EASTMAN’s initial board consisted of 9 independent directors, plus the Executive Chairman of the Board. The newly formed corporation limited directors to no more than three 3-year terms; we drew straws to establish a rotation of three elected each year and I drew a 1-year initial term, resulting in my board service totaling 10 years.
In contrast to “seat assignments” for Russell board meetings, because all directors were new members of the EASTMAN board, directors tended to sit in different chairs throughout my membership on the board.
LOGILITY: My selection for Logility’s board was the result of my interactions with two Georgia Tech alumni, James C. (Jim) Edenfield and Thomas L. (Tom) Newberry, V, who founded American Software, headquartered in Atlanta. Both were graduates of the industrial engineering program, for which I was a professor for 22 years. (I met Newberry in the early 1960s when I was an engineer with TEC and attended a short course in Atlanta on inventory management conducted by Newberry. I also interacted multiple times with Edenfield at Georgia Tech alumni events.) American Software’s board decided to spin off its logistics software business with an IPO, creating Logility. Because of my logistics background, Edenfield, American Software’s Chairman of the Board, invited me to serve as a founding board member; I was one of three independent directors. A dozen years later, American Software’s governing board concluded it should do a reverse spin and acquire Logility. Based on the share price offered by American Software, Logility’s governing board agreed to sell Logility to American Software.
Similar to Eastman Chemical Company board meetings, because all Logility directors were new members of the board, we tended to sit in different chairs.
Next Week: Corporate Boards—Part 7