Fortune 500 Company Chairman Addresses IWU Luncheon
May 8, 2008
Norm Wesley speaks to the Illinois Wesleyan Associates.
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – Fortune 500 company chairman Norm Wesley said tomorrow’s leaders
will have to have more than business savvy, they will have to have an ability to adapt
to changing times.
“The one thing that is certain is that these are uncertain times,” said Wesley, addressing
the annual Illinois Wesleyan Associates’ Luncheon on Thursday, May 8, at the Shirk
Center on the campus of Illinois Wesleyan University.
Today’s leaders must find a way to maintain their vision for a company. “You must
focus on the long-term, even when on Wall Street you are only as good as your last
business quarter,” said Wesley. “It’s important today to really balance the short-run
with the long-run.”
As the leader of a company doing business around the globe, Wesley understands what
it takes to succeed. As chairman of the board of Fortune Brands, Inc., he oversees
an $8 billion consumer products company that includes premier brands including Jim
Beam, Sauza, Courvoisier, Titleist, Moen and Master Lock.
Speaking to a crowd of more than 360 business leaders in McLean County, Wesley encouraged
present and future business leaders to look for people who can handle a variety of
situations, and help carry out a company vision. “Everyone has constrains of what
they can and cannot do,” said Wesley, who noted people are a company’s number one
resource. “In a business, you must be conscious of what you want to do.”
For younger members of the audience, Wesley advised them to maintain realistic expectations.
“No one starts out in management. Get the broadest perspective you can,” he said,
adding that students should take advantage of internships. “Not only do they give
real life experience, but they show you what you don’t want to do as much as what
you do want to do in life.” Wesley also urged students to stick with ethical business
practices. “I don’t know how to run a business if you don’t start with integrity,”
Norm Wesley and Illinois Wesleyan University
President Richard F. Wilson
The luncheon brought Wesley back to familiar ground Thursday. His daughter, Maren,
received a bachelor’s degree in international studies from Illinois Wesleyan in 2006.
“Driving here, I became nostalgic, because this is the time I usually move Maren back
home,” said Wesley.
Wesley saluted Illinois Wesleyan for offering a strong foundation for life with a
liberal arts background. “I’ve spent my whole life a great believer in the liberal
arts education because it prepares our children for what comes next in life. It teaches
them to think, analyze and make connections,” he said. “We can’t train our children
for just one discipline. We have to teach them how to be problem-solvers, whether
they are pursuing a career in education, in the medical field or law school.”
Wesley is a supporter of Illinois Wesleyan, and was able to speak with the 2008 Senior
Class President Chris Burrichter, who benefited from a scholarship to which Wesley
contributes. “The Brian Wright Scholarship greatly assisted me in attending Illinois
Wesleyan,” said Burrichter who also spoke at the luncheon.
Burrichter is one of more than 100 students assisted this year through the Illinois
Wesleyan Associates. Formed in 1953, the Associates is a group of business and professional
leaders interested in the advancement and support of private higher education. The
Associates invest in the University, provide internships and job opportunities for
Illinois Wesleyan students, as well as financial support for students from McLean
About Norm Wesley
Norm Wesley is chairman of the board of Fortune Brands, Inc. From December 1999 through
December 2007, he served as chief executive officer as well as chairman. Prior to
becoming chairman and CEO, Wesley was the company's president and chief operating
officer. For more than ten years he led the company's office products unit, which
Fortune Brands spun off to shareholders in 2005. He became CEO of the company's largest
business, home & hardware, in 1997.
He serves on the corporate boards of ACCO Brands Corporation, R.R. Donnelley & Sons
Company and Pactiv Corporation. Wesley's commitment to community and philanthropic
causes includes serving as chairman of the board of Junior Achievement of Chicago
and as a Trustee of the Glenwood School. He also serves on the Civic Committee of
the Commercial Club of Chicago and on the board of the Executives' Club of Chicago.
Wesley, who earned a B.S. in finance and an M.B.A. from the University of Utah, has
been the recipient of the ADL's Torch of Liberty Award and the City of Hope's Spirit
of Life Award.
Rachel Hatch (309) 556-3960