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DuPont CEO to deliver commencement address

DuPont Chair and CEO Ellen Kullman will speak at Lehigh's 143rd commencement ceremony in May.

DuPont Chair and CEO Ellen Kullman, recently named one of the most powerful women in the country by both Forbes and Fortune magazines, will deliver the address at Lehigh University’s 143rd commencement ceremony on Monday, May 23.

Kullman will receive an honorary degree from Lehigh during the commencement ceremonies.

“Ellen Kullman exemplifies the kind of person students strive to be,” says Lehigh President Alice P. Gast. “As an undergraduate in engineering, she learned how to solve complex problems and she has taken that ability through incredibly challenging positions in marketing, management and business strategy. She champions collaboration, which will be a key driver in the careers of today’s students. Her example and her message will inspire our students as they begin their careers.”

Lynn Columba, associate professor of education and chair of the commencement speaker selection committee, says, "We are very pleased to have the opportunity to have such a recognized and renowned leader deliver the 2011 commencement address. Her experience and expertise across so many areas make her an excellent selection, and we look forward to welcoming her to our campus in May and to hearing her address our graduates and guests."

Keith Gardiner, professor of industrial and systems engineering, who also served on the selection committee, says that Kullman’s career, achievements, professional contributions and leadership “serve as a superlative example of what our 2011 graduates should strive towards.

“It’s phenomenal that she has agreed to be our commencement speaker,” Gardiner adds. “I look forward to hearing what she has to say to our students, to send them on their way into our turbulent world.”

 Strong leadership skills

Kullman was a 20-year veteran of DuPont when she was named CEO in January 2009. She is the 19th executive to lead the company over the course of its 208-year history, and the first woman to lead a major public U.S. chemical firm. She previously served as president, executive vice president and a member of the company's office of the chief executive.

Since becoming CEO, Kullman has championed market-driven science to propel innovation across the company’s businesses. Under her leadership, decision making has moved closer to customers around the world, resulting in greater partnering, collaboration, and solutions attuned to local needs, according to her DuPont biography.

Kullman steered the company to a “new reality” through a significant restructuring in the wake of the financial crisis in late 2008, according to the Financial Times, which profiled Kullman and credited her strong leadership skills with helping DuPont transcend the crisis while providing the strategic framework for the company’s $1.4 billion annual investment in research and development.

She also is credited with helping DuPont shift focus from oil-based chemicals to high-tech businesses, such as alternative energy and biotechnology.

A native of Wilmington, Del., Kullman worked for General Electric before joining DuPont in 1988 as a marketing manager. During her tenure with DuPont, she served as business director for White Pigment & Mineral Products and assumed leadership of two high-growth businesses—DuPont Safety Resources in 1998 and Bio-Based Materials in 1999.  She was named group vice president of DuPont Safety & Protection in 2002.  

In 2006, she was named executive vice president with responsibility for three business platforms and several functions, including marketing and sales. In 2008, she was selected to lead the company's focus on growth in emerging international markets.
 
She is a member of the U.S.-India CEO Forum, the Business Council, and the executive committee of SCI-America. She is co-chair of the National Academy of Engineering Committee on Changing the Conversation: From Research to Action.
 
Kullman also serves on the board of trustees of Tufts University and serves on the board of overseers at Tufts University School of Engineering, where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering. She earned her master’s degree in management from Northwestern University.

Story by Linda Harbrecht

Posted on Friday, February 18, 2011

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