Sam Allen Will Speak at Commencement Ceremony 2019
The world seemed a little bigger and a lot less connected when Sam Allen graduated from Purdue University with a degree in industrial management in 1975.
Allen has worked diligently to ensure it didn't stay that way.
The Deere & Company chairman and chief executive officer will address the St. Ambrose University Class of 2019 at Spring Commencement Ceremonies on May 11 at the TaxSlayer Ceremony in Moline. The ceremony begins at 1 p.m.
Nearly 600 students — 411 undergraduates, 155 master's students and 32 doctoral students — are candidates for degrees. Among the candidates are the members of the first 30-student cohort in the Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) program.
Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, PhD, president of St. Ambrose University, and the Most Rev. Thomas Zinkula JD, JCL, chair of the university's Board of Trustees, also will confer an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree upon Allen.
He will be the fourth Deere & Company chairman to be so honored by St. Ambrose, following William Hewitt in 1964, Hans Becherer in 2000, and Robert Lane in 2009.
Allen has been chairman and CEO of Deere since 2010, a senior officer since 2001, and an employee of the Quad Cities-based Fortune 150 company since 1975.
Since joining Deere & Company shortly after leaving Purdue, Allen has been a leader in the growth of the Quad Cities-based company into a global enterprise. His work in Deere's Worldwide Agricultural Division includes leading operations in Latin America; China and East Asia; and Australia. He also helped John Deere Credit grow into a global operation.
From 2010 until this past spring, Allen chaired the Council on Competitiveness, a non-profit national coalition of CEOs, university presidents, labor leaders and lab directors that shape policies and run programs to increase productivity and growth in the U.S. economy. He currently is chairman emeritus of the council.
During the past four decades, he has seen the world of business grow seemingly smaller and more intricately connected.
"It is a world where people entering the workforce are going to have to be more global in their mindset," Allen said, looking at the challenge and opportunity that awaits the Class of 2019. "It is a world that is going to continue to change ever more rapidly and so people are going to have to continue to be adaptive."
Deere & Company is the largest single employer of SAU graduates, and Allen said the presence of a university with strong College of Business graduate degree programs like the H.L. McLaughlin MBA, the Master of Organizational Leadership, the Master of Accounting and the Doctor of Business Administration has been an advantage for Deere employees seeking professional development and lifelong learning.
"We say to our employees that our objective is to allow you to personally and professionally develop to your fullest at John Deere," he noted. "St. Ambrose is a part of doing that, so it is vital in that respect."
"Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention St. Ambrose's role as a faith-oriented institution fits in with our ethics. We talk about how it's not only what you accomplish here, but how you accomplish it. We want things done in an ethical way and that value system is steeped inside St. Ambrose University."
Allen said Deere & Company benefits from a vibrant number of nearby colleges and universities. The region benefits as well.
"All institutions of higher learning in the Quad Cities are important to John Deere," Allen said. "You support these because they are natural developers of talent, but also because they are important to the broader health of the community. I think it has been shown time and again that areas with colleges and universities culturally are stronger places. That is clearly the case here."
Allen is a native of Sumter, South Carolina, but moved frequently while his father was in the military. Together, father and son shared a passion for golf, a game that helped Allen get his own college education via the Evans Scholarship Fund for caddies. He also received financial aid for playing on the Purdue golf squad.
His passion for golf helped Allen shepherd the remarkable growth of the PGA Tour's John Deere Classic, particularly in support of the unparalleled success of the JDC's Birdies for Charity program. Last year the program surpassed more the $100 million generated for local nonprofits.
"Sam has been a part of the John Deere Classic's success from the start of Deere's involvement in 1997," said Tournament Director Clair Peterson. "The tournament used to be an athletic event that supported charity when it could. It has grown under his watch to the largest charity initiative in the region—which also happens to present its largest major-league sporting event."
Allen and his wife, Marsha, baby sat Mara (Sovey) Downing '98 as a child. Today, the former SAU All-American women's golfer is Deere's Vice President, Global Brand Management and Corporate Communications as well as its Director, Global Brand Management and Corporate Citizenship President, John Deere Foundation. In both roles, she has experienced Allen's passion for giving back.
"A big part of his legacy has been establishing a global employee volunteerism program," she said. "This was Sam's vision for how to make an impact in our communities while also driving employee engagement. Sam truly believes in the importance of giving back in a meaningful way. Rather than simply making an announcement of the volunteerism initiative, Sam took a week of his own time to volunteer for a week in rural India. Sam went back to the project five years later to volunteer for another week."
Sister Joan said St. Ambrose is privileged to honor Allen's commitment to values that mirror the university's own.
"I have been lucky enough to work closely with John Deere and many of its leaders throughout my time at St. Ambrose," Sister Joan said. "Each of them reflect Sam Allen's mission-driven leadership of an organization that is vital to St. Ambrose and, of course, to the Quad Cities."