Graduate alumni stories

Home / Degrees / Graduate Degrees & Programs / Alumni Story / Alumni Mark Smucker '96

Alumni Mark Smucker '96

President & Chief Executive Officer, The J.M. Smucker Company, Akron, Ohio, USA

Tell us about your current role and responsibility. 

As CEO, I have broad responsibilities and a talented leadership team focused on all aspects of the business and Our Company’s Purpose of Helping to bring families together for memorable meals and moments. To deliver on Our Purpose, we must serve our constituents—consumers, customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders. If we successfully serve the first five we will automatically serve our shareholders.  


Why did you choose Thunderbird?   

My maternal grandfather, Samuel Coddington, was in the second graduating class at Thunderbird back in 1949. He took his family, including my mother, to Caracas, Venezuela, and lived there for seven years, working for a company that distributed oxygen tanks to hospitals. He later started his own business manufacturing solder ingots. He spoke several languages and had an international view of things. Observing his life is part of what inspired me to go to Thunderbird. Having that same international interest and the desire to prove to myself that I could do something other than the family business is what led me to Thunderbird. I heard about his experiences in South America and it sounded like fun and I wanted to strike out on my own. 

How has your Thunderbird experience played a role in your career? 

I had the opportunity to participate in two “Winterims” at Thunderbird and those had a huge impact along with an internship I had in Mexico City. The internship took to me to Venezuela, Argentina and Chile and I got even more excited about a career overseas. It heightened my spirit of adventure and learning how people in other places did business was a valuable experience.   

I accepted a job in Buenos Aires and worked there for a couple of years and then joined our company (The J.M. Smucker Company) as a business development manager for Chile, Argentina and Brazil. In 2000, I moved with my wife, Katie, to São Paulo, Brazil, to manage a small fruit ingredient business that we had acquired. In 2002, I returned to the US as our head of international business. We had made a large acquisition in the US and the company strengthened its focus on North America. As a result, my primary responsibility was divesting many of our international assets to focus on our much larger-scale business in the US.

Thunderbird was influential in preparing me for all of my work experiences.  

How has being a T-bird affected your personal life?

Had I not been abroad, I would never have met my wife, Katie. She is American, but she was also an expat living in Mexico City. We met on one of her business trips to Argentina. Had I not gone to Thunderbird and not gotten the international bug, I would not have been abroad to meet her.   

Moreover, although we all live in different places, some of my closest friends are T-birds. I am closer to some of them than to my college buddies. 

What does the Thunderbird mystique mean to you?

It means a couple of things. First, a general sense that we are a global community, that people of the world are all interconnected and our commerce influences our cultures. The interconnection between people, countries and economies is part of the mystique. Second, it’s the passion for other cultures and the adventurous spirit of continuous learning and finding out about new things. T-birds share a curiosity about the world. 

What advice would you give current Thunderbird graduates?

Be adventurous, stay in touch and leverage your relationships with other Thunderbirds. 

What advice would you give to someone considering Thunderbird?

Do it. The Thunderbird community creates a camaraderie that is unparalleled. I had as much fun in the experiences on campus and off at Thunderbird as I did in college. It was truly a very unique environment. The friendships, relationships and work we did as graduate students were special. It is a different energy that can only be found there. 

Thunderbird was influential in preparing me for all of my work experiences.

Apply Now

Have a question? We're here to help!
+1 602 496-7100 (Outside US)
1 800 457-6966 (US toll-free)