The same curiosity that sparked Lee Shobe’s interest in business while he was a physics student at Heidelberg carried him through a highly successful career with DowBrands Inc. The retired president and CEO shared his career experiences and advice with students this week as the executive-in-residence in the School of Business.
Shobe, ’60, said he appreciated the opportunities of Heidelberg’s liberal arts curriculum to explore subjects beyond physics. Courses in political science, economics, speech and English motivated him to explore the business world.
Following graduation from Heidelberg, Shobe went on to earn his MBA from Carnegie Mellon, sharpening his analytical and problem solving skills before heading to Holland on a Fulbright scholarship.
“I never had ambition for money or power. Really I just followed my curiosity,” he said.
Hired by Dow, he spent five years at the company’s headquarters before launching a venture in the pharmaceutical industry in Italy. He later spent 13 years with Dow’s agricultural chemical division in Latin America before returning to the states, where he eventually rose to president and CEO.
“It goes back to Heidelberg,” Shobe said. I was interested in the culture and lifestyle and business problems of these other places. I advanced because I had a diverse view.”
During his time as executive-in-residence, Shobe spent time in business classes and meeting informally with small groups of students. He moderated a panel of business experts and shared a talk about his personal career journey.
The panel, he said, was the high point of the EIR experience. Representatives from banking, insurance, manufacturing and sales shared expertise about entry into the workforce, establishing value to your organization and enhancing your career path into a fast track.
Shobe, who also serves on Heidelberg’s Board of Trustees, took his role as EIR very seriously. He wanted to make the experience very relevant for students.
“I care about them and I want them to be successful,” he said. “I came prepared with some exercises I could use to engage them,” he said. One such exercise was a Dow case study in marketing. He guided students through consideration of brands, what they mean, how they touch and influence individuals and ways branders message us.
His consistent message to the ‘Berg students was to look just beyond their comfort zone, to always “seek challenge and push the envelope.”
He also encouraged students to think about developing a life plan that utilizes the role of faith, family, work and quality of life issues as a road map to personal fulfillment.
Overall, Shobe called his EIR experience “terrific.” “They are in the same position I was in when I was here … looking for some guidance and interaction.
“I’m always impressed by young college kids, especially their energy and talent. … This was a very fulfilling experience, but it’s always fulfilling to come back to campus,” he said.