When he was in the eighth grade, Greg Quesnel saw a movie that changed his life.
"There was this hotshot stock broker in New York City," Quesnel said. "He had great clothes, a nice apartment, a good job. From that moment on, there was no doubt in my mind, I was going to college to become a stock broker."
He kept his word—sort of. He graduated as a finance major, but because of a tight job market, he never did get that first job in investment management. Instead, Quesnel went on to a thirty-five-year career that ultimately took him to the top of a Fortune 500 company as president and CEO of CNF, Inc., a diversified global transportation and logistics company.
After he retired from CNF (now called Con-Way) in 2004, Quesnel increasingly re-engaged his alma mater. He toured facilities, met with faculty and administrators, and began discussions about philanthropic opportunities. In December 2007, Quesnel and his wife Michelle endowed a UO President's Scholarship Fund targeted to business students. Starting in May 2008, Quesnel also began lecturing in Associate Professor Nagesh Murthy's decision sciences classes, and he plans more lectures in the future.
"I wanted to give back to an institution that taught me how to be successful," he explained.
Today, Quesnel continues to stay active in business. He is a member of the boards of directors of Potlatch and Synnex, serving on three committees for each board.
Looking back on his career, he's struck by the contrast between when he first entered the workforce and today. Case in point: in his first position, his employer presented him with a structured career path leading to a vice president position in ten years. (He left after two years.) He joked that he would be "scared to death" to enter the job market these days. But, in fact, he embraces the changes in such areas as global trade, diversity, communication, and teamwork.
"It's a different world," he said. "The pace of change is frenetic. The formula for success is constantly in motion."
He gives the Lundquist College high marks for preparing students to enter that world. The college, he said, is doing well in what he called the "three Fs": flexibility, facilities, and focus. Flexibility goes to allowing students greater choice in the timing, delivery method, and subject matter of coursework. Best-in-class facilities enable better knowledge transfer, a job he said that the Lillis Business Complex is doing phenomenally well. Focus means offering curriculum and experiential learning opportunities to develop expertise in marketable specialties. Specifically, he lauded the college's four centers of excellence and its focus on hands-on learning.
"You just can't buy that kind of experience!" he said.
Not surprisingly, his advice to students goes to the heart of his experience with change. "Change is ferocious. You have to be willing to reinvent yourself at least a few times during your career. If you can be flexible and adapt, you'll excel."
It all circles back to his own career history. After all, he never did become a stock broker. But he left himself open to other possibilities, and they took him places he never imagined he would go.