When Gretchen Hult Pierce '66 arrived at Boise Cascade, there was little appreciation for an Oregon graduate next to the Stanford and Harvard M.B.A.s running the young, aggressive company. It took time before she made use of her business preparation. "But after I got into the financial and planning sides and my natural bent for marketing surfaced, all my instincts came into play," she explained.
Twenty years later she was the third highest-ranking woman at Boise, and the only one to work her way up through the ranks. One of five daughters (all UO graduates) of Nils Hult, second-generation lumber entrepreneur, Gretchen accomplished something her dad couldn't--work for a Fortune 500 company. When he died in 1986, she faced a tough decision: continue as director of corporate strategic planning for Boise or return to Eugene to manage Hult investments. She chose the latter.
Just about everyone benefited from her decision--from Governor Kitzhaber to the Girl Scouts. She was vice-chair of the governor's task force on education and the economy and served as an Oregon economic development commissioner for four years. She's a trustee emeritus and former president of the UO Foundation. She's a current or past board member of PeaceHealth, Oregon Region; Sacred Heart Foundation; Siuslaw Valley Bank; Arts Foundation of Western Oregon; Eugene Chamber of Commerce; Eugene-Springfield Metropolitan Partnership, and Oregon Community Foundation, among others. In 1990, she received the March of Dimes White Rose Award for Women of Achievement. And the Eugene Chamber of Commerce bestowed the coveted First Citizen Award on Gretchen, a double honor, as she was its first second-generation recipient. Nils Hult won in 1980.
Her university has honored her as well. In 1981, she served as the UO's first female executive in residence (EIR), and was the first EIR to be invited back a second time.
As for her advice to business students, she opined, "There are basics necessary to pursue a successful business career. You can learn all the technical things you need from your company, whether it's manufacturing, distribution, retail, high tech, it doesn't matter. What does matter is how to communicate--both written and verbal; to problem solve, to think critically."
Gretchen and her husband Howard even rely on the UO for entertainment: in the fall it's football and during winter it's both women's and men's basketball. They reserve summers for their extensive garden. They are proud of their two grown children, Eric and Hailey. Hailey played women's basketball at the UO for two years. And Gretchen reads "like a fiend" every chance she gets.