With more than 25 years of supply chain management experience at General Cable under his belt, Mark Thackeray was all set to call it a career in 2017. His path took an unexpected turn, however, that worked out for the better.
"Traveling all over the world and not getting to see my boy, Michael, grow up burned me out," he said. "The company was also putting itself up for sale.
"In so doing, top management was making some decisions that I didn't agree with from an ethics standpoint. It was a line where it made sense for me to walk away. Retirement lasted about two weeks."
A former colleague who was an adjunct professor at Northern Kentucky University (NKU) told Thackeray about the planned launch of a global supply chain management program at the school.
"At first, I wasn't interested, but I thought about it and got more interested," he said. "I talked to the dean, met colleagues on campus, spoke to students and got excited.
"We had the AACSB approval with a curriculum outline, but that was it. There was no meat on the bone, so it was a chance to build the program from the ground up. That was exciting. I could put my fingerprints on it and create a little bit of a legacy here at NKU."
Four years later, Thackeray is the director of a thriving program, including the NKU online Bachelor of Science in Business Administration — Global Supply Chain Management program that launched in the fall of 2017.
"With my role at General Cable, I was always teaching or guiding in some form, but nothing like with a classroom experience," he said. "It was new to me in a good way."
Thackeray was born in Leeds, England, and raised in the Cincinnati area. He became a dual citizen when he was 15 years old.
After graduating with a bachelor's degree in industrial and systems engineering from Georgia Tech University in 1988, Thackeray added a Master of Business Administration in International Business from Xavier University 10 years later.
"My first job out of college was with Litton, the inventor of the microwave oven," he said. "I was in material handling systems division, designing 100-million-dollar material handling automation systems for Fortune 500 clients. From there, I went into private practice consulting and ultimately had General Cable as a client, which then turned into phase two of my career."
For the next 25 years at General Cable, Thackeray worked his way up to senior vice president of global manufacturing and North American operations.
"I had responsibility for 42 plants in 21 countries for not only manufacturing but sourcing and distribution and logistics," he said.
The combination of starting a new program while Thackeray was embarking on his teaching career was tough to beat.
"We have done quite a bit in a few years," he said. "We started with two students. Today we have over 75 students, plus 40 graduates.
"The provost recently approved a business plan for growth that will double our enrollment in three years, which is exciting. That means more professors and more students, which is great."
Seeing the rapid growth and students driven to succeed keeps Thackeray's job fulfilling.
"We have the undergrad program, but we now also have the stack in the MBA program that's supply-chain-oriented," he said. "We also offer some outreach education in some of our regional high schools."
Best in Class
More than a year and a half into the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain management is at the forefront of the national conversation.
"Three years ago, nobody knew what supply chain was," he said. "It took COVID-19 to get it on the map. Our supply chain degree was one of the early adopters of the online format. If we weren't first, we were close to first in the carousel of development.
"We divided and conquered and converted our coursework to deliver in the online format. When COVID-19 came into play, almost everything was online. In a way, we were kind of lucky because we were ahead of the curve…We knew what to do."
Thackeray, who enjoys long-distance running and refurbishing old homes in his free time, counts his blessings that his retirement never saw a third week. He and his wife, Carrie, are also proud of their son, who is following in his father's footsteps with a career in supply chain management at DHL.
"I love what I am doing," he said. "This is a perfect retirement job for me. I get to work with really bright students who want to be here.
"[NKU's] students are here to advance their education and career paths, not because mom and dad said they had to go to college. There's a big difference in the approach."Learn more about Northern Kentucky University's Bachelor of Science in Business Administration – Global Supply Chain Management online program.
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