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Juan Ernesto de Bedout

President, Latin American Operations
Kimbery-Clark Corporation
BSIE '67, MSIE '68

[Juan Ernesto de Bedout]

For his innovative leadership and outstanding managerial abilities, which have brought dramatic growth and success to a major international manufacturing corporation, the Schools of Engineering are proud to present the Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award to Juan Ernesto de Bedout.

On his experience at Purdue

The exposure to both the American environment and the very diverse international community is one of the Purdue experiences I most value. Relating to individuals and groups from so many different backgrounds provided a strong cultural sensitivity and understanding that has served me well in what is becoming an increasingly global scenario. I recently learned that Purdue currently enrolls more international students than any public research institution in the United States. What a stimulating setting in which to be able to study!

On the beginnings of his career

My first interest was in a greenfield specialty-papers plant that was being built by Kimberly-Clark and its local associates in Medellín, Colombia, where I was born and raised. I followed up quickly and, although I was informed that the initial team was already in place, the partners asked me to join them. Ironically, some years later, I was asked to manage that very same partnership, and that is how my career with Kimberly-Clark began. Quite frankly, I've always wanted the accountability of being in charge, but I never imagined that this would take me to other geographies and to where I am now.

On globalization

Since the Berlin Wall came down, the world has been shrinking. Better communications and declining barriers have been key elements of this process. However, cultural fragmentation is expanding as people try to preserve their identities, and as a result, more countries are coming into view all over the world. Companies may claim to have a global perspective, but how sensitive are they to local idiosyncrasies? Knowing that various people think and react differently is essential to a true global approach.

On business philosophy

To be "delighted but never satisfied" is a principal business philosophy that I have fully embraced from an extraordinary mentor for whom I have the highest respect. Kimberly-Clark is a very results-oriented corporation, and we're delighted with good results, but always strive for more and enjoy doing so. With our recent entry into many Latin American countries, a major challenge has been constructing a strong leadership platform in this part of the world. Building this foundation has rendered a great sense of accomplishment. It also represents employment for 8,000 individuals in Latin America and has provided consumers with quality products such as Huggies diapers and Kleenex tissues.

On his personal involvements

My most significant personal endeavor has been raising and mentoring my two sons, Nicolas and Juan Manuel. Both are engineers with graduate degrees, and Juan Manuel is finishing his doctoral program in mechanical engineering at Purdue. My dedication to them has been amply rewarded with the satisfaction of seeing them blossom into fine, morally upstanding individuals. I am also proud that my nephew, Juan Diego Velasquez de Bedout, is following my same career path at Purdue. On community-related matters, my affiliation with the Colombian American Chamber of Commerce in Medellín was one of my most gratifying, as I was involved in its formation and direction. This provided a means of bringing together matters concerning the two countries with which I have had my closest ties.

On Purdue's future

As a recent member of Purdue's Engineering Visiting Committee, I have been impressed by the Schools' vision to be the best. Similarly, the newly established business management program in Germany is a prime example of the increasing sphere of influence that the University's administration has forged. One need not go far to note that the alumni being brought together by the Schools of Engineering in this year's convocation, of which I am deeply honored to be a part, reflects backgrounds from Chile, Colombia, India, Norway, and the United States, evidencing Purdue's long-standing international scope. I see very, very good things ahead.

1999– :
Member, Engineering Visiting Committee, Purdue University
Addition of the Caribbean to Latin American area of responsibility in Kimberly-Clark
1998– :
President, Latin American Operations, Kimberly-Clark. Lead market position attained, with presence in 18 countries and multiple manufacturing facilities in 12.
Outstanding Industrial Engineer Award, Purdue University
Vice-President, Latin American Operations, Kimberly-Clark. Continued the merger and acquisition process begun in 1992, while expanding business and manufacturing capabilities in existing and new units.
General Manager, Latin American Operations, Kimberly-Clark. Initiated a process of mergers, acquisitions, and joint ventures, along with the formation of legal entities in various countries, to strengthen the corporation’s position in Central and South America.
Managing Director, Kimberly-Clark Central America. Elected President of the Board of the Colombian American Chamber of Commerce in Medellín.
Managing Director of Colombiana Kimberly
Various positions with Coltabaco (in Colombia) including Operations Manager and Head of R&D

BSIE '67, MSIE '68, Purdue University