Emily M. Liggett

Liggett Associates
BSChE ’77

For her outstanding leadership and creativity as a senior executive, and for her service to Purdue University, the College of Engineering is proud to present the Distinguished Engineering Alumna Award to Emily M. Liggett.

The Future Came in the Mail

An outstanding high school student from Otterbein, Indiana, Emily Liggett was actively recruited by her future alma mater. “I had no interest in it at all,” she says of a Purdue Engineering brochure that came with her name on it. “I threw it away, but my father found it and said, ‘Do you know what engineering is?’ I said, ‘No, I haven’t a clue.’

“This was the 1970s,” Liggett continues, “and there was a focus on attracting more women into engineering.” That summer, she attended a Women & Minorities in Engineering program sponsored by Purdue.

“I came for a week and basically fell in love with Purdue,” Liggett says. “I’m definitely from a Purdue family. My parents and grandparents graduated from Purdue, so it was kind of a given that I would, too. But it was Purdue Engineering that came and got me, so to speak.”

Once a Boilermaker, Liggett chose chemical engineering after attending Freshman Engineering seminars. “It was a wonderfully welcoming place,” she says of Purdue, “very supportive, and being in the Freshman Engineering program was tough, yet encouraging.”

Eventually, Liggett worked as a student counselor in the Freshman Engineering program, became involved in campus activities, and studied French, a nontraditional course of study for engineers. “I wanted to be fluent enough to work in another language,” she says.

Liggett has taken her language and engineering skills all over the world. As an undergraduate, she worked a summer for Bell Labs in New Jersey in intellectual property, and another summer in Switzerland conducting research in boiling heat transfer. As a graduate student at Stanford University, she worked as a management consultant in Sydney, Australia, and in industrial innovation for the European Economic Community in Brussels.

Covering the World

Upon receiving her chemical engineering degree from Purdue, Liggett joined the DuPont company as a field engineer, completing assignments in fluoropolymer process engineering, product development, and corporate planning. After completing master’s degrees in both engineering and business administration at Stanford, Liggett took a job at Raychem Corporation, a materials science company. She worked for the company for seventeen years in a variety of positions in sales, marketing, business development, operations, and management, traveling extensively around the world developing new businesses.

“I changed jobs every couple of years without changing companies,” Liggett says. “I changed industries, I changed technologies, and I changed functional areas. These were all technically based positions, requiring creative ways to look at new opportunities, so the engineering degree has been very important.”

In 1997, Liggett moved with her husband—a doctor of veterinary medicine from Purdue—and their four children to back to California when she became CEO of Elo TouchSystems, a manufacturer of touchscreen technology. Prior to this, she had been responsible for Raychem’s Telecommunications and Energy businesses based in North Carolina.

Under Liggett’s leadership, the company expanded its worldwide presence, particularly in Asia and Europe. Liggett guided Elo though several global acquisitions, including touch monitor manufacturers in the United Kingdom, France, Japan, and the U.S. The company averaged 25 percent annual growth in revenues and profits and received several awards for excellence in customer service under Liggett’s leadership.

The Application of Engineering

“The application of engineering is the ability to solve problems,” Liggett says, “and to think broadly about an issue or an opportunity, to think of multiple ways to approach a situation. So when I became involved in international acquisitions, there were a number of skills that came into play, one of which is the discipline and rigor of being an engineer.”

In 2002, Liggett took these skills and experience and founded Liggett Associates, an operational management company. “I’m often an interim CEO,” she says of her new venture. “I go into companies and help figure out what they do from that point on.”

In her latest assignment, Liggett was interim CEO for Nasdaq company Capstone Turbine, a leading producer of microturbine systems for the distributed energy market.

“Purdue and engineering have enabled me to accomplish many goals,” Liggett says, “and I feel a responsibility to give back and to help others do the same. When I was an Indiana farm girl in junior high and high school, I didn’t dream I’d live in so many countries and be a part of so many cool new technologies. Purdue was a big part of making that possible.”

Liggett serves on the Schools of Engineering Dean’s Visiting Committee and the Burton D. Morgan Entrepreneurship Advisory Council and was named an Outstanding Chemical Engineer in 1999.

2003 Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship Advisory Council, Purdue
2002 Founder and President, Liggett Associates
2000 Managing Director, Tyco Ventures Group
1999 Outstanding Chemical Engineer, Purdue
1998 Engineering Visiting Committee Member, Purdue
1997 President and CEO, Elo TouchSystems
1995 Division Manager, Telecom
1984 Raychem Corporation Area Sales Manager, National Sales and Marketing Manager, Director of Operations, Director Worldwide Marketing
1977 Field Engineer, DuPont

BSChE ’77, Purdue University
MBA ’84, MSIE ’84, Stanford University