Photo of awardee

Ellen E. Tobias

Vice President
Elanco Animal Health Manufacturing
BSChE ’83

In recognition of her outstanding technical and business accomplishments as a leader in the global pharmaceutical manufacturing industry

Having a Purdue chemistry professor as her father was not the only reason Ellen Tobias chose chemical engineering as her profession.

“I loved a lot of things – math, science, music, language,” she says. “But I’m a practical person. I realized that with engineering, I could solve all kinds of problems, and also have a great way of life.”

Practicality also directed her to choose Purdue. “I thought about going to a different school to get out of my hometown and explore,” she says. “But at Purdue, I could get tuition at half off since my father was on the faculty. And Purdue ranked in the top 15 for all its engineering programs. How could I argue with that?”

Tobias participated in a co-op to earn her way through college and did several internships. After graduation, she had no student loans to worry about. “I ended up with money in the bank,” she says. “I took the summer before graduation off to go to Europe.”

For her first job, Tobias joined 3M as a medical products engineer. In 1986, she became a process engineer for Eli Lilly and Co., the 10th-largest pharmaceutical company in the world. She went on to hold a variety of leadership positions of increasing responsibility with Lilly. As leader of global health, safety and environmental affairs at Lilly, she created programs to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, reduce motor vehicle accidents and improve process safety by incorporating the use of green chemistry in process development and safety instrumented systems in production.

She is currently vice president of Elanco Animal Health Manufacturing, a division of Lilly that offers products to assist in farm animal health, companion animal health and food safety.

“My current position is challenging, but very exciting,” she says. “Three years ago, our leadership team painted a vision to transform the business from one with a very successful and stable portfolio to one with a much broader portfolio,” she says. “We’re developing and launching several new products, including vaccines, natural products backed by science and our new companion animal line.”

Tobias has held both staff and operational leadership positions and says she especially enjoys the direct leadership of manufacturing operations. Early on she realized she preferred the broad-based focus of management, rather than specialized technical expertise. “Being at Purdue forced me to know my strengths and weaknesses,” she says. “I was good at a number of things, but not everything. I saw I probably wasn’t going to be a technical expert. My broad-based interests and knowledge were my strength. At Purdue I learned to ask for help and to create teamwork – both crucial factors of leadership.”

Career Highlights

2010-present Vice President, Elanco Animal Health Manufacturing
2007-2010 Executive Director, Elanco Animal Health Manufacturing (a division of Eli Lilly and Co.)
2004-2007 Executive Director, Global, Health and Safety and Environmental Affairs, Eli Lilly and Co.
1999-2004 General Manager, Clinton Laboratories, Eli Lilly and Co.
1998-1999 Director, Fermented Products, Tippecanoe Laboratories, Eli Lilly and Co.
1997-1998 Manager, Human Resources for the Global Business Units, Eli Lilly and Co.
1989-1997 Various leadership roles in solvent recovery, utilities, human resources and antibiotic purification, Eli Lilly and Co.
1986-1989 Process Engineer, Eli Lilly and Co.
1984-1986 Medical Products Engineer, 3M Co.
1983 BSChE, Purdue University