Photo of awardee

Jack A. Hockema

President, CEO and Chairman,
Kaiser Aluminum Corporation
BSCE ’68, MS Management ’70

In recognition of his leadership success and a distinguished career in civil engineering and the metal industry

Growing up in Lafayette with an aptitude for science and math, Jack Hockema says he was fortunate to have an affordable and great engineering university nearby. “Had I lived in Bloomington, I probably would have been an accounting major.”

With his Purdue civil engineering degree in hand, and soon after a master’s in management from the Krannert School of Management, Hockema found success early in his business career. In 1975, he became the aluminum industry’s youngest manager of a major facility as works manager for Consolidated Aluminum Corporation in Hannibal, Ohio. He was an award winning plant manager at Kaiser Aluminum in the late 1970s, spent the early 1980s as a vice president at Gulf+Western and later returned to Kaiser as a consultant.

Hockema is part of the current management team that helped steer Kaiser through its darkest days. And it has come out of it thriving. From 1997 to 2001, the company restructured and repositioned its fabricated products business segments. One month after 9/11, Hockema took over leadership at Kaiser (somewhat reluctantly, he says) after the CEO left for a position in another industry. From 2002 through 2006, Hockema restructured Kaiser, divesting the upstream commodity business and resolving about $4 billion of liabilities.

From 2007 to today, Hockema helped reposition Kaiser with competitive and financial strength by focusing on growing the company. “We have invested more than $400 million in organic and acquisition growth initiatives,” he says.

What drives him? “I am motivated by winning as a team,” Hockema says. “If I list the most satisfying chapters in my career, they all share a common theme of successfully addressing a significant business challenge through exceptional performance by a team of employees and managers.”

It is a success formula that Hockema believes provides greater opportunities, now more than ever before, for motivated engineers and managers who are willing to work hard and continue learning. Still, he says, talent and accomplishments alone will not do it. Employees need to personally commit to such things as relocation, extended business travel and the added responsibilities that come along with career advancement.

Purdue prepared him to be a team leader through an outstanding fundamental education in both engineering and business, he says. “Purdue taught me how to work hard and how to perform under pressure. It was invaluable experience in preparation for executive life.”

His school days proved to be a confidence builder, as well. “The ability to achieve success at Purdue in the engineering and business programs is a litmus test for competing with the best of the best in the business world,” Hockema says.

Career Highlights

2006-present President, CEO and Chairman, Kaiser Aluminum Corporation
2001-2006 President & CEO, Kaiser Aluminum Corporation
1996-2001 Various positions, Kaiser Aluminum Corporation
1993-1996 Registered investment adviser and metals industry consultant
1987-1992 Group Vice President, American Brass Company LP
1982-1987 Vice President, Bohn Aluminum & Brass Division, Gulf+Western
1977-1982 Various positions, Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corporation
1975-1977 Works Manager, Consolidated Aluminum Corporation
1968-1975 Various positions, ALCOA
1970 MS Management, Purdue University
1968 BSCE, Purdue University