UMSL alumnus and retired Boeing executive Terry Elmendorf becomes UMSL’s executive in residence

Man stands outside against trees smiling

Terry Elmendorf is ready for his “second act” as UMSL’s executive in residence (Photo by August Jennewein)

After more than 30 years in various leadership positions at Boeing, Terry Elmendorf knew retirement was approaching on the horizon.

The University of Missouri–St. Louis alumnus had been thinking about staying at the company a few more years, but as with many scenarios, the pandemic changed his plans.

Elmendorf retired in January of 2021, leaving his position as vice president and chief financial officer of Boeing Global Finance Operations where he oversaw the company’s finances and international financial offices in regions including Australia, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and India. He also sat on numerous boards of international joint ventures. But even after working in such a demanding career, he wasn’t ready to fully retreat from the working world.

He needed a break from the demands of his former role but knew he still could be of value. So he took a position as executive in residence in the College of Business Administration at his alma mater.

“I took the first year to decompress and catch my breath,” Elmendorf said. “But I always wanted to do something, whether it was with a nonprofit or with UMSL. I always want to do something to stay engaged with causes that matter. I believe in UMSL’s unique mission.”

Elmendorf had been active with the university since he graduated, starting as a member of the leadership team of the Alumni Association and eventually becoming president. He help to fundraise and engage the alumni community, and he also became a liaison between UMSL and Boeing.

“When I knew I was retiring, I reached out to UMSL leadership and said, ‘I’m getting ready to retire, I want to engage in a deeper way than I’ve been able to when I was working,’” Elmendorf said. “We started that dialogue a while back.”

As those discussions progressed, Dean Joan Phillips presented him with the idea of being an executive in residence.

“Yeah, that sounds perfect.’” Elmendorf said. “It’s  a great way to stay engaged, involved and help the university.”

Elmendorf has returned to the College of Business Administration, where he was once a first-generation college student and where he received his MBA. He’s helping the department with its strategic plan. He was also the featured speaker at the college’s commencement ceremony last month.

“The two priorities that the dean has asked me to focus on initially,” Elmendorf said, “are helping co-chair Joe Rottman with the strategic planning process for the College of Business Administration. We’ve got an outside consultant coming in to help us, and that’ll launch the process to building a new strategic plan for the college of business. My experiences at Boeing are relevant to help do that.

“The other role is she’s asked me to chair the College of Business Administration Leadership Council. So, those are the two initial priorities. Obviously, in this role, I would like to take some time with students. That’s what energizes me.”

Elmendorf enjoys the interpersonal aspect of leadership and will get an opportunity to connect not only as a mentor but also potentially as a lecturer. He may even at some point hold office hours.

“The most rewarding aspect of my professional career was engaging with the team and developing and leading people,” Elmendorf said of his time at Boeing. “That’s the fun part.”

Elmendorf, who joined Boeing right after graduating, has had the kind of professional trajectory that’s becoming extinct due to factors such as the shift in work culture and what we’ve come to know as “The Great Resignation.” He spent nearly four decades at Boeing, growing his career in varied roles that allowed him to become a well-rounded business person.

“It’s a company where I had tons of different roles,” he said. “I didn’t have to leave the company to get something new to do.”

Because of his vast knowledge Phillips believed Elmendorf had the background and skills to fill the executive in residence role.

“Terry brings a wealth of experience and an unyielding commitment to UMSL,” Phillips said. “He comes to CoBA after a long and distinguished career at Boeing. He also looks forward to helping us build stronger relationships with the business community – a role that aligns well with his duties on the Chancellor’s Council as Co-chair of the Economic Development and Corporate Engagement Committee.”

Joe Rottman, director of the UMSL International Business Institute and chair of the College of Business Administration strategic planning and innovation committee, agrees that Elmendorf has proven to be an asset.

“It is such a great experience working with Terry,” Rottman said. “He brings decades of strategic planning and project execution to the College.  That, combined with his dedication to our students, is the perfect combination as we create the strategic roadmap for the College. His experience and leadership are real assets to the College.”

With the many responsibilities placed on Elmendorf, he’s stepped into his “second career” and looks forward to making an impact for the university and the community.

“What I’m hoping is coming out of this is a very clearly articulated plan that everybody sees themselves in and has participated in its development,” Elmendorf said.

“We’ll have an ecosystem built around that plan and operating rhythm, if you will, that will make sure we stay focused in executing that plan. We will put in factors that address sustainability because the environment is not static, it changes all the time. We’ll build this ecosystem around the plan. It’s not something you put together and put on the shelf. It will be truly how we operate and run the college, and at the same time we’re doing this, the university will be launching a new five-year plan.”

He’s looking forward to being of service at a place he holds dear.

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