Oct 4, 2011

From Co-op to Company President

When cooperative education was created at the University of Cincinnati more than 100 years ago, it was based on the premise that gaining experience before graduation not only prepares students for success in the work force – it also provides an opportunity to impress a potential employer before ever hitting the job market.

College of Engineering alumnus John Miller is proof of cooperative education’s value, and is visiting UC this week to enlighten current students with insights into what it takes to be successful. Through hard work, study and determination, he was able to leverage a co-op assignment with the Standard Oil Company (SOHIO) into a 26-year career that saw him ascend company ranks from a co-op student to President, Chief Operating Officer and Director of the company.

Miller achieved a number of impressive milestones and earned numerous promotions along his way to the top. He served as Vice President of Finance during a critical time in the company’s history – when SOHIO was arranging for the extensive funding needed to develop its Alaskan crude oil reserves and pay for its share of the costs of constructing the Trans Alaska Pipeline. He later served as Vice President of Transportation when the pipeline and marine network associated with delivering Alaskan crude to market was being put into operation.

With his record of success in these capacities, he was elevated to Senior Vice President of Technology and Chemicals, a position he held until being elected President and COO of SOHIO in 1980. After leaving the company in 1986, Miller leveraged his business knowledge to found and lead TBN Holdings Inc. and Petroleum Partners, Inc.

Demonstrating a base of knowledge that goes far beyond petroleum, Miller also served as Director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland for seven years, and was Chairman during the last two years of his term. Today, he is Chairman of the Board of Graphic Packaging Holding Company, an integrated provider of paperboard packaging solutions to multinational beverage and consumer products companies, as well as Cambrex Corporation, a supplier of goods and services to the life sciences industry.

Students who meet with Miller will undoubtedly gain a unique perspective on what it means to take advantage of opportunities presented to them through co-op and experiential learning. So what was the best piece of advice anyone gave you? What would you tell the students of today that you wish someone had told you? Comment below!

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