Calhoun returns to campus as ‘Old Master’
The president of Banana Republic believes the balance of strengths he brings to his job is what makes him successful.
“Any time I focused on just one of them, I wasn’t any good at my job. I have a balance of creativity, leadership skills, and analytical skills,” said Jack Calhoun, a 1987 graduate of the organizational leadership and supervision program in the College of Technology. He spoke Nov. 8 to students in the OLS 48400 (Leadership Strategies For Quality And Productivity) class, taught by Rodney Vandeveer, as part of Old Masters Week.
All three skills were on display during his presentation, which focused on where he has led Banana Republic in the last five years. He has led the company in creating marketing partnerships with the “Project Runway” and “Mad Men” television shows and a host of other companies. The company has also branched out from apparel to include fragrance and fashion eyeglass frames, reaching new audiences around the globe.
He believes that the future for growth for the brand is in the international market. To that end, Banana Republic has helped open 26 stores in Japan, eight in the United Kingdom, one in Milan and one to be open soon in Paris.
“I have an amazing executive team. We’re clear. We’re focused. My job is to maximize what we’re doing as a whole,” Calhoun said.
He also told students that the classes they are taking now will be important later on.
“When I took Cost Accounting as a student, I thought, ‘when am I ever going to need this?’ Well, I use it every day,” he said. “My industrial engineering classes helped me understand the manufacturing process enough to ask the right questions in this business, too.”
Calhoun provided some advice reflective of his life experiences, but warned students that they may not be right for everyone. His list included:
- Know yourself – filter the input you get from others because you know yourself best.
- Soar with your strengths; do what you’re good at.
- Do what you love. “It makes a difference; it took me a long time to get there,” he said.
- Whatever you do, do it well. “Take risks and apply focus and determination to whatever you do,” he said.
- You don’t always have to succeed.
Jack Calhoun’s biography
Jack joined Gap Inc. in 2003, coming from Charles Schwab & Co., where he was executive vice president of brand management and advertising. Prior to that, he spent six years leading teams at Foote, Cone & Belding and Young & Rubicam, where he served as general manager of the San Francisco office. He also held marketing positions at Levi Strauss & Company and Proctor & Gamble where he started his career in brand management after graduating from Purdue.
While at Purdue, Calhoun was a member of the Purdue Varsity Glee Club and the PurduSirs, a Glee Club leadership organization, President of the Purdue Student Union Board, Chairman of Iron Key, member of Omicron Delta Kappa honorary and recipient of the G.A. Ross award. He also earned an MBA from Harvard University.
Calhoun serves on the board of directors of the Mitchell Gold furniture company and on the the San Francisco Opera. He also served for five years on the national not-for-profit GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) board of directors.