Rick McNeel (B.S. CHME 1969) shared Carolina barbecue and the wisdom of valuing hard work and pursuing growth with students who joined the college's annual Engineering Learning Community trip during spring break. The 2011 trip showed a group of more than 40 students the expertise and opportunities presented by Nebraska Engineering alumni in North Carolina's Research Triangle.
McNeel grew up on a cattle ranch outside North Platte, where he attended a one-room school in his early years. As a UNL student, he said “chemical engineering did a great job of teaching me how to think and helped me develop good analytical skills.” After graduating from Nebraska, he began a career in manufacturing, and worked as a process engineer at large, chemical plants in Texas. He advanced to a job in Chicago, where his boss held an MBA from the University of Chicago. McNeel also pursued that path, to combine business skills with his engineering acumen.
While exploring aspects of production and markets throughout the world, McNeel rose to become a vice president with Amoco in Chicago. He then moved to Atlanta and became president of the company’s Engineering Polymer and Carbon Fiber division. He returned to Chicago as a group vice president, with half of Amoco Chemical reporting to him. For his next challenge, a friend at Amoco connected McNeel with the opportunity to lead LORD Corp., and this spring he noted eight and a half years with the company. In February McNeel, LORD’s president and CEO, was also elected chairman of its Board of Directors.
McNeel said he was glad to host the Nebraska Engineering students in North Carolina, both at his gracious Chapel Hill home (with additional Husker decor for the occasion) and for tours of divisions at LORD headquarters in Cary. The UNL guests learned that LORD’s 2,600 employees, “marketing-focused and tech-driven,” achieve annual sales exceeding $750 million for its products: adhesives and coatings, and vibration dampening, motion control, and magnetically responsive technologies. The international company was started 85 years ago by a patent lawyer with an innovation to control streetcar noise, and the spirit of “Breakthrough Idea Development” continues at LORD.
A member of the college’s Executive Advisory Board, McNeel added that he was pleased to join fellow Nebraska Engineering alumnus Bob Brightfelt in promoting UNL’s Engineering Learning Community. With efforts by McNeel and another Nebraska Engineering alumnus, Dave Lederer, this year’s ELC trip included stops at NC State’s Centennial Campus (a model for UNL’s Innovation Campus), UNC and Duke University, as well as time inside a GE Aircraft Engine plant, and a look at the future of LED lighting with Cree. The ELC group also enjoyed free time at historical and cultural sites in downtown Raleigh, and an outing to a Carolina Hurricanes NHL game.
Nebraska Engineering’s Director of Retention Dave Williams thanked McNeel, Brightfelt and Lederer for their efforts, leading the students in a rousing cheer of “Go Big Red!” and in singing “There Is No Place Like Nebraska” to show appreciation for the alumni leaders.
– Carole Wilbeck