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Dow Chemical president, MAE alumnus delivers commencement address

James R. “Jim” Fitterling (BS ME ’83) delivered the keynote address at the MU College of Engineering Commencement Ceremony on Dec. 16 at the Hearnes Center.

Fitterling currently is president and chief operating officer of Dow Chemical Company. As a member of Dow’s most senior leadership, Fitterling has played a key role in developing and executing Dow’s strategy to invest in a market-driven portfolio of advantaged and technology-enabled businesses that create value for the company’s shareholders and customers.

Loboa and Fitterling pose in a hallway while wearing caps and gowns.

Jim Fitterling stopped to take a photo with MU Engineering Dean Elizabeth Loboa after delivering the keynote address at commencement on Dec. 16 at the Hearnes Center.

He has executive accountability for all of Dow’s businesses excluding Dow AgroSciences. He also oversees operations including Environment, Health & Safety and Sustainability, Manufacturing and Engineering, and Supply Chain, as well as Research & Development.

“Thirty-three years ago, I sat where you’re sitting now — just a kid from a small Missouri farm town with a degree in mechanical engineering and a job offer from Dow Chemical,” he said in his speech. “And like you, I had no idea what the future would bring. But I can tell you this: It has been a terrific experience, and I am thankful every day that I am an engineer.”

Fitterling joined Dow in 1984, serving in various sales, marketing and supply chain positions before earning a promotion to commercial director for liquid separations, Dow Pacific in 1994. He continued climbing the ladder with Dow, holding a variety of leadership positions in the two decades before assuming his current position. During his time at Dow, Fitterling has been in charge of multiple major projects around the world, including projects in the Middle East, Asia, Australia and more, and he’s also spearheaded various diversity initiatives and mentorship opportunities at Dow, serving as the executive sponsor for the Dow Women’s Innovation Network.

He also is a member of the Board of Directors of the Chemical Financial Corporation and is involved in a wide variety of public service organizations globally. Fitterling earned the Missouri Honor Award for Distinguished Service in Engineering from the College of Engineering earlier this year.

Fitterling’s warm, heartfelt remarks touched on the global importance and impact of engineers, the need to be open to new ideas and the necessity of promoting an atmosphere of diversity and inclusion in our everyday lives as well as our workplaces.

“Congratulations again on your success,” he said in closing. “You deserve this day of celebration. Take time to enjoy it with your loved ones.

“Then, on Monday, get back to work. The world needs engineers like you.”