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Unilever CEO Paul Polman to Address University of Cincinnati Graduates

The UC alumnus and leader of one of the world’s largest packaged consumer goods companies is also a supporter of UC students who aim to become the business leaders of the future.

Date: 4/21/2009 12:00:00 AM
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Provided

UC ingot  

Paul Polman, Chief Executive Officer of Unilever, will address graduates at the University of Cincinnati All-University Commencement ceremonies. The ceremonies will be held at 9 a.m. and at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 13, in Fifth Third Arena. Polman will be awarded an Honorary Doctor of commercial science during the 9 a.m. ceremony. The honorary degree represents the highest award given by the University of Cincinnati.

Paul Polman
Paul Polman

Polman heads an international manufacturer of more than 400 brands of personal care, hygiene and food products including Lipton, Hellmann’s, Wish Bone, Dove, Ponds, Vaseline, Suave, Sunlight and Surf. Unilever, which is part of the Unilever group owned by the Netherlands-based Unilever N.V. and the UK-based Unilever PLC, has an annual turnover of $50 billion.

A native of the Netherlands, Polman earned a BBA/BA from the University of Groningen, Netherlands in 1977. He earned an MA in economics from UC’s McMicken College of Arts and Sciences (A&S), as well as an MBA in finance/international marketing from the UC College of Business, in 1979.

Polman began his career with Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble in 1979 and spent 26 years at P&G, rising to Group President Europe and Officer of the Procter & Gamble Company. Prior to joining Unilever, Polman was a leader with the world’s largest food company, Nestlé, as CFO in January 2006 and as Executive Vice President for the Americas from February 2008 until his appointment at Unilever in late 2008.

A longtime supporter of his alma mater, Polman has hosted students with the UC College of Business Honors-PLUS program in Europe since 2004 and organized events with UC business students and executives from various European-based companies. He received the Carl H. Lindner Award for Outstanding Business Achievement in 2006, the same year he and his wife, Kim, established the Paul and Kim Polman Endowed Scholarship Fund in Finance at UC. The couple met when they were UC students. Kim was a student at UC’s College-Conservatory of Music. They have three children, Philippe, Christian and Sebastian.

Polman was recognized by Investor Magazine as CFO of the Year in 2007 and was named the Wall Street Journal/CNBC European Business Leader of the Year in 2003. He is a member of the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce (former chairman, president and treasurer) and also holds an Honorary Doctorate in Civil Law from the University of Northumbria in Newcastle.

He serves as president of the Kilimanjaro Blind Trust, which he co-founded in 2006 with renowned blind climber, writer and motivational speaker Eric Weihenmayer. The organization is dedicated to improving the lives of blind children in East Africa. He also serves as chairman of the Perkins International advisory board, and is a patron of the Leaders for Nature, an initiative of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Polman speaks five languages: Dutch, English, French, Spanish and German. His hobbies include marathon running, mountaineering and sailing.

UC Commencement Information

College of Business' Alumni Publication, Portfolio: Unilever CEO Shares Insights on the Past, Present and Future of Business Leadership