Mike Duke, former president and CEO of Walmart stores, will speak at the College of Business Administration Distinguished Speakers luncheon Tuesday. The event will begin at 11:45 a.m. in the Hunter Welcome Center.
The Distinguished Speakers luncheon has been a regular event organized by Dr. Rick Lytle, dean of the College of Business Administration, for the past 10 years. Former speakers include Bob McDonald, chairman and CEO of Procter & Gamble who now works for President Obama, Mark Albers, a high-ranking member of Exxon Mobil, and Jim Lentz, president of Toyota U.S.A.
The luncheon is one of five events over a two-day period. On Monday, Duke and John Aden, executive vice president of sales innovation for Walmart, will have dinner with a small group of faculty and students, Lytle said. Aden and Duke will teach a class Tuesday morning in COBA before the luncheon.
Lytle said Aden and Duke will then take part in a video shoot before ending their time on campus by hosting a small roundtable session with faculty from around campus.
The luncheon will allow a broader audience to hear Duke speak. Lytle said he expects around 100 students and more than 200 community leaders and business professionals to be present, including 15-20 current employees of Walmart in Abilene.
“Our students will benefit from hearing from a gentleman who’s been at the helm of the world’s largest company,” Lytle said. “The competence that he has in running that company when he was actively running it and his character as a Christian, those two things are just so powerful together.”
The Distinguished Speaker luncheon fits the fundamental goals of COBA, Lytle said.
“This is a real important series from my perspective,” he said. “We try to take our students to the world, but also try to bring the world to our students, and the opportunity to have students be in front and in the presence of people like this is pretty phenomenal, it just doesn’t happen every day.”
Lytle is a personal friend of Duke and said he is excited to have him speak to the ACU community.
“He is an outstanding Christian, period,” he said. “He has the respect of so many people in the organization. He is just held in high regard by so many people that work at Walmart.”
Duke has worked in Walmart’s corporate office since 1995, serving as senior vice president for logistics before being promoted to vice chairman in 2005. He became president and CEO in 2009 and remained in that position until 2013. He now chairs the executive committee of the board.
Lytle said Duke exemplifies different attributes which will allow him to tie together multiple topics while he shares his experiences and gives advice.
“It’s always a nice combination – the intersection of faith, marketplace happenings, leadership, life; these kinds of things blend together,” he said.
Dr. Allison Garrett, executive vice president, worked with Duke in the late ’90s and was invited by Lytle to sit at the speaker’s table at the luncheon. Garrett, who then worked as the vice president and general counsel of Walmart’s corporate legal services, said she was always impressed by Duke’s devotion to his personal and spiritual life while in the corporate sphere.
“He and his wife, in addition to raising their own kids, had foster children,” Garrett said. “He’s been someone through the years who’s put a real priority on church and Bible study.”
Garrett said she witnessed Duke speak at another university while he was still the CEO of Walmart.
“He was speaking to business students and he didn’t talk about climbing the corporate ladder,” Garrett said. “He talked about making time in your life for God and for family. I think the most important thing that (students) will be able to take away is that balance in your life is incredibly important and that you should have the right priorities in your life.”