International Business Executive Delivers 137th Commencement Address
(Posted May 18, 2015)
HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Christoph Schwemmlein, a 1984 Juniata College graduate, and managing director of Klöcker Brothers, a manufacturing company producing parts for the textile industry, informed the assembled 2015 graduating class at Juniata's 137th commencement ceremony, Saturday, May 16, recalled his experience on campus as a German international student and extolled the value of a Juniata degree and said "don't forget about the people who guided you on your way."
The graduating class of 343 students was awarded bachelor of arts (104) or bachelor of science degrees (239) at the ceremony. Juniata also graduated eight students who earned master's degrees: six in in accounting and two in the new master's of arts in nonprofit leadership.
In addition, Schwemmlein was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree. The business executive was introduced for his honorary degree by Jim Lakso, provost emeritus and professor emeritus of economics and one of Schwemmlein's former teachers.
In addition, Lakso, who retired as the college's provost in 2013, and Raymond Figura, dean of business administration at Westfälische Hochschule (University of Applied Science), Bocholt campus, in Bocholt Germany, received honorary doctor of humane letters degrees.
Schwemmlein, who arrived at Juniata from Germany and left in 1984 armed with a degree from the college to complement the other degree he earned at a German university, entertained the audience by recalling the oppressive heat at his own Juniata Commencement ceremony and his memory of the commencement speaker, saying, "Unfortunately, I forgot what (the speaker) said, and I'm afraid my words will be buried in oblivion, too."
"Be proud. But don't forget about the people that guided you on your way."
Christoph Schwemmlein, 1984 Juniata graduate
Schwemmlein, who helped build a small German company into a multinational corporation, also talked of the relationships he made with faculty such as Klaus Jaeger, professor emeritus of German, and Bob Reilly, professor emeritus of social work: "They positively took me by the hand. Totally unusual for a German student (to experience). The two of them always took the time (to teach me) a new sense of studying."
The speaker went on to illustrate how he boiled his experience in American higher education into three phrases: "Don't take yourself too seriously," "Become self-employed" and "Don't leave money on the table." Each bit of advice was delivered by a Juniata professor or a senior administrator. Schwemmlein used each nugget of wisdom to build his own business career.
"My two degrees meant about $350 extra per month, quite a lot of money back then," he explained. He also credited German professor Klaus Jaeger with helping him financially when he and a business partner borrowed the funds used to start the business now called Klöcker Brothers. "A professor of German and a former student," Schwemmlein said. "Across-borders trust. All of this made me feel brave and proud."
Schwemmlein wrapped up his speech telling the assembled graduates to "be proud. But don't forget about the people that guided you on your way."
The 2015 Senior Class Gift collected more than $51,000 (81 percent of the class contributed to the gift), for contributions to the Alicia Griffith Fund, which helps students in need during their time at Juniata, and for the eventual renovation of the college's Health and Wellness Center.
Christoph Schwemmlein, managing director of Klöcker Bros., graduated with a bachelor's degree in business and computer science. He earned a master's degree in business administration from the University of Applied Sciences of Muenster in 1984 and went on to earn a doctoral degree in 2001 from Bauman Moscow State Technical University. A native of Borken, Germany, Schwemmlein joined Klöcker Bros. in 1990 and oversees all sales operations for the company. The Weseke, Germany-based company serves clients across the globe, including Europe, North and South America, Africa, Asia and Australia.
Under Schwemmlein's leadership the company was transformed from a craft-oriented business to a global enterprise emphasizing research and development in weaving machine and automotive technology. The company has another factory complex in Bandung, Java, Indonesia. The company holds more than 160 internationally registered patents. Currently under his management, the company has established Klöcker Brothers Design & Build, a Huntingdon-based contracting company specializing in residential projects.
From 1985 to 1988, Schwemmlein worked in international sales for Rosen Engineering, a German company specializing in producing equipment for checking welds and other components in pipelines. He was promoted to assistant managing director in 1988.
He is a member of the German Chamber of Commerce in Munster, Germany. He also is a member of the German Association of Machine Builders in Bonn, Germany.
Schwemmlein's son, Arnold, is a member of Juniata's graduating class. Another son, Achim, is a freshman at the college.
Jim Lakso came to Juniata in 1970 as an instructor and was promoted to assistant professor in 1972 and to associate professor in 1976. He was promoted to full professor in 1981. He worked a variety of administrative roles at the college, including stints as assistant academic dean, director of summer sessions, chair of the economics department and academic dean of social sciences. He retired from Juniata in 2013.
In 2012, Lakso was recognized by the Council of Independent Colleges as Chief Academic Officer of the Year. He also was honored with an Alumni Citation from Wittenberg University in 2014 and received Juniata's John C. Baker Award in 2013. In 2011, Lakso was honored by the college when Juniata raised almost $1 million to create the James J. Lakso Endowment for Faculty Excellence, which will provide annual funding for faculty development. In addition, the college also named its teaching center the James J. Lakso Center for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.
Lakso received the 2005 Beachley Award for Distinguished Academic Service and the 1983 Beachley Distinguished Professor Award. He is chairman of the board of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. He also served as an adjunct business faculty member at St. Francis University. He remains active at St. James Lutheran Church and serves on the board of directors of Skills of Central Pa. and Kish Bank.
Lakso earned a bachelor's degree in economics from Wittenberg University in 1967. He went on to earn a master's degree in 1970 in economics from the University of Maryland. He continued his doctoral work while teaching at Juniata and earned his doctorate in economics from Maryland in 1973.
Raymond Figura has been dean of business administration at the Bocholt campus since 1996. He started his career in higher education in 1991 as professor of production management at Märkische Fachhochschule Iserlohn, Hagen. In 1994, Figura moved to Westfälische Hochschule (University of Applied Science), Bocholt as a professor for management.
He was dean of the business administration faculty at Bocholt from 1996 to 2000 and from 2005 to 2008. Since 2012, Figura has been vice dean of faculty in business administration and information technology.
Figura earned a diploma in mechanical engineering from the University of Bochom in 1979. He went on to earn a doctorate in engineering at Bochrom in 1984.
He began his business career in 1984 in the private sector, working in production management for Procter & Gamble, Digital Equipment and other German companies.
Figura, with Thomas Siebe, another senior administrator at Bocholt, helped establish a partnership between the German university and Juniata's Center for International Education. His research interests center on intercultural team development in global operating enterprises.
Figura has lectured at international universities, such as Arnhem University in the Netherlands, Central Ostrobothnian University of Appplied Science in Finland and the University Katolik Indonesia.
Figura additionally helped Juniata develop a program where students could get a bachelor's degree from Juniata and a German master's degree in five years.
Contact Gabe Welsch at email@example.com or (814) 641-3131 for more information.