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Supply Chain Executive and Educator Gives Back

Former chief procurement officer for GlaxoSmithKline, established a scholarship to supports dual-MBA/MMB (master of microbial biotechnology and management) students who have declared a concentration in biosciences management.

In 1999, Sam Straight, who was working as the chief procurement officer for GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), received a peculiar call from the dean of a newly formed college of management about launching a supply chain program within the college. Straight’s response?

“I asked him [then Poole College of Management dean Jon Bartley] why in the world he was calling me,” Straight laughs. “I was an industry guy – not an academic. What did I know about teaching?”

Bartley must have done a decent sales job on the phone because, on the heels of retirement from a successful career at GSK, Straight walked into Nelson Hall where he spent the next 16 years helping build and grow not only the college’s supply chain undergraduate program, but also its Supply Chain Resource Cooperative (SCRC) and Jenkins MBA concentration in biosciences.

It’s the last one, though, that holds a special place in Straight’s heart. It’s why he and his late-wife, Arlene, established the Samuel L. and Arlene J. Straight Biosciences Scholarship Fund. The scholarship supports dual-MBA/MMB (master of microbial biotechnology and management) students who have declared a concentration in biosciences management.

There are a lot of folks out there who don’t want to get pigeon-holed as being a scientist and want to explore a career outside a lab. This program is ideal for students who want both the science and management perspectives.

Straight, who today serves on the Poole College dean’s advisory board, spent years as an adjunct professor and executive-in-residence where he worked to bring his industry expertise into the classroom.

“I was constantly bringing in practitioners. If we were talking about sales that day, I’d bring in a sales person. If we were talking about the FDA, I’d get a representative from Washington who worked in the FDA,” Straight says. “I wanted to bring in experts who had the practical knowledge to share their experiences with my students. The best was when I’d have graduates of the program who went on to have successful careers themselves to come back to share with the next generation.”

Straight established the scholarship in 2014 – and continues to contribute to it year after year. His reason? It’s pretty simple – life has been good to him financially and in many other ways, so why not make someone else’s life a little easier?

“It’s a different time. I had a blue-collar upbringing and was the first in my family to go to college. I was able to work while in school to offset my tuition costs. My first job out of school paid me $600 a month, which covered a new car, a house and our growing family. That’s not the case anymore,” Straight says.

There are a lot of students who are working hard to earn just enough to scrape by and stay in school. If we could ease that financial burden for someone else, we want to do it.

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