Dick Brandt, an international business expert who has led Lehigh’s Iacocca Institute since 1999, served as director for 20 years of the distinctive Global Village for Future Leaders of Business and Industry and overseen the Pennsylvania School for Global Entrepreneurship at Lehigh, has announced his retirement, effective Sept. 30.
Kira Mendez ’83, past president of Lehigh’s Alumni Association Board will serve a two-year appointment as interim director following Brandt’s departure. She will step down from her recent appointment as Alumni Trustee to serve in this role.
“It has taken passion and commitment to hard work to build a program of this kind of excellence and reach,” said Cheryl Matherly, vice president and vice provost for International Affairs at Lehigh. “To keep it viable and relevant for two decades is nothing less than extraordinary. We owe Dick Brandt a debt of gratitude for his vision, and we are also grateful that Kira is here to carry the torch going forward.”
Brandt said his “association with Lehigh University and the Iacocca Institute programs have changed my life. I now have close friends in so many countries all over the world.”
Brandt said that he is delighted that Mendez will serve as his successor, and will no doubt “take the Iacocca Institute to the next strategy level.”
Mendez, he said, “was here at the Institute working on building the strategy for the Global Village Program when I arrived in early 1997 to be a teacher in the first GV. She has been involved in our success over all these years, and her recent experience with the Lehigh University Alumni Association will serve the campus well as she engages the Global Village Alumni Network.”
Mendez, who earned a B.S. in electrical engineering, is an independent senior adviser to social sector leaders and a former partner of The Bridgespan Group with nearly 30 years of strategy consulting and leadership experience. She holds an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School and an M.S. in electrical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
As a volunteer partner of the Iacocca Institute in the mid-1990s, Mendez was a member of the team that designed and launched the Global Village Program in 1997 and has served in a variety of collaborative roles throughout its history.
A new approach for global competency
The Iacocca Institute was established in 1988 when automotive industry icon Lee Iacocca ’45 lent his support to create an institute focused on providing innovative leadership, applied management and cross-cultural learning experiences.
The Global Village for Future Leaders of Business and Industry was established through the Institute in 1997, and has evolved into an intensive, five-week program offered on campus every summer. It draws adult professionals from around the world to Lehigh to enhance their business, entrepreneurial and leadership skills and prepare them to thrive in a global community. Global Villagers live on campus and each year consist of about 100 students from nearly 50 countries.
In the past two decades, the Global Village alumni network has grown to more than 2,000 professionals from 135 countries. The supportive network is “one of the largest takeaways our Villagers gain from the program,” Brandt said. “The network is regularly accessed to develop business opportunities among countries and travel to and with new-found friends.”
Brandt said that Lehigh President John Simon was witness to the intensity of their dedication to Lehigh when 21 alumni attended a recent “Our Lehigh” event that Simon and Matherly hosted in London.
“How this network is consistently engaged in Lehigh University as we go forward is the key element,” Brandt said, before expressing gratitude to the Global Village alumni who created a scholarship fund in his honor. The RMB Endowed Global Village Scholarship Fund has raised $91,000 so far, which helps deserving candidates attend the program.
The inspiration behind the Global Village
In his 2007 book, Where Have All the Leaders Gone, Iacocca wrote, “The idea for the Iacocca Institute at Lehigh emerged from the question, How do you go about building global leadership? How do you demonstrate to people from different worlds that their commonalities are greater than their differences?”
Iacocca went on to write that Lehigh piloted the Global Village program during the summer of 1997 with representatives from 25 countries. “There were a lot of kinks to iron out, but I was sold,” he wrote. “This was an investment worth making.”
Iacocca has recognized Brandt as one of the leaders who helped realize his vision to globalize the world “one young mind at a time.”
In 2009, Iaccoca established the Iacocca International Internship Program at Lehigh, and provided a $5 million pledge to support it in 2011. The program creates partnerships with companies around the world to provide robust international internship opportunities for Lehigh students. This summer alone, there were 101 students engaged in international programs.
The Pennsylvania School for Global Entrepreneurship has been running for the past 16 years, and has provided more than 1,100 high school students from 63 countries an opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship, globalization, team building, project management and leadership in a culturally diverse, immersive experience.
Brandt credits the “great staff at the Iacocca Institute” and the continued support from 92-year-old Iacocca for the institute’s success.
“I was just out in California last month at Lee’s home outside of L.A., and his support for the Iacocca Institute and his love of Lehigh University remain strong,” Brandt said.
A half a century of dedication
Brandt came to Lehigh in 1997, following a 25-year career with AT&T and Lucent Technologies. With a focus on international operations, Brandt had responsibility for all activities associated with sales, project implementation and technical sales support. He oversaw hundreds of international staff in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. These responsibilities led him into discussions of international business issues with the former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Jiang Zemin, former president of China, and other world leaders. Brandt also served on the boards of five international ventures in Singapore, China, India, Poland and Russia.
At Lehigh, Brandt taught business courses in the College of Business and Economics, facilitated a section on negotiations in the innovative Integrated Business and Engineering Honors Program, and conducted an ethics lab in a Masters of Accounting course. He has developed extensive seminar materials for various institutions, focusing on aspects of international work in the global marketplace. He has also been an international consultant, adviser and accomplished public speaker during his career.
Brandt earned a B.S. from Kent State University, and is a graduate of the Advanced Management Program of the Harvard Business School. He also served as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
After marking his 50th year of working—five in the military as an officer, 25 at AT&T and 20 at Lehigh—Brandt said he’s looking to forward to spending more time with his wife, Sandra, and “fishing in local lakes and playing more golf.” But he will also continue to teach in Lehigh’s IBE Honors program this fall and will also teach international business at the ESIGELEC Engineering School outside of Paris, where he has been teaching for the past six years.