While Allen narrowed his choices to those in the Hoosier state, Purdue tipped the scales with its reputation in engineering and a partial athletic scholarship to play collegiate golf.
“At the time I was very focused on going into engineering,” Allen recalls. “I actually started in the aeronautical engineering program, then ended up in mechanical engineering, but never quite found one area that completely appealed to me.”
In Nov. 2012, Sam Allen was the featured speaker at the Evans Scholars speakers forum in Chicago, where a jersey was presented as a thank you to Allen and his wife, Marsha, on behalf of the Western Golf Association and Purdue Evans Scholars alumni. (Photo provided)
It was his junior year when Allen made the move to management at the suggestion of a couple of Evans Scholars chapter brothers. “I had enjoyed the few business classes I’d already taken and they highly recommended that I look at the industrial management program,” he says. “It was a good balance between engineering and management and I found myself liking the business aspect more and more.”
He also credits his fellow Evans Scholars and his time as a collegiate golfer for teaching him important life skills and helping him build relationships. “I enjoy the personal aspect of golf,” he says. “It is about your ability to compete with yourself and the discipline you have to develop from that. I really enjoy the camaraderie you build with your fellow golfers.”
The next key event during Allen’s time at Purdue came during his senior year when he took an “Executives in the Classroom” course, now known as the Krannert Executive Forum, which was created and led by late faculty member Fred McLimore. Among the executives to visit that year was Deere & Co. senior vice president Bud Lundahl, whom McLimore asked Allen to escort to lunch.
“Deere recruiters had been on campus for about three weeks but I had no real interest in the company until I went to lunch with Bud Lundahl and he asked me to consider an interview,” he says. After visiting the company’s headquarters in Moline, Ill., Allen changed his outlook, and the job offer that soon followed became a career. “Without Professor McLimore I wouldn’t even be at John Deere,” Allen says.
Another Krannert influence for Allen was a marketing class with former professor C.W. King, who has continued his distinguished teaching career at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
“Most students didn’t like the class because Professor King was super tough and had very high expectations, but there was something about him,” Allen says. “He really challenged the heck out of me and I excelled at his class. It was one of those courses that define you. I came out of it with a much higher level of confidence.”
Allen has returned the favor over the years by sharing his expertise with students at universities around the globe, including his alma mater. He most recently returned to Purdue in Fall 2013 as a speaker in the Krannert Executive Forum and addressed incoming master’s program students in 2010 as the school’s distinguished executive lecturer. He’s also a member of Krannert’s Global Strategic Advisory Council.