When Chris Mapes, ’85, was asked what he would tell students when he visited the Miller College of Business (MCOB), his advice was simple: “Do the right thing.”
That approach has led Mr. Mapes to great heights in a successful career that has culminated in being named the chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Lincoln Electric—the global leader in arc welding and cutting with over 4 billion of revenue and 11,000 employees with 60 manufacturing plants servicing customers around the world—known worldwide as The Welding Experts®.
In a jam-packed 24 hours recently, Mr. Mapes spoke with students, faculty, and staff inside the Whitinger Business Building about his company, the business world, and his time in Muncie, Ind.
Growing up on a farm roughly 30 minutes away from campus, Mr. Mapes returns to the area from time to time. He has been impressed with how Ball State University has evolved over the years.
“It just continues to resonate with me, when I come back to college, that the advancements they’ve had in not only structures of the college, but how much more of a walking and communal campus it is,” Mr. Mapes said. “It seems to have more community about it than I recall when I was here. It is so much larger than what it was when I was here.
“While it is larger, it still has not lost its sense of community. The ability to walk throughout campus and be able to aggregate in various areas, I think, has been very well done. They’ve made a lot of really good investments in the University.”
While taking in the sights of campus was a pleasant experience, Mr. Mapes’ trip was based around speaking to students—something in which he takes great joy.
“I love being in front of students,” Mr. Mapes said. “Students are interesting. They’re young minds. They’re intelligent. They ask interesting questions. I like being back in front of students because of the enjoyment I get in discussing business with them, the things that they’re doing, and how their educational development is advancing here at Ball State.
“Ball State is important. Quite frankly, it was foundational to what I’m doing today. The ability to come here and give back to the University today is important,” he added.
Students learned about Mr. Mapes’ career path, which began with an internship in the salaried development program at General Motors. During that time, Mr. Mapes was exposed to manufacturing, something that piqued his interest long term.
Mr. Mapes also gained experience in profit and loss management in running small companies inside of large companies. His experience managing profit and loss organizations for nearly 30 years has provided him with a breadth of experience in various industries globally.
Said Mr. Mapes: “I love the strategy and the challenges and working with people, and understanding how you drive products and solutions into the marketplace. It’s been a very interesting career for me.”
“Chris is an outstanding example of what a Ball State business education can provide,” Dr. Stephen Ferris, the Bryan Dean of the Miller College of Business, said. “He is providing ethical, innovative and value-creating leadership to a global manufacturing company. He has a lot to share with us, and his insights on international business are penetrating.
“Our students can learn a lot from his presence on campus and his visit to their classrooms. We are blessed to have such a generous alum take time from his incredibly packed executive schedule and visit with us in person,” Dean Ferris added.
Prior to returning to his prominent role at Lincoln Electric, Mr. Mapes left campus with a challenge to the students in attendance.
“I think the message really is that you’ve got an enormous opportunity in front of you,” he said. “At the end of the day, you have a lot of options because you’re early in your educational development and you’re starting to think about those first careers. It can be a very exciting time for you. Take this time and get as prepared as you can be to be successful.
“Success is something that you get to define. If success is that you’d like to manage a local business, be a salesperson at a local business, or be the CEO of Eli Lilly, that can be how you want to measure your success. But you get to do that. Don’t lose sight of that. Don’t lose sight of the opportunity that’s in front of you and get the most out of it that you can.”