By Cliff Peale
The Cincinnati Enquirer
John Pepper turned down his alma mater for several months, but in the end, he couldn't say "no" again.
Pepper, the retired chairman and chief executive at Procter & Gamble Co., will return to the workforce Jan. 1. He'll become vice president of finance and administration at Yale University.
The 65-year-old Pepper will rent an apartment in New Haven, while keeping his home and continuing to support community causes in Cincinnati. But he'll also try to ease labor strife, streamline spending and in general bring his business expertise from a 39-year P&G career to Yale.
As for retirement, Pepper seems to view it as simply an opportunity to try different things. "There are so many things to do," he said after the Yale appointment was announced Tuesday. "The challenge is to pick the right priorities."
He said he's planning a two-year tenure in the job. "It's certainly going to be enough to make a difference," he said. "I could get in there and decide to stay longer, but right now, that's what I have in mind."
Pepper retired twice from P&G, first in 1999 and again in 2002. He returned in the interim to help P&G recover from a stock crash in 2000, and is regarded as perhaps the most beloved executive in P&G's recent history.
Since the second retirement, he's continued raising money for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and is a booster for the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative. He also is working on a book about lessons learned from his P&G career.
Pepper said he'll continue to travel to Washington, D.C., and Cincinnati to make sure fund-raising for the Underground Railroad museum is completed. The campaign is missing only about $10 million in federal and state funds, he said.
"While I'm up there, I've told them I need to be prepared to put 10, 15, 20 percent of my time against the Freedom Center, and I will do that," he said.
At Yale, Pepper said he will concentrate on bringing solid business practices. He'll resign from the board of Yale Corp., the university's governing board.
He said employee development will be a key. Employees have gone on strike against Yale several times recently, and Pepper said he hopes to improve the atmosphere through training and better communication.
But bottom-line business also will be part of his agenda. Yale is facing the same budget pressures as universities all over the country, he said.
Yale spends more than $250 million a year in capital projects, and could cut that by 10 percent or more, Pepper said. Also, it could achieve better savings in purchasing, he said.
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