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John A. Spittell III


John Spittell

Wagner Distinguished Chair of Business & Management, Executive-in-Residence

2 East South Street

Galesburg, IL 61401



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Ford Center for the Fine Arts

Wagner Distinguished Chair Emeritus in Business, Executive-in-Residence

John Spittell

Professional Interests
After careers in commercial lending and distribution, John Spittell came to Knox shortly after the sale of his business interests, a regional beverage distributorship, United Distributors, Inc. where he was a co-owner.

During his career, Spittell found success as a commercial lender, but soon saw the challenge and excitement of running his own businesses. As an owner/manager, Spittell believes it's important to take a "holistic approach to management," by learning all he can about customers, key operations, and enabling employees to succeed. This managerial skill has served him well. Over his career he has successfully navigated several mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, and partner buyouts.

Years at Knox: 2007-2022

B.A., 1972, Ripon College.
M.B.A., 1974, Northwestern University Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

Teaching Interests
He combines his wide experience in the business world with a healthy dose of the liberal arts philosophy.
At Knox, he brings that philosophy and energy to his teaching. "For every topic in my classes, I have personal experience that brings the subject to life." To augment classes, Spittell uses a case study approach wherein students are introduced to the reality of decision making including incomplete information, time constraints, and conflicting goals.
Spittell has been able to leverage his relationships in the business world to bring true business leaders to his classroom. Examples include:

  • Ron Rubin, owner of the Republic of Tea, lectured on entrepreneurialism
  • Devin Long, A.C. Nielsen lectured on marketing research
  • Lee Dolan, Chief Marketing Officer of Molson Coors, lectured on current practices in marketing
  • Michael Burns, CEO of the Alaska Permanent Fund, lectured on investment strategies in the world of sovereign funds
  • Kevin Willer, Head of Central Region Development for Google, lectured on corporate growth, strategy, and corporate culture

Spittell, who describes himself as in his "third career," sees his teaching as preparing and enabling students to be successful when they step off the college campus. "Business changes and evolves every day," Spittell notes, "Students need to acquire the proper skill sets required to meet the many and varied challenges they will face in life. A solid liberal arts education provides the best educational platform for any chosen course in life."

Selected Professional Accomplishments


  • Knox Mellon Faculty Career Enhancement Grant - Interdisciplinary Course Development with Elizabeth Carlin Metz: Development of Arts Management Program (Minor and Potential Major) - 2016-2017.

What Students Say
"Very few professors can bring their material to life like John Spittell does. He is able to apply his successful and elaborate career in Business in the classroom by using real business cases and even his own personal experiences to drive his teaching points home. John's passion for business is not only expressed in the classroom but also during the hours of conversation that I- and many other students- have had with him. His enthusiasm can light up any room and, more importantly, any mind. However, the greatest quality John possesses that make him a great teacher, and not just a great professor, is his ability and willingness to be an enabler. He understands that our time spent in the classroom is just a means to achieving our personal and career goals, and he genuinely feels like our success is his success."
-Yazin Akkawi, Economics Major and Business and Psychology Minor

"Professor Spittell loves to tell his students, "I'm all about you." There is no doubt that as a teacher and an advisor, he delivers on this statement every day. In class, John's dynamic personality coupled with his passion for the material creates an environment in which students can't help but be challenged and engaged. Outside of the classroom, John is constantly connecting students to experiential learning opportunities that supplement coursework and help to better prepare them for life after Knox."
-Brittany Wisniewski, Environmental Studies Major and Business and Management Minor

"As a professor, John Spittell goes above and beyond, and he expects nothing less of his students. He doesn't want you to just memorize the material; he wants you to "get it". But due to his contagious enthusiasm, passion, and academic and professional knowledge of what he teaches, by the end of the course, you will. And you will have truly enjoyed the challenge because his real world examples make it engaging, interesting, and evidently applicable to situations far beyond the classroom. John's dedication to his students is remarkable. Whether it's to explain class material that you don't fully understand, prepare for an upcoming interview, or give you valuable life advice, he makes you feel like his number one priority. There are very few professors like John, and I will be forever grateful for the knowledge and confidence he has given me."
-Elena Johnson, Economics Major and Business and Management Minor

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Printed on Friday, July 19, 2024