Since graduating from Knox, Jim Foley’s career has taken him to Los Angeles, Mexico City, all over Europe, and back to Galesburg. Foley began his career in the software industry before pursuing an MBA from the London Business School at the University of London. “A third of my classmates had graduated from either Oxford or Cambridge University,” recalls Foley. “At ﬁrst I was intimidated, but I soon realized I was fully prepared to contribute and succeed, and I consider my learning at Knox to be a critical part of that success.” Foley spent seven years in Europe working in technology before returning to Illinois as director of the Turner Center for Entrepreneurship & Illinois SBDC International Trade Center at Bradley University. Since then, he has served and led professional business associations like NASBITE International. More recently, Foley has collaborated with the Bastian Family Career Center to develop the Business Intensive Seminar, which provides business knowledge and leadership training for Knox College students.
What about your experience at Knox prepared you for your life abroad?
Knox helped me better understand myself as a person and, through leadership work, understand how to relate to others. This was critical for my success in international business because I was dealing with different cultures on a daily basis. The key to success was to be honest and to show respect and openness for all cultures and people. Knox gave me a foundation and a sense of self for those years in Europe and beyond, as I continue to travel internationally.
Did you have any key mentors at Knox?
Both my advisors, Bill Pillsbury and Bill Rippinger, spent so much time with me beyond the classroom and helped me grow personally. Also, Chuck Gibbs gave me a job at the computing center, which allowed me to put into practice what I was learning in classes. Funny enough, Chuck’s wife, Mary Gibbs, taught me piano lessons all four years at Knox. She became a mentor because she always believed in me, even though I was not a music major. But there were so many more faculty and staff beyond them. I somewhat took it for granted at the time, but now I realize that all the relationships we had, from the classroom to cafeteria, everyone was welcoming, caring, and interested in each of us. They all inﬂuenced me.
Why did you decide to continue your relationship with Knox through the Business Intensive Seminar?
I believe in the importance of understanding business. My work at Bradley University’s Turner Center for Entrepreneurship has shown me that regardless of whether your passion is the arts, sciences, or public service, understanding business makes you more effective and more competitive. I also really enjoyed working with Terrie Saline in Career Services—she and her team work so hard to make the seminar a success. And of course, I wanted to be involved because it’s very rewarding to be back at Knox, and to teach students at the same college you attended.