Taking “the road less traveled” takes courage, especially for a college student. Many students come to Michigan Tech for engineering, but an elective can lead to a different career path. Such is the story of Jim Trethewey.
Trethewey, from Ironwood, began as a mechanical engineering major. Then he took an accounting elective from Professor Sam Tidwell. Because he did well in the course, Tidwell encouraged him to change majors. After some soul-searching, Trethewey switched to accounting.
As an undergraduate, Trethewey was involved in Theta Tau fraternity and intramural sports. His academic achievements led to the honorary accounting fraternity Kappa Sigma Iota. “I made many good friends and liked the students’ work ethic,” says Trethewey. “And, in my career, it turned out to be a very good thing to have a mix of business and technical courses.”
After graduating, Trethewey accepted a position as an auditor for Copper Range, a copper mining concern. He next joined Cleveland-Cliffs (now Cliffs Natural Resources), an iron ore mining company in an exciting growth period, as a financial analyst in its Ishpeming office.
Cleveland-Cliffs offered Trethewey a wide variety of opportunities. From Ishpeming to Ontario to Cleveland, Trethewey worked in positions of increasing responsibility and became vice president-controller and chief accounting officer. Along the way, he also earned his MBA from Baldwin- Wallace College.
In his final years with Cliffs, Trethewey was senior vice president of business development and worked with the senior corporate team in reshaping the company, adding international experience to his career. He retired in 2007.
Looking back, Trethewey says, “A really good education is your ticket to opening up opportunities. When opportunities struck, I was well prepared to take advantage of them.”
Being open to different types of jobs within a company is helpful, as many newly learned skills could be transferred to other areas, he says. “Mobility is also important. Don’t tie yourself down to one location.”
Being involved in both professional and community organizations has also been important to Trethewey. He networked with professionals in the American Mining Association, the Society of Mining Engineers, and other industry groups that gave him a broader understanding of his field.
“I worked with community organizations such as United Way and currently serve on the boards of two charities,” says Trethewey. “I was always looking for ways to give back to society. It’s important to stay active in other things besides work so you can expand yourself.”
Trethewey credits a lot of his success to family support, especially from his wife, Dee. The couple divides their time among a winter home in Florida, a summer home in Chautauqua, New York, and a townhouse in Cleveland, where three of their five children and five of their eight grandchildren live.
Trethewey has found time in his busy retirement to continue giving back to Tech. In 1994, he began serving on the School of Business and Economics advisory board, and since 2009 he has served as a trustee of the Michigan Tech Fund.
Trethewey reflects, “My newer role as a trustee lets me deal with the entire University. It gives me an opportunity to participate in activities with other devoted graduates who care where the University is going. We help raise funds for the University, network, and work to form corporate partnerships. These activities are important to maintain sound financial footing and ensure the University continues to advance.”
As an advisor to the School of Business and Economics, he has been involved in AACSB accreditation, which has been particularly gratifying for Trethewey. Providing input on curriculum and meeting with students and faculty have been valuable for him. He is excited about many School and University programs including the Applied Portfolio Management Program (APMP) and Enterprise.
“I like that the School is getting involved directly with corporations and the hands-on nature of these programs,” he says. In addition, Trethewey has started two endowed scholarships for business students from Gogebic County. Other possible contributions are in the planning stages.
“The School of Business and Economics was my foundation, my beginning on the road to success,” he says. “So it’s really important for me to have a part in its growth. The current direction of the School is right on track. Being involved has given me the opportunity to have a voice in where the School is going and ensure it’s constantly getting better. And that’s very fulfilling.”
This article was originally published in Impact, the Michigan Tech School of Business and Economics magazine.