Interview with Dan Korte

Meet Dan Korte, ’81. Korte is a board member for the SIU Foundation. Korte also serves on the Industrial Advisory Board for the School of Engineering.

Dan is currently the global vice president, aerospace at PPG Industries.  He oversees more than 3,500 employees at over 25 plants, application support centers, laboratories, research centers and technical support sites worldwide.  He has 35 years of experience as a leader in the aerospace industry, working for companies such as Boeing, Rolls-Royce and LMI Aerospace.  Dan also serves on numerous company and charitable boards.  He holds a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from SIU and a Master of Business Administration from Lindenwood University.  He is a graduate of the strategic thinking and management for competitive advantage program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.

Everyone who attended SIU has a story about their experiences during college. Below is the inspiring story about Korte’s journey to SIU as told by him in first person:

Dan Korte’s SIU Story

In one’s life, there are key moments that have a lasting impact. For me, one of those moments came late in the summer after I graduated high school, when on rare occasion my father shared some advice. To that point, I had planned to follow in his footsteps and those of my uncles and many cousins who had jobs in construction.

“Son, you don’t have the back for it,” my father said. “You better figure out a way to use your mind.”

Because my father did not give advice often and this was the first career advice he had given me, his words weighed heavily. Perhaps a bit impulsively, my 18-year-old self loaded some clothes into the back of my car and set out on the two-hour drive from Breese, Illinois, toward Southern Illinois University Carbondale. The fall semester started the next day, and I had not yet enrolled as a student or registered for classes. In fact, I didn’t even have a place to live.

The first night, I managed to crash on the couch of a friend from my hometown. The following morning, as I stood at the trunk of my car brushing my teeth, I glanced down the street and, as if looking into a mirror, I saw another guy doing the same. Without hesitation, I introduced myself to Greg and that is how two kids in need of a place to live became instant roommates and lifelong friends.

That sunny day in 1978, I also stepped foot onto the campus of SIU and became the first person in my family to take even one college course. I would spend the next seven years gaining two degrees while working at the Student Center to help pay tuition, buy books and scrape together a little food with what little money remained each month. Financial aid did help defray my college expenses, yet almost every semester when I went to Woody Hall, I would hear those dreaded words, “I’m sorry, but you cannot register for classes until you clear your bursar’s hold.” Fortunately, each semester I managed to pay enough to keep going.

When I look back through the years at my successful career as an engineer and business leader, and recall that 18-year-old boy who started his college journey with only a carload of clothes, a mind to use and the will to persevere, it is easy for me to contribute to SIU. Each time I give, I know I am helping the latest generation of students that grace the halls of SIU pursue their dreams and become the bright leaders we need to address the world’s many challenges today and tomorrow. I ask you to consider doing the same.

Fun Fact

When a board member or an outstanding alumnus is featured in this campaign newsletter, we try to share something about the person that others may not know.

“I have always been curious, even at a young age. I remember taking apart my mother’s vacuum cleaner at age 8 and dismantling the dashboard of my dad’s new truck again at age 11. But, my pathway to learning really started at SIU and has continued with me throughout my life. In fact, one of my joys in life is receiving the National Geographic magazine in the mail each month. I sit down and read it cover to cover. It teaches me about culture, the planet and the universe. I can’t imagine a life without learning.”

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