Business Alumnus Returns to ESU to Present Hayes Lecture

October 3, 2016

An Emporia native returns to his alma mater to deliver the sixth-annual Sam E. and Jeannene Hayes Lecture to kick off 2016 Homecoming activities.

John Stibal, regional vice president of sales and client management northeast region for Unum, will speak on “Keep Rising to the Next Level” at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13, in the Memorial Union’s Webb Hall. His talk is free and open to the public.

Dr. Sam Hayes (BS 1962) of Mission Hills, Kansas, and his wife, Jeannene, established the lecture series as a way to engage Emporia State’s alumni in highlighting their successes. Individuals whose leadership qualities, skills and accomplishments have led to distinction are featured in each annual lecture, which is organized by students in the Blue Key Honor Society at ESU.

Emporia State students attending the lecture are eligible to participate in an essay competition based on key leadership principles presented by Stibal in his lecture. A team of Blue Key students and professionals will review essay submissions, and winners will receive one of five Doug and Nan Smith scholarships valued at $1,000 each. The inaugural Hayes Lecture speaker, Doug Smith and his wife, Nan, of Leawood, Kansas, provided funds to create the scholarships. 

To be eligible for a scholarship, students must attend the lecture and complete a scholarship application, which includes a series of essay questions. The deadline for the submissions is 11:59 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14.

In his Hayes Lecture, Stibal will talk about his experience at ESU and how that helped him prepare for the working world. He also will use his career path to share information with students and others that he wished he’d had when he entered the business world. Also an alumnus of Blue Key Honor Society, Stibal will include leadership lessons from watching leaders in his company and others during his career.

Stibal, the eighth of nine children of the late Dr. Willard and Laura Stibal, grew up in Emporia while his father was on faculty at Emporia State. He graduated from Emporia State in 1982 with a bachelor of science degree in business and a double major in business administration and marketing. Then it was time to find a job.

“I was a kid from a small town in Kansas who was a business major but didn’t really know what it was,” Stibal recalled recently.

A classmate who’d graduated the year before worked for Union Mutual, an insurance company in Kansas City, and told Stibal he should apply for a new sales position at the company.

“It was a throw-in interview,” Stibal said. “I was already in Kansas City for other interviews and I decided I should swing by. By the time I walked out of there, I knew that’s where I wanted to work.”

Union Mutual hired Stibal, and he’s worked ever since for the company, which went public in 1986 and changed its name to Unum. Different positions at higher levels with the company eventually moved him to Chicago, where he remains based today overseeing all sales and client management for offices in the northeast United States — covering Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Today, many new graduates and others in business are advised to find a career coach or a mentor. Stibal’s career ascension happened without either of those and he’s hoping his experiences will help today’s students.

“I can’t believe how naïve I was,” Stibal said, looking back on his career in college and thoughts about a future career. “The crowd at the Hayes Lecture will be way more savvy.

“But I think they’ll identify with where I was when I was in school.”




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