President and CEO of Levi Strauss & Co. will receive honorary degree at May 21 ceremony
By Stella Katsipoutis-Varkanis
Chip Bergh ’79, president and chief executive officer of Levi Strauss & Co., will deliver the keynote speech for Lafayette’s 187th Commencement ceremony for the Class of 2022 on May 21. He also will be speaking at the in-person Commencement celebration for the Class of 2020 on May 22.
“We are very excited to welcome Chip home as our Commencement speaker,” says Nicole Farmer Hurd, president of Lafayette College. “He has an inspiring and impactful journey, leading some of the most recognizable and innovative brands in the world. We are so proud to call him family, and we cannot wait to have him return to campus for Commencement to share this important milestone with our graduates and their families.”
After graduating from Lafayette College and serving for four years in the U.S. Army, New York-born Bergh began his career in brand management by taking a position with Procter & Gamble in 1986. During his 28-year career with the company, Bergh served in a number of leadership positions with increasing levels of complexity and scope. His last assignment before joining Levi Strauss & Co. was group president for global male grooming. He was the first P&G employee assigned to the Gillette business following P&G’s $57 billion acquisition of Gillette in 2005. He led the integration and then ran the Gillette Blades & Razors business along with all of P&G’s male grooming brands (Gillette, Old Spice, and The Art of Shaving). Prior to that, Bergh led all of P&G’s business in India, Southeast Asia, and Australia.
Bergh has led many iconic brands during his career, including the creation and launch of the Swiffer (P&G’s most successful new brand in the last three decades), the turnaround and growth of Old Spice, in addition to Gillette, Folgers, and Jif Peanut Butter.
Following his retirement from P&G, in 2011 he took the helm of Levi Strauss & Co., one of the world’s largest brand-name apparel companies and a global leader in jeanswear with more than $5 billion in sales annually and a presence in more than 110 countries. His leadership emphasized sustainability, as well as a greater appeal to the millennial and Gen-Z markets through collaborations with high-fashion brands.
In July 2017, Bergh was named non-executive chairman of the board of HP Inc. (HPQ), the market-leading printing and personal systems company. He has served as lead independent director of the HP board since March 2017 and as a board member since the company’s separation in 2015. Bergh also has previously served on the board of directors for VF Corporation and the Economic Development Board of Singapore.
In April 2019, Bergh was named one of the World’s Greatest Leaders by Fortune Magazine, coming in at No. 16, and has been widely recognized for his position on values-driven leadership.
Bergh earned a B.A. in international affairs at Lafayette, where he studied under Ilan Peleg, Charles A. Dana Professor of Government and Law, and Robert Weiner, Jones Professor of History. He continues to maintain a close connection with his alma mater: In 2017, Bergh returned to the College’s campus to deliver a lecture on leadership. In 2019, he generously provided a gift that helped establish the Bradbury Dyer III ’64 Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s Bergh Startup Accelerator Program at the College, a 10-week program that provides students with the tools and resources they need to develop and launch their startup ventures.
“I can’t wait to get back to Lafayette College,” says Bergh. “It’s the honor of a lifetime to speak at the Class of 2022 and Class of 2020 Commencements. I can trace much of my life and career back to my decision to attend Lafayette, and the experiences I had there. But more importantly, this is such a significant time to be stepping out into the world. There’s so much uncertainty and opportunity in the future. I’m excited and I’m fortunate to spend a few minutes with the next generation of Leopards who will be shaping it.”