not a Kellogg graduate, Ellen Gordon shares her philanthropy
and business expertise with the school and Northwestern
University. Photo ©
Will Crockett / www.crocketco.com
to Kellogg and Northwestern, Tootsie Roll president Ellen
Gordon creates value in the classroom and the boardroom
in an engaged member of the Kellogg Dean's Advisory Board and
brings an interesting perspective to each meeting.
She and her husband, Mel, have been loyal supporters
to the Kellogg School and Northwestern University for more than
is sweet for Ellen Gordon, and much of that has to
do with her role as president and chief operating officer
of Tootsie Roll Industries.
in Chicago and with operations in Massachusetts, Tennessee,
Wisconsin, Mexico and Toronto, the 109-year-old business is
one of the country's largest candy companies, producing more
than 60 million Tootsie Rolls and 20 million lollipops daily.
Gordon joined the firm in 1968 as a director and in 1978 was
named president — a move that made her the second woman
to be elected to such a role in a company listed on the New
York Stock Exchange.
says that growing the company is one of her most significant
professional accomplishments. To build profitable sales, she
says, Tootsie Roll Industries uses several brand-centered
strategies. "One is producing a quality product. Our
commitment to quality permeates everything we do," she
says. The chewy candy for which the company is named, for
example, looks and tastes just like it did when the firm was
also believes that investing in the business has contributed
to its success. That includes purchasing state-of-the-art
equipment to keep production automated, which reflects another
strategy at Tootsie Roll. "We are conscious of the fact
that our price points are relatively low and candy is a fairly
dense product — so you have to be very economical,"
she says. "One of our most important philosophies is
that we are very conscious of the company's long-term profitability,
and we try to make sure that what we do won't hurt us in the
long-run but rather strengthen our brands."
Roll Industries is a public company, and Gordon says the business'
operations reflect this, but she maintains that it has the
heart of a private company. Another key strategy is keeping
"good people," what Gordon calls the company's best
asset. Tootsie Roll employs more than 2,000 worldwide, and
by embracing diversity and an open-door policy, she says this
builds a strong rapport with employees. "We encourage
a lot of new ideas, we create teams and we invite challenges,
but we always have to make sure we stay on our overall goals."
addition to teamwork, Gordon says education and civic engagement
are part of her core business values. This is visible at Tootsie
Roll, where the company promotes an educational program to
support employees who desire additional schooling and a matching
gift program for philanthropy. These values extend to Gordon's
personal life as well; she began her undergraduate studies
at Vassar College, then married, and continued studying at
Wellesley College. Gordon left Wellesley while raising her
four children and beginning her role at Tootsie Roll. She
completed her degree at Brandeis University and attended graduate
school at Harvard.
remains very involved in academia, serving on several boards
including Northwestern University Associates and the Kellogg
School Dean's Advisory Board. Gordon, who has been generous
with her philanthropy to Northwestern over the years, says
the work at Kellogg in particular excites her.
is a rewarding experience to see how Kellogg has met the needs
of preparing people and helping them grow for when they enter
our company and others." She admires the school's approach
to team management, which she says Kellogg embraced before
it became popular at other business schools, and its focus
on giving back to the community.
is equally energized about the opportunities that lie ahead
of her, professionally and personally, and she encourages
others to find that same kind of passion by always asking,