Alumni Spotlight: Jeff Hembrock, '83

Sunday, March 16, 2014 6:55:00 PM

Hembrock’s time with Miller spans decades, miles

Less than a year after renewing his passport, Jeff Hembrock, ’83, needed to add more pages last fall.


As the vice president of International for SAB Miller, Hembrock travels worldwide from his Milwaukee home approximately three out of every four weeks. While he admits the schedule can be tiring, he enjoys traveling while representing a company that recruited him right out of college more than 35 years ago.

“Some mornings you wake up and you just have no idea where you are,” Hembrock said. “A couple of weeks ago, I flew to Brazil for a meeting and was there for less than 24 hours before returning home.”

Immediately following graduation from Penn State in 1978 where he majored in operations management, Hembrock headed for his first Miller job at a brewery in Texas, working in production. With the product in high demand at the time, he remembers working for weeks without a break to keep up with orders.

Willing to move and advance in different roles as Miller needed, Hembrock lived in numerous U.S. cities as he worked in a variety of capacities, including production scheduling and planning, automating and computerizing systems, and account management.

In the early 1980s, Hembrock enrolled in Stritch’s brand-new M.B.A. program for working adults. He initially heard about the program from an unlikely source: the director of admissions from another university.

“I graduated in December of 1983, and a couple of weeks later I was packed and moved,” said Hembrock, who wrote his thesis on his innovative efforts to automate Miller’s order processing system. “If I had stuck with my first M.B.A. program at the other university, I never would have graduated, because I wasn’t living in any single place long enough to go through a more traditional program. The program fit my lifestyle at the time. No one else offered that.”

Several years and several moves later, Hembrock left Miller to run a Miller distributor in Hawaii.

“At one point, I had gone through eight moves in 11 years and I wanted to establish some roots,” Hembrock said. “I told Miller I was looking to buy a distributor.”

The Hawaii operation, which served as the 13th largest distributor in the U.S, needed a president. Hembrock took on the position and, later, attempted to purchase the operation, but the two parties never agreed on a final sale price and he left the company.

Miller welcomed him back, first working with national accounts, then in business and sales development roles before naming him vice president of trade marketing. In 2002, South African Breweries bought Miller, eliminating jobs, including Hembrock’s. That led to his appointment as director of corporate strategy and his work on the integration of Miller into SAB. He then moved to head Strategy for International and began work with South Korea, Mexico, Uruguay and Canada, which made him a natural fit when the company needed a new vice president of International in 2009.

Today, Hembrock supervises 160 people in locations such as Toronto, Puerto Rico, Mexico City, and Chile. Among his team’s primary responsibilities are breaking into new worldwide markets, managing relationships with international partners, and building healthy brands through research, marketing, and programming.

Hembrock attributes his success, in part, to his commitment to high principles in every decision he makes.

“You will never regret a decision that’s based on principle and made with integrity,” said Hembrock, whose Catholic upbringing aligns well with Stritch’s Franciscan values.

He also believes varied life experiences lead people to discover their passion in life.

“I think a key part of knowing what it is you want to do, is knowing what it is you don’t want to do. And you don’t understand that unless you get out and experience life.”

When not working, Hembrock enjoys restoring his historic home, attending theater performances, spending time at his second home in St. John, and leisure travel with his wife, whom he met – not surprisingly – on an airplane.