CEO insight

Head of Ashley Furniture, an alumnus, is Cabot speaker Oct. 26

October 23, 2017

A University of Wisconsin-Stout alumnus who heads the world’s largest furniture manufacturer will return to campus for a special program.

Todd Wanek, president and CEO of Ashley Furniture Industries Inc., will present “Leadership and Innovation in Changing Times” from 9:30 to 11:15 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 26, in the ballrooms of the Memorial Student Center.

The presentation will include discussion of Ashley’s growth internationally, how it has kept pace with technology, aspects of leadership and the future of manufacturing, as well as company history. Ashley is based in Arcadia, in west-central Wisconsin.

Todd WanekThe keynote address will be followed by a question-and-answer session. The event is free and open to the public.

Wanek is the featured guest for the annual Cabot Executive in Residence program sponsored by the Provost’s Office. As part of the daylong program, Wanek will meet with students, faculty and staff and tour several campus industry and technology labs. Discussions and presentations at the labs will be coordinated by faculty and administrators, including Chancellor Bob Meyer.

Wanek graduated from UW-Stout in 1988 with a degree in industrial technology; the program has since been renamed engineering technology. He worked for five years in Asia as head of the company’s Taiwan manufacturing and distribution center, developing Ashley’s supply and manufacturing base throughout Asia.

In 1994 Wanek oversaw Ashley’s purchase and expansion of an upholstery facility in Ecru, Miss., that has become the largest in the world, more than 2 million square feet covering 100 acres.

He was named Ashley president and chief operations officer in 1996. He became CEO in 2002.

Wanek is on the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce Board of Directors.

Cabot Executive in Residence program

This is the 33rd year of the Cabot Executive in Residence program, which is named in honor of Arthur R. Cabot, a successful pet products manufacturer. His son, Scott Cabot, earned a bachelor’s degree from UW-Stout in 1978 and a master’s in 1979.

Recent Cabot executives have included Stephen Marcus, chairman of Marcus Corp.; alumna Shelly Ibach, CEO of Select Comfort; alumnus William Hendrickson, CEO of Lineage Logistics; alumna Kelly Matter, president of Resource Inc.; and alumnus Dale Evans, president of EVCO Plastics.

The Cabot Wall of Honor, featuring plaques of previous Cabot presenters, was established in 2014.



Todd Wanek