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Busi­nessman Kirk Cordill ‘92 spoke at a Food-for-Thought event on campus. Nanette Hoberg | Courtesy

Kirk Cordill ’92 stood in front of a classroom packed with stu­dents and pro­fessors of eco­nomics, all waiting to hear from the youngest BMW CEO to date. People filed in even after the speech started, leaning against the back wall and lining the sides of the classroom. Cordill pen­sively looked out at the crowd sitting where, 25 years ago, he sat as a student. This year, he returned with an MBA from the Uni­versity of Notre Dame, five lan­guages under his belt, and 10 years of inter­na­tional business expe­rience.

Cordill said he came to give back to Hillsdale, and to give stu­dents a snapshot of a potential business career.

“I was given no road map, no instruc­tions, or prep courses; just a one-way ticket to Beijing, which proved to be a once-in-a-lifetime oppor­tunity,” Cordill said in his speech Tuesday. “I learned from it that any­thing is pos­sible, but nothing is easy.”

Black­stock taught Cordill business law in the early 90s, and stayed in touch ever since. Black­stock said he has brought Cordill to speak to his classes the past couple years so they can hear his methods of cre­ativity and thinking-outside-the-box to solve problems.

“I’ve been after him all along, but he was working in China. With his remarkable career and achieve­ments, he is perfect to speak for my classes,” Black­stock said. “Every­thing this guy touches accel­erates.”

Black­stock said he believed campus would benefit hearing about Cordill, espe­cially regarding his China expe­rience. Black­stock reached out to Nanette Hoberg, manager of alumni events and records, and senior Vic­toria Tran, pres­ident of Enactus, to col­lab­orate a Food-for-Thought lun­cheon while Cordill was on campus.

Hoberg took over the Food-for-Thought program two years ago.  She works with Hillsdale faculty to bring as many speakers with as many career paths to campus as pos­sible.

“Alumni talks res­onate with stu­dents because you can track their steps to success, from major to goals in life, so stu­dents can learn about dif­ferent career paths,” Hoberg said.

Food For Thought, for­merly know as exec­utive-speaker lun­cheons, started in the 1980s “to help stu­dents with obser­va­tions and advice about their futures that they often do not get from lec­tures and text­books,” Grigor Hasted, director of alumni and cor­porate advancement, said in an email.

Cordill moved to Germany not knowing the lan­guage. He started his pre-workday studying German grammar and vocab­ulary, learning 30 – 60 words a week. Cordill said he had to learn around 600 words to have basic con­ver­sa­tions, and even more to meet BMW’s stan­dards.

“Cordill was always taking risks, accepting chal­lenges, sticking his neck out, and working hard,” Black­stock said. “BMW was trying to enter the Chinese market, and had already failed twice, so they sent him. He had become the go-to guy for bad sit­u­a­tions.”

Cordill took over BMW’s cer­tified pre-owned program so that their leased cars would not choke out their new car market.

“He thought, ‘Wouldn’t you rather be driving a three-year old BMW than a Honda?’ And he gave BMW two record years,” Black­stock said.

Cordill retired from being pres­ident of BMW financial ser­vices in Wood­cliff Lake, New Jersey, to become the dealer prin­cipal of BMW of Scher­erville in Chicago, known for their “drive it like you stole it” bill­boards across Chicago, Illinois.

The next Food for Thought speaker will speak April 6.

“You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, but you have to be able to get along and with other people, and respect­fully debate other points of view,” Cordill said. “Hillsdale’s logic and rhetoric courses help with that.”