As president of global company, SIU graduate Dan Korte has traveled to Saudi Arabia, Korea, Russia, London and India within the last six weeks.
However, Korte, president of Rolls-Royce Defense, a $4 billion company, since 2009, said he looks forward to coming back to Carbondale the most.
Korte, 52, graduated with an electrical engineering degree from the university in 1985. This weekend, he is one of three graduates to be honored by the SIU Alumni Association as a Distinguished Alumnus.
“I’m quite honored to come back,” he said. “Coming back and being able to help students who are just starting out is very valuable to me.”
Korte, who was also awarded the SIU College of Engineering Alumni Achievement Award in 2007, said he was excited to come to Carbondale early to speak with engineering students on campus. He said he planned to tell students that teamwork, never-ending learning and staying humble are the keys to success.
“My degree from SIU not only taught me the principles of engineering and taught me how to work in a team environment,” he said. “I learned the importance of business and finance when trying to resolve technical issues. I think all of those things have led to my success.”
After he grew up in a small farm community in southern Illinois, Korte enrolled at SIU to get a computer-related degree but switched to the College of Engineering.
After he graduated, Korte spent about five years in the semi-conductor industry and has since worked in design engineering, electrical engineering, system engineering, supply chain management and as a program manager.
Before he became the head of Rolls-Royce Defense, Korte was the vice president and general manager for Global Strike Systems, which is a division of the Boeing military aircraft business. He has held various senior-level positions, including V-22 program manager and vice president of supplier management and procurement.
Today, Korte oversees Rolls-Royce’s global defense aerospace business, encompassing 5,500 employees in 17 countries across the world. Altogether, Korte — an expert in design and systems engineering — has influenced the aerospace industry for more than 25 years.
Korte said he worked at the Student Center during his time at the university so he could pay for his books and tuition and live off of 20-cent boxes of macaroni and cheese. Now, he’s the head of a $4 billion company.
“I never thought I would be in the position that I am in today back then when I was struggling to get to the next exam,” he said.
Korte met his wife of 25 years, Laurie Landgraf, in the Engineering Building while the two were students at SIU. They now live in St. Louis with their 13-year-old daughter.
The Alumni Association honored Korte and the two other alumni Friday at a public reception and plaque unveiling in the Student Recreation Center’s Alumni Lounge. The honorees’ framed photos will join the other distinguished alumni on the university’s Distinguished Alumni Wall.