Coker College’s 110th commencement took place on May 12, with Sonoco Products Company’s recently appointed President and CEO, Robert C. Tiede, giving the college’s commencement address and receiving an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.
At the 110th commencement, Coker College conferred bachelor’s degrees on 176 graduates. In a separate hooding and commencement ceremony on May 11, Coker College conferred master’s degrees on 14 graduate students.
“Sonoco Products Company and Coker College have a historic connection, a communal connection, and, hopefully, a continuing connection,” said Dr. Robert Wyatt. “We’re honored to have Rob Tiede address the class of 2018, and are grateful for his advice for our graduating seniors.”
“At some point, I believe we will all wrestle with this question, ‘How can we find meaning in our lives?,’” said Tiede. “I would suggest, it’s by adding meaning to the lives of others.”
"My humble advice to you is to first pursue a life of significance, not a life of success. And while not mutually exclusive, they are very different.”
“The choices you make, the words you use, the actions you take, have a ripple effect and will touch the life of someone else, either positively or negatively,” continued Tiede. “The question becomes, how do we live a conscious life, how do we remain conscious of the potential impact our actions have on others and on ourselves?...My humble advice to you is to first pursue a life of significance, not a life of success. And while not mutually exclusive, they are very different.”
“Our culture today does not make people feel good about themselves. We may be teaching the wrong things,” shared Tiede. “And you have to be strong enough to say if this culture does not work for you, do not buy into it. Create your own. So much of what I’m trying to share is connected to how you shape your perspective about life and the events that unfold, and how you choose to react to things that happen to you along the way.”
Tiede concluded his address saying, “As you begin this next exciting chapter in your life, you have a choice as to what kind of life you want to create. I am not here telling you that sculpting a life of significance is easy. I am here to tell you...the journey is well worth the effort...After all, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
"It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
Tiede has had global leadership, sales and operating responsibility for all of Sonoco’s diversified consumer, industrial and protective packaging businesses. Since joining Sonoco in 2004, Tiede has led all of Sonoco’s global consumer-related businesses. Most recently, he served as senior vice president, Global Consumer Packaging and Services, responsible for the Company’s Corporate Customer program as well as its Rigid Plastics, Flexibles and Display and Packaging businesses. During his tenure at Sonoco, the Company’s consumer-related businesses have increased sales by approximately 90 percent and operating profits by 120 percent, as the Company’s consumer growth strategy developed broader global packaging and services capabilities.
Tiede, who graduated from Red River College in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, is a chartered accountant/CPA with the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants for Manitoba and Canada. He joined Sonoco as president of Sonoco CorrFlex with the 2004 acquisition of CorrFlex Graphics’ point-of-purchase merchandising display and supply chain management business. In 2006, Tiede assumed responsibility for Sonoco’s global packaging services business, and in 2007 he was named division vice president and general manager of the Company’s Flexible Packaging division.
Prior to joining Sonoco, Tiede worked in private equity as president of Bostic Packaging/CorrFlex from 2000 to 2004 and president of Sterling International from 1998 to 2000. He also served as executive vice president of operations for Graphic Packaging International, Inc.’s flexible packaging division from 1994 to 1998.
Tiede is active in industry and community organizations and is the incoming chairman of the Flexible Packaging Association and the chairman of the Hartsville United Way. A native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, Tiede became a U.S. citizen in 2013. He and his wife, Val, reside in Hartsville and have three grown children.
Sonoco is a $5 billion global provider of consumer packaging, industrial products and packaging supply chain services, producing packaging for many of the world’s most recognized brands, in markets such as appliances and electronics, automotive, beverages, confection, construction, converted paperboard, fresh and natural food, frozen and refrigerated food, shaving, home, lawn and garden, medical/pharmaceutical, pet care, powdered beverages, recycling and snacks. Headquartered in Hartsville, S.C., Sonoco has more than 300 operations in 33 countries, and serves customers in 85 nations.