A mound of paperwork, screens of e-mail, a full voice mailbox
and a calendar of back-to-back meetings send distress signals
to most, but for Laurie Tucker, it brings a challenge, blessing
and start of a new day.
of M alumna Laurie Tucker (BBA '78, MBA '83) has climbed
the corporate ladder at FedEx to become a driving force
behind the world's leader in overnight package delivery.
"Going to The University of Memphis gave me the abilities
to organize and be prepared," Tucker says, "but
what I remember more is the challenge of constantly striving
to exceed some expectation. I think that contributed greatly
to what I do now."
Tucker (BBA '78, MBA '83), the senior vice president for
global product marketing at FedEx Corporate Services, graduated
from what was then Memphis State University at 21 with an
accounting degree. Having worked through college, she landed
a job as an accountant immediately after graduation. But a
month later, her career took an unexpected turn.
"One of my buddies had gone to this new, upstart company
by the airport," she says. "People had started talking
about it and all of its orange and purple airplanes. One day
my friend called and said she had an interview for me in two
hours. I changed clothes, whipped over there, interviewed
and was offered a job on the spot."
the Corporate Ladder
Stunned, Tucker accepted the position of associate financial
analyst at then Federal Express Corporation. After settling
in, she opted to go back to the University and earn an MBA
in finance. She took classes at night while working full time.
Then at 26, she was promoted to manager over pricing.
It was there that Tucker says her career really took off.
"That was my first real exposure to the customer,"
she says. "I was working on the company's external side,
which is really the lifeblood of the company."
In 1989, Tucker was named managing director of customer automation.
This time, she was responsible for the company's new Power
Ship Program that placed PCs on its customers' shipping docks
to speed up package preparation. The program flourished and
accelerated Tucker into the slot of vice president of customer
automation and invoicing.
In this position, Tucker and her team launched FedEx.com.
"A lot of Web sites were out there in 1994," Tucker
says, "but they didn't actually do anything. We put our
tracking on the Internet, and suddenly everybody wanted it."
Shortly thereafter, Tucker became senior vice president of
logistics, electronic commerce and catalog. When the division
changed its name to global product marketing in 2000, Tucker
remained at its helm.
Today Tucker's team of more than 400 include members of platform
shipping, e-commerce marketing, supply chain marketing, FedEx.com
and transportation technology. In addition to product development
for all FedEx businesses, her team is responsible for the
new company project, Insight.
"It's really break-through in our industry," Tucker
says of the software enabling FedEx customers to track incoming
as well as outgoing shipments. "This allows companies
to do more proactive scheduling of their manufacturers.
"I think the biggest blessing of my career is that I've
always worked on cutting edge things. I've been at FedEx for
almost 23 years, and it has always been exciting."
Still Tucker attributes much of her success to her experiences
at The U of M.
"I was so sheltered," says Tucker, who has lived
in Memphis all her life. "The University of Memphis opened
my eyes to the world."
Tucker says it's important for young people to use education
as a springboard. Through her own educational experiences
at The U of M, she says her view of the world broadened and
her business, cultural and intellectual perspectives were
Giving back to her alma mater, Tucker serves on U of M's
Board of Visitors and is a member of the Fogelman College
of Business and Economics Advisory and Alumni Association
Working with Dr. John J. Pepin (BBA '62, MBA '64), dean of
business and economics, has been rewarding for Tucker. As
his former pupil, she understands the plight of the college's
students but also brings a fresh perspective from the ever-changing
Tucker, right, and University President Shirley C. Raines
share a moment at the groundbreaking ceremonies of the
FedEx Emerging Technology Complex last May.
"Laurie has been a tremendous asset to the college,
helping us meet challenges and creating new opportunities,"
says Pepin, "but I expected nothing less. I saw her as
an aspiring marketing administrator. She had all the signs,
and today she is a senior vice president at one of the world's
Tucker's current University project is the FedEx Emerging
Technology Complex. She says the facility that broke ground
in May will offer state-of-the-art technology curriculum.
With the complex's completion projected for 2003, Tucker is
already preparing for the opportunities it will bring to the
Memphis information technology market, University and city
as a whole.
"My vision is that we will be able to create a much
stronger base of support from business and community alumni
to make The U of M a stellar University," she says. "You
can't have a great city if you don't have a great university."
Tucker plans to do this by rallying support. "One thing
I have learned through my involvement on the Board of Visitors
is how public institutions of higher education are really
funded," she says. "I understand now that state
funding is a percentage, and that percentage continues to
"We are not going to suddenly be blessed with an endowment
from the state, so we have to understand and communicate to
alumni and the community at large that it's going to be through
fund raising, donations and corporate commitment that we'll
achieve our goals."
Trying to achieve a balance between her corporate and personal
life can be challenging, hectic and unstable at times for
Tucker, but she and her family have adjusted.
"In our family we don't talk about what things we can
acquire or what status symbol life can bring," she says.
"It's not about that at all. It's really about how God
can use us."
Tucker says making their faith top priority brings the family
calm during stressful times. The decision to keep one parent
home with the kids, she adds, has also proved to be a blessing.
After Tucker's son was born in 1993, her husband John of
13 years decided to become a stay-at-home dad.
"When Will was born, I was in sales," he says.
"It occurred to me that Laurie's job had more momentum
to it than mine, so I decided the best way for me to be a
team player was to support her in her career and take care
of the kids, which is a great job and privilege."
John, a graduate of Rhodes College, says he and the couple's
son, now 7, and daughter Katy, 10, have adjusted well to the
reversed roles. "Maybe I don't have the highest level
of ability to take care of kids, but I more than make up for
it on desire. I love the kids," he says. "The years
I've spent staying home with them while Laurie's career has
been on a huge upswing, are years I wouldn't trade for anything."
Whether it's straightening a welcome mat in the entrance
of her building, swapping heart-warming stories with a guard
or pitching new ideas to FedEx chair, president and CEO Frederick
W. Smith, Tucker keeps things in perspective.
"She's naturally down-to-earth," John says. "Sometimes,
when people get to a certain level in the business world,
they try and isolate themselves or make other people feel
isolated. Laurie absolutely does the opposite. People are
comfortable with her because she's just so connected."
The whole family enjoys Tucker's career and her daily challenges
almost as much as she does. "It's a lot of fun having
a wife so driven and motivated," John says. "She
expects a great deal of herself and of her family members.
She sets her goals and expectations high."
This year alone Tucker has been chosen as a recipient of
The U of M Distinguished Alumni Award and was named Outstanding
Alumna of the Fogelman College of Business and Economics.
But she takes it all in stride and is thankful for whatever
role she is filling each moment.
"We're a very blessed family," she says. "I
just don't know how to phrase it any other way than we are