Moritz College of Law The Ohio State University
This Month @ Moritz

For Steve Jemison '75, Working Around the World Has Made Life Richer

Jim and Kathy Swanson, Steve and Phyllis McCallum in France
Jim and Kathy Swanson, former neighbors in Cincinnati, pose with Steve and his wife Phyllis McCallum in France

"It's taken a bit of adjustment to be back home," Steve says. After supervising legal affairs operations for Procter & Gamble in over 100 countries, stretching from Poland to Uzbekistan to South Africa, Steve Jemison is used to covering a lot of ground.

It didn't start out that way. After graduating from OSU in 1975, Steve worked for the National Labor Relations Board in San Francisco. He came to Procter & Gamble in 1981, and has been there ever since. For most of his career, Steve's primary responsibility was to make sure that P&G complied with employment laws – a position that provided a lot of variety. Steve provided advice to P&G senior staff and training to management to ensure compliance. He also handled charges filed against the company, managed lawsuits and investigations, and handled labor arbitrations.

In February of 2003, he was promoted to general counsel of "CEEMEA," which stands for "Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa" and constituted Steve's new territory.

In managing the activities of the legal staff, Steve had the best of both worlds. He was able to take advantage of working and sightseeing in the most exotic of locales, but faced no language barriers, as the local P&G attorneys and employees are fluent in English.

Phyllis and Steve in Prague
Phyllis and Steve in Prague

Calling Switzerland home during this time was idyllic. "It's just like a beautiful postcard," he remembers. His home was just a short walk from the shores of Lake Geneva, where he could sit in an open-air café in a t-shirt, while viewing the spectacular snow-capped Alps all around and sailboats on the lake. Because of Geneva's convenient location, Steve was able to take weekend trips to places like Paris – where he attended the French Open.

When asked to describe the most memorable times he has had in working such a vast territory, Steve has a tough time singling out just a few events. "I have been to fantastic ski resorts in Lebanon, bazaars in Egypt, and dined under the moon in the desert near Dubai," he recounts. His territory spanned the former Soviet bloc countries of Eastern Europe, Russia, the Middle East, former Soviet republics such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, as well as the whole of Africa.

He was in the Ukraine just a few days after the Orange Revolution. The feeling of excitement was palpable. "They had just taken control of their destiny, of their own lives," Steve recalls. "Now, they are struggling with the reality of that decision. There is an urgency; they want to achieve it all at once, but are coming to grips with the fact that that cannot happen right away."

In Spain on the Costa del Sol
In Spain on the Costa del Sol

If pressed to pick a favorite place, Steve chooses South Africa. "Twelve or thirteen years ago, blacks were essentially slaves under apartheid. When it ended, instead of retaliating, they chose to reconcile," Steve marvels. "It was Nelson Mandela's leadership that truly saved the country from ruin. Leaders really make the difference. Yes, the countryside is very beautiful, but thinking of the peaceful transformation the country has undergone – it's mindboggling!"

In every place Steve visited, he found he liked the people he met, and discovered that people everywhere truly enjoyed meeting Americans. "They were very kind to me," he says.

Now back in the States, Steve continues the many friendships he made along the way. He will definitely visit many of them again, but for now is busy getting acclimated to his new position: that of Corporate Secretary for P&G.

As Corporate Secretary, his new area is governance: supporting the activities of the Board of Directors, SEC and securities compliance, and supervising recordkeeping as it relates to P&G's activities worldwide. "It's a great – but intimidating – opportunity for me," Steve says. "The risk seems greater than I have handled in previous positions, but the reward in getting the job done well will be equally greater. I'm thrilled to have terrific, talented people working with me as I handle the new learning curve."

With Kathy Swanson in Annecy, France
With Kathy Swanson in Annecy, France

An exceedingly modest man, Steve is apt to give most of the credit to others for his personal success, not least of all to the Moritz College of Law. "I simply wouldn't be where I am today without OSU, and the financial support that they offered to me," he says. "I came from a pretty poor background in Chicago, and now my name is on every certificate sold for P&G stock!"

He remains grateful to his alma mater to this day, and is always willing to give back to the College, however he can. Just one example of his dedication is his encouraging P&G colleagues to fund the Robert J. Watkins/Procter & Gamble Designated Professorship, held by Allan Samansky and named for co-worker and friend Bob Watkins '53.

"I get very emotional about it," he says of his experience at OSU, "thinking about what is possible when an organization believes in you and nurtures your potential." He doesn't forget "for even one day" about what he has received, and works to give back. "I hope other people will do the same," he asserts.

The common thread that ties together Steve's great variety of experiences working for Procter & Gamble is this: that wherever you go, people are very much the same. "They all have the same needs: to nurture and protect their families, to be as successful as they can, and of course to be happy," Steve proclaims. Without a doubt, Steve excels in each of these categories.