2006 Distinguished achievement award: Gary Pruessing

// Chemical & Biological Engineering

Tags: alumni, CBE E-Day, Engineers' Day, Gary Pruessing

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Gary W. Pruessing 
President and Chairman
TonenGeneral Sekiyu Kabushki Kaisha
Japan Chairman, ExxonMobil Group in Japan
BSChe ’75
Asia Pacific Refining Director

Gary W. Pruessing was a rarity in Japan. As president and chairman of TonenGeneral Sekiyu Kabushki Kaisha, he was one of the few Westerners to hold such a high-ranking position in a Japanese company.

In 2001, Pruessing’s longtime employer, ExxonMobil, asked him to move to Japan and run TonenGeneral Sekiyu Kabushki Kaisha. Formed as the result of a merger, the new company includes four Japanese refineries, an integrated chemical company, and retail marketing.

Under his leadership, the company, which is majority-owned by ExxonMobil, improved safety practices and enhanced earthquake resistance at its refineries. It implemented a number of consolidations and restructuring activities, including a company-wide integrated computer system. On the marketing side, it took steps to increase customer service and convenience by introducing self-service stations at a pace ahead of competitors.

Pruessing says that bridging the cultural gap between the West and Japan through his work was both rewarding and challenging. In 2003, he became the regional director for all ExxonMobil Asia Pacific refineries, including those in Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand. As of September 2006, he became president of ExxonMobil Pipeline Co. in Houston.

Though it has been more than 30 years since Pruessing earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering (1975) from UW-Madison, Pruessing still finds joy in solving technical problems in the oil refining business. Prior to his post in Japan, he worked for ExxonMobil in a variety of positions, including managing refineries in Benicia, California, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In Baton Rouge, he was active in a range of civic activities, including the local YMCA and the United Way boards of directors. He regards such activities as a natural extension of his work and views corporate citizenship as an important responsibility in addition to providing products in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.

Pruessing remembers his days on campus fondly — not only the education he received, which included many long hours and late nights, but also student life, which included enjoying the Memorial Union terrace, the Arboretum, and hikes along Lake Mendota. An avid Badger football fan, Pruessing now “watches” the Internet to keep up with the Badgers and other Wisconsin sports teams.

He and his wife of 22 years, Lisa, have two teenage children: Scott is a sophomore at Tufts University, while Rachel is a senior in high school in McLean, Virginia. Pruessing enjoys reading, hiking, sports and woodworking.