2007 Distinguished achievement award: Jeffrey Curler

// Chemical & Biological Engineering

Tags: alumni, CBE E-Day, Engineers' Day, Jeffrey Curler

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Jeffrey H. Curler
Chairman and CEO
Bemis Company Inc.
BSChe ’73
Neenah, Wisconsin

As a boy, Jeffrey Curler spent Saturdays at his father’s packaging plant in New London, Wisconsin. While his dad, the late Howard Curler (BSChE ’48), worked at developing a new flexible polymer film for cheese packaging, Curler performed what he called “rather crude science experiments” with scraps of plastic and matches. This early fascination with the properties of plastic developed into a passion for chemistry and math, leading Curler on a lifelong pursuit of new materials and techniques for the flexible plastic packaging industry.

Curler graduated from UW-Madison (where he never missed a football game) with a chemical engineering degree in 1973, then joined Bemis Company Inc., which in 1965 had acquired his father’s business, Curwood Company Inc. Curler worked as an engineer in new product development, and his hands-on knowledge of the company plants and labs served him well when he was named CEO of Bemis in 2000.

Thousands of products—from food and consumer goods to manufacturing and medical devices’are sold wrapped in Bemis packaging. Under Curler’s leadership, the company has become the No. 1 maker of flexible packaging material in the Americas, operating 31 manufacturing facilities in 13 states in the United States and 24 foreign plants in nine countries. Bemis employs 16,000 people worldwide and posts annual sales of more than $3.5 billion. The company, among the 10 largest in Wisconsin, employs nearly 3,500 people in the state.

Curler is particularly proud of the Bemis reputation for excellence. In March, the company tied for first place on the Forbes list of the top-10 most trustworthy U.S. companies, and it has been named to the Forbes Platinum 400 List of America’s Best Big Companies every year since the list started nine years ago.

As Bemis nears its 150th anniversary in 2008, and Curwood prepares for its 50th anniversary that same year, Curler remains focused on bringing innovative products to the packaging marketplace.

Curler and his wife of 35 years, Lea, have four daughters. Erin, 31, is an editor in Manhattan. Gina, 28, is expecting Curler’s first grandchild in Colorado. Katie, 25, is a public relations specialist at Bemis. Laura, 22, is a senior at Tulane University in New Orleans.

Two of his daughters (Gina and Katie) received their graduate degrees from UW-Madison, which, says their father, “gave me an excuse to make it to a few more Badger games.”