Emil Brolick ’69, ’72: “Strive for continuous personal and professional improvement.”
Emil Brolick received his B.A. and his M.A., both in Economics, from the University of Detroit. After receiving his Master’s degree, he took a job at Chrysler Corporation. Shortly thereafter, Brolick was selected for the Financial High Potential Program at Chrysler. Says Brolick, “Most of the other people in that program came from the more well-known business schools, such as Harvard and University of Michigan. It allowed me to move through different positions quickly, which is a testament to the preparation I received at the University”. Following Chrysler, Brolick took positions of increasing responsibility with Copeland Corporation and Ponderosa Steakhouse. While at Ponderosa, he was responsible for Corporate Development and Mergers & Acquisitions; he helped acquire the Mexican chain Casa Lupita and was responsible for its startup. In 1988, Brolick went to Wendy’s International, and was responsible for setting the strategic direction of the brand. He was Senior Vice President then and in 2002, he left Wendy’s to become President and Chief Concept Officer at Taco Bell.
What led to you to study at University of
When I first came to the University of Detroit, I wanted to get a law degree—I was impressed with the Law School and its reputation. However, early on I took several Economics courses, and I decided in my first year to set aside law, and concentrate on business and economics. I was fortunate that I found out early that law wasn’t for me, and, therefore, I didn’t waste any time.
What do you remember most about your time
at the University?
I remember feeling very comfortable at the University of Detroit. I liked it because it was smaller to intermediate–size school, and because of that I got to know a lot of people. I spent much time in Commerce & Finance, becoming friends with the professors there. [Commerce & Finance Assistant Dean] Leonard D. Maliet led me to economics. His courses were always interesting. [Economics department chair Desire] Barath was a great guy who had an impressive intellect. I was [CBA Associate Dean] Bruce Brorby’s graduate assistant. I liked his teaching style; he’s a great instructor.
My personal relationships with instructors gave me a love of learning, which has stayed with me. I still read widely and that's a result of the U of D experience.
The University's combination of philosophy and business gave me a logical thought process that serves me very well. College was a great experience for me.
What did you learn at the University that
you still use on daily basis?
The most important things that one should get out of college are the ability to think and the desire to learn. Once you graduate, you realize the world is very dynamic. College gives you the fundamentals of the learning process. It’s your responsibility to keep up after you leave and to keep your perspective current.
Another very important skill a college education provides you is interacting with others and successfully influencing them. Emotional intelligence can be even more important than intellectual intelligence.
What made your University experience unique?
I vividly remember Bobby Kennedy speaking at Calihan Hall [in 1967]—he got a rock star–type of reception. I also remember the great basketball teams of that era, when Spencer Haywood was playing and Dick Vitale was coaching. There was a good mix of students—a combination of “day-hops”—the commuters—and “dormies,” who lived in the residence halls.
What advice would you give today's business students?
Make sure that you’re well prepared for the business environment, because it's very competitive. You’ll need both technical and personal skills. Also, young people can fall into the trap of thinking that it's the organization's responsibility to develop their career—understand that it's your responsibility.
Be on a path of continual personal and professional improvement. Each day, try to be a better person. Keep your personal and professional life separate. Who you are is not your title—someday you won't have a title anymore, and you’ll have to be comfortable with what you’ve accomplished as a person.
One of the advantages of going to the University is that as a Catholic institution, it is highly principled. Those principles aid in asking what's really important in life, and help you to remember not to let greed or ambition interfere with your core values. Financial or material success does not make you happy, relationships do. You realize this more and more as time passes. The really rare individuals realize it early on, and these people project self-confidence and subsequently have more success.