It was a civil engineering degree that Peter Kratz had in hand when he left Rose-Hulman in 1976. However, the most important skills he picked up went beyond engineering: "Rose Hulman teaches about how to solve problems and think logically, and I have used that my whole career-trying to understand processes and make them better."
   Kratz put that learning to use in management roles from the start, overseeing processes and people in Procter & Gamble's paper making operations. He also took on large projects for Pepperidge Farm, including a technology makeover at an apple juice facility. "They asked me to stay and manage the facility, so I made the final transformation from project engineering to management," he says.
   "I went to bigger and bigger plant management jobs from there," Kratz continues. At Sara Lee, he helped
turn around a startup facility that was struggling out of the gate. His last 13 years have been with Harry & David, an Oregon-based company known for its gifts and treats, particularly delicious pears. Kratz is executive vice president for operations in a company known for an unusual way of operating.
   "It's a very unique company, vertically integrated," he says. Harry & David grows its own pears, handles its own baking and candy making, assembles its own product collections, conducts its own direct marketing, and operates its own stores.
   Under Kratz, Harry & David has made significant improvements to a wide range of processes. It has adopted new technology that automatically sorts the fruit by quality and environmentally friendly practices that have earned multiple sustainability awards. "We update our strategic plan each year," he
says, "deciding what size we want to be, what products we want to offer, and how we are going to sell those products."
   His knack for strategy also helped the company through a managed Chapter 11 bankruptcy without interrupting service or disrupting relations with vendors. "That's where I really used all of the skills I had gotten at Rose-Hulman and through the years," he says. Not surprisingly, Kratz sees that kind of problem-solving, logic-focused teaching as an important asset to retain and build upon as the institute plans for the future. "I've been blessed that Rose Hulman really wants to teach people to think and solve problems. And, it has done a great job of sticking with its undergraduate program and being No. 1 in that area. Rose-Hulman has to keep thinking about what its brand is."