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Apr 13, 2021 Accountancy Alumni

Elsesser, McMillan honored with 2021 Gies alumni awards

Two Gies College of Business alumni have been honored by the Gies Business Alumni Association for their contributions to business and to the College. James R. Elsesser '66, '67, was chosen for the Distinguished Alumnus Award, and Cary D. McMillan '80, is this year's recipient of the Alumni Appreciation Award.

Distinguished Alumnus Award
James R. Elsesser, '66, '67

James Elsesser

James Elsesser served as CEO of Interstate Bakeries and CFO of Ralston Purina. From 2002- 2004 at Interstate Bakeries, he led a company of 35,000 employees. He worked to restructure the company and reduce expenses in a company that had been facing declining sales and high fixed costs.

Prior to joining Interstate Bakeries, he was at Ralston Purina from 1985-2002, where he served as the chief financial officer. There he assisted the CEO in the restructuring of the company via three spin-offs and numerous sales of all operating units other than pet food. His work was recognized by him being named as one of America’s Top Ten CFO’s by Institutional Investor. Prior to Purina he served as vice president of finance at Carlson Companies for a year. And before Carlson Companies, he began his business career with General Mills, where he served in the Treasury department from 1971-1984 and was recognized as one of Corporate America’s 50 Rising Stars by Industry Week.

Prior to his business career, he served as a junior officer in the United States Navy. He received a Bronze Star for valor in Vietnam and was selected as the Aide and Flag Lieutenant to the Commander of Naval Forces in Vietnam.

He has been an active participant in Gies College of Business, serving as guest lecturer, an executive in residence, and past chair of the David Kinley Society. He was a member of the Dean’s Business Council for over 20 years. He has demonstrated generous support of Gies Business, through his support of Business Loyalty Scholarships and the construction of the Business Instructional Facility in the naming of a classroom.

Elsesser received his bachelor’s degree in industrial administration in 1966 and his master’s degree in management in 1967, both from Gies College of Business.

Alumni Appreciation Award
Cary D. McMillan, '80

Cary McMillanCary D. McMillan is chairman emeritus of True Partners Consulting LLC and one of its founders. From 2005-2020 he was CEO of True Partners Consulting LLC, a nationwide tax consulting firm. Before True Partners, he was CEO of Sara Lee Branded Apparel and executive vice president of Sara Lee Corporation. He joined Sara Lee in 1999 as executive vice president and chief financial officer. Prior to Sara Lee, Mr. McMillan held a number of positions at Arthur Andersen, including managing partner of its largest office in Chicago.

He currently sits on the board of directors for American Eagle Outfitters as the chair of the compensation committee. He is a member of the board of directors for Hyatt Hotels as the chair of the audit committee. He previously served on the board of directors for McDonald’s, Hewitt Associates, and Sara Lee. He is also a board member of several nonprofit organizations in the Chicago area, including the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Art Institute of Chicago, WTTW, and Millennium Park.

He has been an active contributor to Gies College of Business and the University of Illinois for many years, participating as a guest lecturer in the classroom, a member of the Dean’s Business Council, and a member of the David Kinley Society. He has demonstrated a generous support of Gies Business faculty and students as well as the College and events, including sponsorship of the Gies Homecoming Business Bash for several years.

McMillan received his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Gies College of Business in 1980.