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Cleary was the right fit at the right time for Chem-Trend CEO

John Lundin travels the world to aid in the advancement of Chem-Trend, a globally known leader and provider of chemical specialties and additives. Lundin joined the Howell-based and rooted organization (a brand of Freudenberg) more than 20 years ago and recently took the reins as President and CEO. Fortunately, when he decided to complete his bachelor’s degree to further his career, Lundin found exactly what he needed in the community where he lived and worked.  

Born and raised in Chicago, he considers himself a Michigander because this is where he has lived most of his adult life and where he met his wife, who he describes as “pure Michigan.”

Growing up, he dreamed of a career in music, but soon realized this might not be the best direction for him professionally. Through high school and college, Lundin worked at a living facility for the developmentally disabled. “I loved the work,” but the opportunities were limiting, he found. Around this time, he met an adhesive company salesman who was leaving his position. Lundin aggressively pursued replacing him and landed the position.

It didn’t take him long to realize he had a knack and passion for sales, especially chemical specialties. Soon, Lundin was recruited by a Detroit company that transferred him to Michigan shortly before his 23rd birthday.

As the years advanced, so did Lundin’s career. He was promoted to a management position at a Fortune 500 company, still without a college degree. He knew the clock was ticking on job opportunities.

“My background on paper wouldn’t stand a chance against others competing for the same corporate-level jobs,” he acknowledges. By this time, Lundin had a wife, two small children and a home, he was traveling domestically “more days than not,” and money and time were tight, he points out. “How could I add school to this equation?” He was skeptical but knew he needed this “upgrade” on his resume.

Living in Hartland, he had heard about Cleary through word-of-mouth, and when he investigated the school, he learned many students were in a similar position; they were in their mid-30s and hoping to complete a degree they had started years earlier. “I had earned credits from three universities over the course of a decade, and was relieved to hear that Cleary would honor my credits. I had a shot at getting my degree in less than two years!”

Lundin took all of his classes in person and on campus. At that time, he describes Cleary as “one long building (now the Chrysler Building). Cleary Commons, residence halls and the rest of the campus were non-existent.

In the late 90s, online learning was in its infancy. Cleary was offering some online classes, but “I found face-to-face classroom learning worked best for me,” he says. “For me, the cohort concept Cleary incorporates was invaluable. It led to a greater sense of connection with my instructors as well as my classmates,” he adds. “I developed good relationships with students in a similar place as me, and we helped each other.

“It was challenging to balance it all, but I had to protect my future and take control of my career path,” Lundin notes. “My kids saw me studying late at night and on the weekends; they observed firsthand that it was a struggle, but I like to believe it has made a positive impact on their lives,” he says, adding, “they watched me cross the stage and receive my degree in less than two years, as Cleary advisers predicted. This was a huge moment of pride for me.”

Lundin earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Cleary in 2001 and went on to complete a master of science degree in administration – leadership from Central Michigan University. Through Freudenberg, he also obtained two certificates in leadership development from INSEAD University in Fontainebleau, France.

“I always will be grateful for Cleary University,” he reflects. “The school was the right fit at the right time and in the right place. The professors and instructors were working in the fields they were teaching, and they presented case studies that were real and relatable to me and my work. I had a finance instructor who ran a finance department for General Motors; it was a great learning opportunity to hear his real-world experiences,” Lundin points out. “I was not able to gain this type of knowledge through my other college studies,” he admits.

“Cleary is a great option for students to learn and grow in a small university setting and receive real-world experiences from industry experts.”

Two years after graduation from Cleary, Lundin joined Chem-Trend as a sales manager, and over the past 20 years, he has accepted increasingly challenging roles that have taken him across the world. For four years, he worked in Shanghai, China as Vice President and General Manager of the Asia Pacific region where he oversaw operations in China, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand and Australia. He returned to Chem-Trend’s Howell headquarters in 2023 to begin the transition to President and CEO.

When he reflects over his career, he remembers his father’s words when Lundin was 18, naïve, and uncertain of his future. “Go to a business school,” he told his son. “Dad was right. Years later, I finally got that business degree.”

Lundin also recalls very vividly the day he graduated from Cleary. “I am sitting there, waiting for my name to be called, thinking back on the past two years of struggles to earn my degree, when a single mom walked across the stage to accept her degree. ‘How did she do it?’ That thought still crosses my mind 20 years later. Cleary makes it possible for everyone to achieve their dreams.

“Why travel 50 or more miles when you have a great business school right in your neighborhood?”