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NC State Alumni Association Honors Global Supply Chain Exec Ken Torok

Kenneth Torok, Poole College alumnus and NC State Alumni Association 2017 Evening of Stars honoree.
Kenneth Torok, Poole College alumnus and NC State Alumni Association 2017 Evening of Stars honoree.

Kenneth A. Torok, a global supply chain management executive (retired) and alumnus (’75) of the NC State Poole College of Management, was among those honored at the NC State Alumni Association’s annual Evening of Stars gala celebration held November 2, 2017, at the NC State University Talley Student Union.

Photo of Ken Torok, center, with Poole College Dean Annette L. Ranft, right, and Paige Allen Harris, president, NC State Alumni Association, left.
NC State Alumni Association president Paige Allen Harris, Ken Torok and Poole College Dean Annette L. Ranft.

“Poole College is honored to celebrate Ken and his illustrious career and accomplishments in global supply chain, a core strength of the college,” said Annette L. Ranft, Stephen P. Zelnak chair and dean of the college.

“Ken is dedicated to the success of our students and the future of the college, and we are thankful for the numerous ways he continues to give back – through his philanthropy and also by sharing his time and expertise with our students and faculty,” she said.

Connection: The Classroom and the Real World

Torok is Poole College’s 23rd alumnus to be recognized by the Alumni Association for professional success and continued involvement with NC State and its colleges. In his acceptance speech, Torok focused on key takeaways from his years as a student.

“If I was to ask all of you to list the top five things that lead to your success, I am sure most of you would list your education. When I reflected, way back to my time at NC State, two things resonate,” he said.

“First, all the professors were subject matter experts, stuck to the curriculum and demanded you knew the material.

“Second, and most useful throughout my 35-year career: When evaluating any theory, policy or practice, they expected us to understand and analyze all sides of every argument. You could ask their opinion, but they were quick to point out their viewpoint was only one side of the analysis.

“They reminded me of a defensive driving instructor who tells the students, in order to be safe, you must know all six sides of your vehicle: left, right, front, back, top, bottom and expect the unexpected.”

In the case of his NC State instructors, he said, “We reviewed conservative, liberal, majority, minority, centrist and radical sides. Just when you thought you were done with analyzing all sides and ready for the final exam, the final essay question – worth 30 percent of your grade – was posed around the unknown and unforeseen. Welcome to the real world,” he said.

“I spent 11 of my 35-year career working outside the U.S. in Europe and Asia. I had to deal with foreign entities and governments. You better be able to analyze all sides of an issue and understand all viewpoints before making a decision. I am sure the Poole School of Management will continue to challenge our future business leaders to have this skill.”

Sharing Career Insight, Perspective

Torok has made a number of visits back to campus since his student days, bringing to current Poole College students his deep knowledge and understanding of complex issues in global supply chain and international business.

Among his many touchpoints with Poole College are serving as a judge for the annual Leadership & Innovation Showcase, as a guest speaker for members of the Alexander Hamilton Scholars and International Business Club based in Poole College, and as guest speaker bringing industry insight to classroom discussions, such as his talk in 2013 with students in a Jenkins MBA course in supply chain management.

Torok’s MBA class presentation was summarized in a blog post on “Supply Chain View from the Field,” published by Robert Handfield, Bank of American Distinguished Professor in Supply Chain Management and director of the Supply Chain Resource Cooperative.

In the post, Handfield writes, “This distinguished gentleman happened to have just retired as president of Global Freight Forwarding, and prior to that, as president of UPS Asia Pacific. A native New Yorker, Ken turned down a career in finance and banking for an action-packed and exciting career in the world of global logistics.”

Read more about Torok’s MBA supply chain classroom discussion here.

Career Path

A native of Long Island, N.Y., Torok began his career with United Parcel Service (UPS) in the U.S. in 1975 in the company’s East Carolina district. He assumed roles of increasing responsibility, including hub manager in Wisconsin, managing director of UPS Utah and managing director of UPS South Florida. The South Florida area is one of the company’s busiest and most diverse operations, serving as the UPS gateway to Latin America.

He served as president of the company’s Asia Pacific region from 2003 to 2008 where he was responsible for UPS operations in more than 40 countries and territories, including UPS-owned operations, joint ventures and agent relationships of Sinotrans Ltd. In his Asia Pacific capacity, Torok played a key role in the integration of UPS package delivery, logistics, warehousing, freight forwarding, brokerage and airline operations.

When retiring from Asia, Torok was approached by the chief executive officer of UPS to return and run Global Freight Forwarding. As part of that role, Torok directed the UPS global organization responsible for strategy, performance and revenue growth for forwarding services. He oversaw commercial air and ocean carrier relationships, and coordinated trade lane development and international freight sales. He held that position until he officially retired in 2011.

Torok has served on several boards and committees, including the Miami Dade United Way Board of Directors, the Singapore Logistics Council’s executive board and the Jackson County Community Foundation. He and his wife reside in Sylva, NC.

Poole College Evening of Stars honorees

  • 2017 – Kenneth A. Torok
  • 2016 – Robert “Chip” Andrews, III
  • 2015 – Clifton B. Knight, Jr.
  • 2014 – Charles Stallings
  • 2013 – The Alumni Association did not have an EoStars this year.
  • 2012 – Kevin Beasley
  • 2011 – Jon Bartley
  • 2010 – Jon Rufty
  • 2009 – Christine Holmes
  • 2008 – J.R. Shearin
  • 2007 – David Morgan
  • 2006 – Gary Massey
  • 2005 – Stan Kelly
  • 2004 – Michael Constantino
  • 2003 – Dr. H. Fred Gallasch, Jr.
  • 2002 – Dr. Alvin Cruze
  • 2001 – Dr. Hans Peter Binswanger
  • 2000 – Billy Ray Hall
  • 1999 – Dr. James Owens
  • 1998 – Harold S. Licthin
  • 1997 – Richard Bryant
  • 1996 – Mrs. Anne Marie Pecht
  • 1995 – Will B. Spence, Jr.
  • 1994 – Johnny B. Kerr