Alum Takes 'Corporate Route' and Loves It

Tim Ehinger ’89 remembers the moment when he knew he would pursue a life and career outside the United States. He was with classmates in Cologne, Germany, during the Germany/Austria program, sitting outside the cathedral at night. This is how he tells it.

 “I just remember looking up at that beautiful cathedral and thinking to myself, ‘I want more of this.’” More beautiful and historic vistas. More experiences in countries and cultures other than his own. More visits to places far from his hometown of Ft. Wayne, Ind.

Ehinger’s wish came true. After graduating from law school at Indiana University in 1992, Ehinger participated in an exchange program sponsored by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), a government sponsored institution that he compares with the US Fulbright Program. In this case the DAAD program brought together young lawyers from various countries to learn about German law. Ehinger says that interacting with peers from Belgium, France, Russia and elsewhere offered a helpful education in culture as well as the law.

When he returned to the U.S., he spent two years as a judicial clerk in the Michigan Court of Appeals in Detroit, all the while planning to seek work in the private sector, focusing on companies with a strong international presence.

Making the most of an Earlham connection, he reached out to Tom Gottschalk ’64, who at the time was General Counsel for General Motors.

“Tom didn’t know me from Adam, but he wrote a nice note back, and with some luck I managed to land an interview with GMAC. It so happened they were looking for a junior lawyer to support their European operations. It was really a matter of being in the right place at the right time with the right resume,” Ehinger recalls. After eight months with in Detroit, he spent five years working for GMAC (General Motors’ financing division) in Europe, based in Zurich and then London. He worked for G.E. Capital for three years before moving on to American Express, his employer for the last decade.

At Home in Corporate Law

Ehinger is now based in London and is the Managing Counsel for Amex’s legal team for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. He loves his job and his company.

“There’s a misperception that big companies must be full of little Napoleons, but I certainly have not found that to be true,” Ehinger says. “Amex is a company that behaves with a high degree of integrity and that has a lot of respect for its customers and employees.”

“We have a consensus-based culture across a very diverse and global employee base, and my experiences at Earlham obviously prepared me well for that,” says Ehinger. “Before Earlham, I didn’t understand what consensus was, but I learned to look for the common shared goal and to find ways to build consensus around such a goal. I’ve found that it’s the best way of leading and achieving results.

“Before I went to Earlham, most of what I had experienced was Indiana. Earlham gave me an opportunity to see more of what the world had to offer.  It was definitely a major turning point in my life,” he says. “Now I travel a lot and work every day with people from all around the world. I realize that although there are many differences from one country to the next, there are a lot of similarities among people. And I think everyone smiles at the same things. 

“Not many Earlhamites take the corporate route and love it, but I do. And I feel like I take what I learned at Earlham with me wherever I go.”

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