Possibility #87: Growing Hometown Opportunity

When deciding to attend Gannon University as a freshman, Jeff Boswell ’78 knew he would have to pay for his own education and work year-round while attending school– something that certainly did not stand in his way. The industrial management major and president of Delta Sigma Phi fraternity worked in the Nash Library Resource Center and at a small grocery store in downtown Erie during the school year. When returning home to Meadville in the summers, he worked 40 hours-per-week as a produce clerk at a local supermarket.

No stranger to having a hard-working, committed mentality while at Gannon, it was just this mindset that allowed Boswell to achieve his goals in a global business career.

Boswell immediately began a career upon graduation as a project engineer at Sunbeam Equipment Co., which later transformed into SECO/WARWICK Corp. in 1984. SECO/WARWICK is a global metallurgical furnace manufacturer with seven manufacturing plants on three continents, employing over 1,100 professionals.

“When I started at Sunbeam, I still worked at the supermarket,” he said. “The president of Sunbeam shopped there too. When he saw me putting lettuce out after I had worked at Sunbeam from 8-5 p.m., he was shocked.”

In 1989 Boswell was appointed vice-president in charge of sales and marketing. He was involved with the Industrial Heating Equipment Association for twelve years as a committee member, chairman and in 2004, as the association president. Since 2005, he has held many positions in the global SECO/WARWICK Group, including president and CEO of SECO/WARWICK Corporation (Meadville, Pa.), president and CEO of SECO/WARWICK S.A. (Swiebodzin, Poland), executive vice-president of Retech Systems, LLC (Ukiah, Ca.), and chairman of the supervisory board of SECO/WARWICK S.A.

SECO/WARWICK was a national company with equipment in every state, until about 1984 when the business began to go global, which caused Boswell to take an active role in traveling abroad, propelling his career. At the peak of his career, Boswell recalls traveling between 200,000-250,000 miles each year.

“In the ‘90s, I got my first million-miles on US Air,” said Boswell proudly. “I took my wife and her mother with me on that business trip, and the pilot came out and says to me, ‘Mr. Boswell, thank you so much for your business!’ My mother-in-law was just so proud,” he laughed. “I would’ve paid the guy a $1,000 to do that!”

During his time with SECO/WARWICK, Boswell has seen the company’s profits steadily increase as it expands to new markets in new countries. This is among the many reasons he received Gannon’s President’s Award in 2010, given to an alumnus who has successfully led and strategically directed a business operation into the future, accomplishing growth and development opportunities.

“I realized the past recipients and was very humbled by it,” he said. “I was surprised because I never felt as though I was worthy of such an honor.”

Boswell explains the importance of having both a strong business background and a sense of engineering knowledge for his industry, and says communication is key for today’s global business industry.

“Looking back on it now, it’s all about communication and how you talk to people,” he said. “It’s about global understanding and the importance of communication and cultural awareness, but also understanding how different countries operate to be able to determine when your business will and will not work well in those markets.

“The advice I’d give to students is to find something you like to do. If you find something you like to do you’re going to give it more."

“Having business and engineering knowledge combined is beneficial. The happiest I ever was in my life was when I was a sales project engineer. I really loved that job,” he said. “When I ended up becoming VP of Sales and Marketing and had to travel the world, I became more of a business man than I was a project engineer.

“To tell you the truth, I’d much rather be a project engineer than the big shot,” he chuckled.  

Boswell currently serves as a director on the supervisory board of SECO/WARWICK S.A., while also enjoying winemaking, golfing and being co-owner of two TimberCreek Tap & Table restaurants in Meadville and Grove City.

“The advice I’d give to students is to find something you like to do. If you find something you like to do you’re going to give it more,” he said. “If you can be happy while at work, the money will come later.”

Boswell recently created an endowed scholarship at Gannon to help make education more accessible for students of the Crawford Central School District. The Jeff Boswell Endowed Scholarship, “is an investment in our hometowns for me and my wife, Jeanne" said Boswell, who grew up in Meadville. His wife, Jeanne (Ridgeway) Boswell is originally from Cochranton, Pa.

Jeff and Jeanne Boswell with Gannon University President Keith Taylor, Ph.D.

The couple met at Sunbeam, where Jeanne was hired just six months before Jeff. “She tells everybody she got me my job,” he grinned. “She enjoys telling people that.”

The scholarship is among the 234 endowed scholarships at Gannon providing support annually to 413 deserving students from diverse locations, backgrounds and financial circumstances.

“I’d rather give to the kids of Crawford County than have my name put on some building– it’s not the way I work. I just want them to get a great education is all; it’s pretty simple.”