Akers named 2018 alumnus of the year


Courtesy of Unversity Communications and Creative Services

Tom Akers, the retired president of trading at Metal Exchange Corporation, was chosen as this year's alumnus of the year.

Zachary Araki, A&E Editor

Tom Akers, a 1973 alumnus, grew from an aimless teenager starting college to the president of trading at Metal Exchange Corporation to the alumnus of the year.

Akers thinks of his time at the university in separate parts, first as a freshman and sophomore focused more on social life than on academics. In his third and fourth year, however, Akers began to think more about his future.

“After working for three summers on the wrong end of a shovel doing manual labor, I knew this is something I did not want to continue,” said Akers. “Also, early during this phase, my father died leaving my mother widowed at age 43 with four sons, which was also a sobering experience.”

After two years of active military service in the United States Navy and getting married, Akers returned to the university’s master of business administration program. After college, Akers started working for multinational manufacturing companies. In a business recession in the aluminum industry in the early 1990s, the Swiss-based company that employed Akers decided to sell its U.S. assets. Not wanting to uproot his two teenage daughters by moving to Europe, Akers joined Metal Exchange Corporation.

“Moving from a highly structured manufacturing company to a privately owned, loosely structured trading company was a culture shock,” said Akers. “I therefore had to adapt dramatically to first learn the business and then to begin moving the company into new directions.”

Akers became the president of trading at Metal Exchange Corporation and saw the business extend from a domestic plan to have a more global reach with offices in Shanghai, China, Zurich, Switzerland and Sao Paulo, Brazil.




“Once you begin such a challenge, it is all consuming of your life as the hours seem endless, and the international and domestic travel is nonstop,” said Akers. “But, slowly, the pieces begin coming together, and relationships in one part of the world can help in a totally different part of the world. Hiring good people is the key, particularly when they are 12 time zones away.”

The Alumni Association will honor Akers on Oct. 12. The selection of Akers was based on his career success as well as his involvement with the university foundation. 

“It’s very humbling to see how successful our graduates are,” said Michelle Biggs, executive director of alumni relations. “Once they leave the university, they go on to do great things, and we’re very proud of that. So, we want to be able to recognize them and honor everything that they’ve done in their careers and for Southeastern.”

After retirement, Akers participated in a mentoring program for young employees, but after three years, he considered it time to move on. Tom Akers and his wife have enjoyed traveling domestically and internationally, exploring America in their motorhome, especially during football season.

“My career afforded me the opportunity to travel the world, 1,000 cities in 57 countries, and understand the people and businesses in an intimate way,” said Akers. “I now have friends throughout the world and am in contact with them regularly. What a ride since that naive and troubled 17-year-old traveled to Hammond, Louisiana in September 1965.”