Cornell University

July 10 2013

Reunited with ILR

Balest '81 establishes scholarship for students with financial needs

John Balest '81Although he had always valued the education he received at ILR and the profound effect it has had on his career, John Balest '81 lost touch with his alma mater soon after graduation.

"More recently, I realized I was missing something because of that," says the director of global human resources for PPG Industries' Protective and Marine Coatings business unit. "This school gave me so much and positioned me to enjoy the rewarding career that I have today. It was time to give back."

So, last July, Balest and his wife established the Arcangela and John Balest Scholarship to support students with demonstrated financial need and an interest in international human resources.

His reasons for establishing the scholarship were twofold.

"When I was accepted to Cornell, I had significant financial need, and the Bernard P. Lampert Scholarship made my enrollment possible," he says. "Thirty-five years later, my wife and I were pleased to be able to support future generations of ILR students facing similar financial pressures."

"I also know from my own experience that ILR graduates are entering an increasingly global business environment, which has changed the role and focus of HR professionals," he says. "Pursuing a course of study and internships focusing on international aspects of human resources will be of enormous value to ILR graduates."

"Students who have had the opportunity to work with progressive global organizations like PPG Industries see how rapidly these organizations are evolving, and how rapidly they're expanding in emerging regions."

For most of his career, Balest worked in a business environment dominated and driven by North American business interests. Today, he spends the vast majority of his time on HR issues outside North America ā€” a change that came about, he says, due to "a fundamental shift in my company's business."

Balest now works just 10 miles from Monroeville, Pa., where he graduated from Gateway High School in 1977. The road back home, though, took him first to Delaware for an eight-year stint at the corporate offices of Hercules Inc. He joined PPG in 1989, and for the past 13 years has been the principal HR business partner for two PPG business units ā€” first, Architectural Coatings, and now, Protective and Marine Coatings.

"What I find most rewarding about my job is that Iā€™m regularly immersed in new and different cultures, dealing with new and different human resource issues," he says. He spends about half his time in Asia, Latin America and Europe. "As a result, I think more broadly, not only in terms of my job and my function as an HR professional, but also in terms of how I view the world and other cultures."

It was at the ILR School that Balest learned to think, to grow and to adapt to change.

"ILR teaches you a way of thinking and the value of continuous learning," he says. "Those are experiences that have served me well and that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

"There's still more that I need to do to support ILR," he says, "and I hope that others who have shared the same enriching ILR experience, and who find themselves in a similar position, ask how they might be able to give back to the school in a meaningful way."