Chris Sinclair, 1967
Chris Sinclair distinctly remembers arriving at Vermont Academy’s campus for the first time. Chris’s father was an executive with Esso/Exxon Oil and Chris and his family had been living in India for several years. The family’s shift back to the United States coincided with Chris’s entry into high school, so a friend of his father’s recommended Vermont Academy. “There was the sheer beauty of the place,” he says. He needed to be dropped off before the semester started. “I was suddenly there by myself as an incoming freshman… with the football team,” he recalls. “I was a much better student than an athlete.”
Chris found Vermont Academy to be a great place to broaden his education. The school offered a much higher caliber of teacher than he was accustomed to. He found that headmaster Mr. Michael Choukas Jr. ’46 provided strong leadership for the academic team and, with his wife Nita, created a family-like peer environment that had an indelible impact on his life. “We built a very close-knit group of friends, and I’m still very close with a number of them.”
Chris’s four years at Vermont Academy provided the academic foundation to build independence, self-reliance, and a do-it-for-yourself attitude. This gave Chris confidence as he moved into his college career. He went to his mother’s native Kansas to get a bigger school experience, graduating summa cum laude from the University of Kansas in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. He then returned to New England, receiving an MBA from Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business in 1973.
Chris became a highly successful global business leader. As head of marketing at Newsweek he created a four-fold increase in capacity. He then spent more than 15 years at PepsiCo, moving from Pepsi USA’s central division president to become president of newly formed Pepsi-Cola International, where he directed Pepsi’s entry into the Indian market. In 1994 he told Fortune magazine, “If Coke starts growing 8%, we'll do 10% or 12%.” He predicted non-U.S. cola sales of $5 billion by 1995 and sales actually exceeded this goal.
He was chairman and CEO of Caribiner International, a global business communications company, and the executive chairman and CEO of Cambridge Solutions Ltd, the second-largest business process outsourcing company in the world. He then served as chairman and CEO of Mattel, Inc. before becoming the chairman of Reckitt Benckiser, the global producer of cleaning products including Lysol, providing critical guidance for the company during the global COVID-19 pandemic. After finding Vermont Academy to be a wonderful environment to be a part of, he served on the board of trustees from 2002 to 2005.
We are proud to award Chris Sinclair the Florence R. Sabin Class of 1889 Distinguished Alumni Award.