As director of the Turner Center for Entrepreneurship at Bradley University, Jim Foley manages a program of counseling and training in international business planning, marketing, logistics, export finance and entrepreneurship. He is author of the book The Global Entrepreneur, a frequent speaker on issues of international trade, and has held leadership positions with a range of international organizations. He earned his MBA from the prestigious London Business School and his undergraduate degree from Knox College. A Galesburg native, Foley knows international business… but it was a trip years ago that began that journey.
In the 1960s, the Foleys—Jim, his parents and seven siblings—had a decision to make: buy a used car or travel to Europe. They chose Europe. Their dad started calling airlines to inquire about a family discount, and they all had the same reply: Why would you want to take eight kids to Europe? Pan Am finally agreed under one condition: that they be allowed to follow their trip and report on it. They thought the future of international air travel might lie with families.
From Dublin to Rome, it was a trip that changed lives forever. All eight kids embraced some aspect of international affairs in their careers, including Jim, who began his international business career in Los Angeles before moving to London. Years later he returned to central Illinois to be close to his aging father, which eventually led him to Bradley University.
International business remains Foley’s lifelong passion today. “I think back to the vision my parents had all those years ago,” he muses. “They knew the world was bigger than Galesburg, and they wanted to be sure we knew that.” More than half a century later, their vision is still making an impact on Foley, on Bradley, and on the central Illinois business community.
- What was your first job? Selling cameras in our family photography store in Galesburg. My dad sent me to Kodak in Rochester, New York for sales training when I was a teenager. Those skills are still with me today.
- Childhood dream job: To be an airline pilot and travel the world! I did get the world travel part.
- What book do you think everyone should read? Illusions by Richard Bach. Huge impact on my life… and it mentions flying and Galesburg!
- What is your motto? “Smile, darn it, even if it hurts.” It was actually my grandfather’s motto and has served me well.
- What’s one of the worst-tasting things you’ve ever eaten? Fish eyes in Hong Kong. Long story.
- Person who’s had the greatest impact on my life: Brownie Ursua, a great aunt I lived with in Mexico City to learn Spanish. I never knew any of my grandparents, so she was my bridge to that generation.
- Nobody in my office knows… I played the role of the King in a community theater production of The King and I. I surprised myself.
- Biggest regret: I never flew the Concorde, though it flew over my home in the UK each day.
- Words to live by: “It is only in the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” It’s from the book The Little Prince. Though written decades ago, it’s still relevant today, especially in light of our conversations around prejudice and bias.
- Favorite childhood memory? Of course, the trip to Europe. PM