Recently named the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business Lifetime Achievement Award recipient for 2020 & 2021, Allan Noddle, ’62, earned recognition for his outstanding career in business. A paramount leader in the food distribution industry, his career spans across continents and decades, starting at a local grocer in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska.
Graduating cum laude from Nebraska, Noddle credits a business speech course for helping him develop a voice and teaching him multiple aspects of business communication. The skills learned in the course helped him throughout his life.
“When I started my business career, I ended up making speeches around the world and consulting to many companies. That single course business speech was the one that put me on the right track. To me, it was absolutely a life-changing event,” he said.
Noddle went on to serve as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army 24th infantry division in Germany as part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) force. After his experience in the service, he went to work for IBM.
“In the army, I ran a transceiver site to request supply parts for all the equipment for the infantry division – and we're in the forays of just before the 360 computer was introduced and I had all these machines from IBM that we were learning how to program. At that point, I decided that this was really not for me. I wanted to be more outgoing, build relationships with people and be part of strategy,” he said.
Looking for a new career venture, Noddle responded to a blind newspaper ad for a buying and merchandising position. It turned out to be for a company called Hinky Dinky Supermarkets in Omaha.
“I get a call from Hinky Dinky and they said they had a terrific opportunity for me. I figured out right away, food is something everybody's going to have to have. Here we are, 60 years later in the middle of a global pandemic and one of the only enterprises that's doing well is food stores,” said Noddle, who became the youngest vice president at Hinky Dinky and was later elected executive vice president and chief operating officer.
After his success at Hinky Dinky, Giant Foods hired Noddle to help them expand. Nicholas Bertram, president of The GIANT Company, believes one of the keys to Noddle’s success included his communication skills.
“Everyone knew who Giant was because Allan became our spokesperson and very much became the face of the brand and the local celebrity," Bertram said. "He spoke with purpose, integrity and he had dramatic transparency in everything that he did. Allan was accessible. He was always in the stores with people, knew their names, their families' names and he was always an approachable, humble leader, who had very high expectations.”
Dutch grocer Royal Ahold acquired Giant Foods as it grew significantly and Noddle became president and CEO of the USA Support Services division. He later served on the corporate executive board and became the first American in that capacity. However, it came with a catch – he needed to move to Amsterdam.
“Not many people in the world will ever get the chance or the experience to work for a global company, and I jumped at that. It was an enriching experience for me personally and professionally,” he said.
Officially retiring in 2002, Noddle helped establish and fund the first five years of the International Business Select program. Designed to provide students with a broader global perspective, the cohort-based program in the College of Business offers students a unique study abroad opportunity.
“I've worked in 33 countries in five continents. As the world went global, competition got tougher and profit margins got squeezed, everybody wanted more talent. We have it in Nebraska, but we have to continue to enrich it,” he said. “I give back because that's important for students to have that experience.”
Noddle currently serves as a trustee for the University of Nebraska Foundation. In 2010, he was recognized as an Alumni Master by the College of Business and shared his experience and knowledge with students.
Published: June 9, 2021