News and Events
Every Job is an Adventure for Executive MBA Graduate
Some people thrive on a routine. And then there’s Jac Meacham.
A man of many careers, Meacham (GSBM '74) has flown as a pilot in the United States Marine Corps, written organizational handbooks in New York, opened a fish market in San Diego, consulted the Crow Indian tribe in Montana, and created a “historic village” in rural Missouri, just to name a few.
Always eager to follow new interests and adventures, Meacham has been driven by an innate curiosity to experience the world around him. His numerous and varied professional endeavors have led him on a journey from a rural wooded village in Northern California to the densely populated avenues of New York City—even to the open sky itself.
Though he had never been in an airplane, Meacham knew from childhood that he wanted to be a pilot. The first flight he ever took was en route to a Marine Corps base for ground school training. After he received his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1954, the 24-year old flew in a squadron based out of El Torro, California.
One evening, Meacham was unexpectedly awoken at 3 a.m. and told he was going on a mission. “We were told to get into a ‘racetrack pattern’—no formation,” recalls Meacham. “Then they counted down from 10—BOOM—and I saw the brightest light I’d ever seen. It seemed to last for centuries.” Only later did Meacham discover that he participated in “Operation Teapot,” a nuclear test conducted by the Department of Defense at the Nevada Test Center.
Flying through the mushroom cloud, Meacham peeled off in confusion and immediately headed back to the base. The young pilot ran out of fuel, landing 150 feet short of the runway before skidding to a stop. After this dangerous incident, he was sent to Korea as part of a radar squadron, and upon return, was named provost marshal in charge of the military police.
From his days penning a sports column in junior high school, Meacham sought to turn his personal passion for writing into professional opportunities. “Captain Jac,” as he was later coined and prefers to be known, left the Marine Corps in 1957 and went to work developing pilot handbooks for aircraft manufacturer General Dynamics. McGraw-Hill lured him to New York City where he spent four years designing training development programs for leadership courses. He even wrote the “Baby Care Handbook” for Johnson & Johnson.
Following a stint as Director of Employee Development for Continental Airlines, Meacham felt the pressures of white-collar management and a renewed curiosity to experience something totally different. He decided to take a break from the industry for a few years by opening a fish market in El Segundo, California. Later in life, he felt the similar call of adventure and moved to Northern California. “I wanted to live off the land,” Meacham recalls. “I became an ‘Executive Hippie’.”
Bolstered by his broad range of experience in management—including positions with aircraft manufacturers Flying Tigers and, later, McDonnell Douglas Aircraft—Meacham made a crucial decision to get his career on track: “I knew if I was going to advance professionally in this industry, I would need more education. So I went to Pepperdine.”
He was accepted to a new developing program called the Presidential and Key Executive (PKE) MBA program at what is now the Graziadio School of Business and Management (GSBM). The PKE program is designed with top executives like Meacham in mind: it provides a forum for experienced senior level executives—many without advanced degrees but with “up-the-ladder” experience—to share practical, real-world strategies that could be implemented in their own respective companies.
The participants are grouped into an incoming cohort of 18 to 25 executives and stay together throughout the 20-month program. During the early years of PKE, many of the program’s original founders, including GSBM professor Wayne Strom, welcomed suggestions from participating executives. Meacham assisted in this development: “All my years of experience in companies gave insight to what was wrong with the educational process of executives,” Meacham said. “Applicable, useful suggestions from peers were meaningful things we could implement on Monday morning after the weekend’s class.”
After completing the PKE program, Meacham invited professors and their classes from the Graziadio School Master of Science in Organizational Development (MSOD) to the Flying Tigers Company. Since graduating from Pepperdine, Meacham has referred 30 to 40 of his own junior executives and employees to either the PKE or the MSOD programs. Because of his contributions to the continuing education programs at Pepperdine, an appreciation dinner was hosted for Meacham in Malibu.
Since receiving his degree from Pepperdine over thirty years ago, Captain Jac has never slowed down for a traditional executive career. His expertise in Organizational Development has taken him across the freeways of Southern California, up to the rugged wilderness of Montana with the Crow Indian tribe, and even to the deserts of Saudi Arabia.
Traditional retirement didn't appeal to Meacham either. After seeing a blind ad in a newspaper for a 1904 general store in High Hill, Missouri, Captain Jac drove to the rural town, bought it, and began assembling his Historic Village. Remembering his country childhood, Meacham organized his nostalgic village piece-by-piece, first with the general store, and then adding a refurbished old train depot, a sheriff station, and even a small chapel. He ran the town for over seven years, investing time in relationships with the local farmers and writing a weekly column in a community newspaper.
Meacham closed the village in October 2005, but has not given up on adventure. Now Captain Jac has turned his nickname into a penname, writing novels based on his job experiences, such as Corporate Spy, a “necessary evil” about his exploits in New York City. Meacham has taken his journey, and his careers, into his literary world, bringing the reader along for the ride. And for Meacham, this journey is anything but routine: “I try and made an adventure out of every job I have.”
by Jonathan Younger