North Central College - Naperville, IL

James McDermet

Class Year: 

Alumni Recognition Award Winner 2007

James McDermet '92 is the first master's degree recipient from North Central College to receive an alumni award. As the recipient of the Alumni Recognition Award, McDermet was honored for his notable achievements in the business world since he graduated 15 years ago. McDermet is currently senior vice president for U.S. Store Services at Starbucks Coffee Company in Seattle, WA, and oversees support and direction for 6,000 Starbucks locations.

"I chose North Central College for the track in leadership in the management of change," said McDermet. "The only constant in life is change."

McDermet earned his Master of Business Administration degree while working as a regional vice president for Burger King in the Chicago area. He had started his career frying French fries—where he also met his wife Nancy—and over 24 years, progressed to a corporate position at Miami headquarters. He left Burger King to open a small chain of coffee shops in the Miami area, satisfying an "itch" to become an entrepreneur that he has attributed to Gary Ernst, Coleman Professor of Entrepreneurship and Small Business.

His joint venture called Java Centrale ultimately led to a position as regional director at Starbucks in Seattle. Since joining the company in 2000, he has also served as region vice president in both the Midwest and New York metro areas. His rapid assent through management ranks at Starbucks can be attributed to his focus on sales, customer and employee satisfaction, building a pipeline of management talent and collaborative team work. McDermet resides in Seattle.

While on campus for Homecoming weekend, he shared his story and sage advice with North Central College business students. At the awards ceremony, he told the audience that change in life is always possible. "I get up every morning with a sense of optimism," he said. "You always have the opportunity to re-invent yourself and blaze a new trail."