Menendez, Joseph H.

Joseph H. Menendez Vita Group
Chief Executive Officer
CLASS OF 1972

"Washington & Jefferson College exposed me to new things," recalls Joseph Menendez. "I remember being introduced to art, comparative religions, and various required courses for the 'uncommon man.' While I must admit that these courses were taken with begrudging skepticism, they instilled in me a hunger to learn."

Motivated by this hunger to learn, Menendez immersed himself in the sciences at W&J, pursuing a major in chemistry. When he was not busy studying Avogadro's number and chemical bonds, Menendez found a welcome outlet in volunteer work, intramural sports, and his fraternity, Kappa Sigma.

After graduating from W&J, Menendez complemented his chemistry background with a master's degree in business administration from the University of Pittsburgh and began work at Corning Inc., an American manufacturer of glass and ceramics. He progressed through a variety of front-line production management positions before participating in a leveraged buyout of his Corning business, which eventually was sold to Saint-Gobain, a French multinational manufacturer.

Menendez continued his career with Saint-Gobain for 20 years, moving to Paris and eventually becoming president of Saint-Gobain Abrasives. In this role, he directed the operations of 75 plants in 35 countries. Menendez left Saint-Gobain in 2008 to take the next step in his career as chief executive officer of the Vita Group, based in London. The company produces a wide variety of polymer-based materials serving the bedding, furniture, transportation, and construction markets. The scope of his responsibility at the Vita Group is vast, as he oversees $2 billion in sales, 5,000 employees, and 83 factories in 22 countries.

With no immediate plans to retire, Menendez finds a new opportunity to discover and learn at each stage of his career and life. "I love to travel," he says. "It's a continuation of the personal discovery process that I began at W&J." He encourages students to be open to that discovery process as well. "Cross new frontiers," he advises. "Take subjects that are unusual. Look for new experiences, and travel outside the U.S. to understand other cultures, meet people with different points of view, and see our world from a different perspective."