MANKATO — In the early 1970s Suresh Mathews cut his teeth on information technology in the emerging computer science program at what was then Mankato State Teachers College. He also met the woman he'd marry and became an unwitting leader in a massive Vietnam War protest that shut down Mankato.
This week he returns to Minnesota State University as the first "executive in residence" for the college of business. He will give a talk from 4:30-6 p.m. Thursday and be honored at the 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award Dinner on Friday.
"I met a lot of life-long friends (at MSU) including my wife. I have nothing but extremely good memories of my education there," said Mathews, who graduated in 1975.
He is senior vice president and chief information officer for Unisys, responsible for global IT operations. He was brought in by other major companies in the past, including Pepsico, to help turn them around.
Living on a ranch in Arizona and working from Unisys offices around the world, Mathews has returned to Mankato a couple of times a year in the past 12 years as he serves on the MSU business college advisory board.
Brenda Flannery, dean of the college of business, said having someone with Mathews' stature as the first executive in residence is exciting.
"We've had speakers on campus in the past but I wanted something more than just someone coming on campus and talking and leaving," Flannery said. Mathews will spend a couple of days on campus and is bringing some employees from the Unisys Eagan office to interview students for jobs.
Flannery said she hopes the executive in residence program will become ongoing and grow in scope.
Mathews involvement with war protests happened as a freshman in 1971. When large groups of students were headed downtown to protest, Mathews said he grabbed his new camera hoping to get some good pictures. When the crowd gathered near Highway 169 and what was then the Main Street Bridge, Mathews climbed an embankment to the bridge to get a better photo.