Born the son of a laborer in Chisholm, Minn., Roger Enrico ’65, H’86 (1944—2016) grew up mirroring his father’s dedicated work ethic. ’65, H’86
The first in his family to attend college, he received a full ROTC scholarship and traveled east to a small business school just outside of Boston.
What followed were 56 years of extraordinary impact. From Babson, to the military, and then headfirst into the workforce, Enrico would forge his way to the top of a global brand. There, he would turn his hard-earned dollars and focus toward educating leaders of tomorrow.
To Others, Enrico Never Blinked
At the 2018 Academy of Distinguished Entrepreneurs®(ADE) ceremony, alumnus and former PepsiCo CEO Roger Enrico became one of Babson’s newest inductees.
One of Enrico’s most notable accomplishments was his role in creating the “Pepsi Generation,” which pushed Coca-Cola to change its 99-year-old recipe to match the sweetness of Pepsi’s.
Enrico became famous for his full-page newspaper ad on the day that Coca-Cola announced the change; his ad read: “After 87 years of going at it eyeball to eyeball, the other guy just blinked.”
Jerry Noonan ’81, former vice president of marketing at PepsiCo, remembers Enrico most for always thinking outside of the box. Enrico wanted his peers to “focus on big ideas, things that, if successful, would make a big difference. What else, what next, what could be different, what could be better?”
“Whether it was hiring Michael Jackson to do the Pepsi commercials, or later hiring Madonna . . . Roger wasn’t afraid of controversy,” added Mike White, former CEO of PepsiCo International.
“Most entrepreneurs don’t look at failure; they only see opportunity. That, to me, is what Roger was all about,” said Aaron Walton ’83, former music marketing manager at PepsiCo. “He believed in me in a way that I didn’t quite frankly believe in myself. He made me believe I could do things I hadn’t dreamed about doing . . . there’s a piece of Roger in everything I do.”
The Gift of Education
Roger Enrico could “talk to any leader in the world,” added White. “But he was equally at home on the frontline or in a plant. He never forgot where he grew up . . . and he was lucky enough to be so successful that he could share that with others.”
One way Enrico made sure to give back was by providing access to education.
Together with his wife, he created the Roger and Rosemary Enrico Scholarship to provide full-tuition, need-based scholarships for economically disadvantaged students from Dallas Public Schools.
To date, their generosity has helped 35 students attend Babson College.
Enrico also has supported Babson Athletics through The PepsiCo Pavilion—an indoor practice facility for Babson’s varsity teams, as well as numerous intramural and recreational activities.
Before his ADE induction, Babson rededicated this space as The PepsiCo Enrico Pavilion. Family, friends, and Enrico Scholars came together in his memory.
Like Roger and Rosemary Enrico, when you give to Babson, you enhance the positive social and economic impact our community is making around the world through entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurship Isn’t Just for Startups
After accepting the honor on his father’s behalf, Aaron Enrico introduced John Sculley H’91. Known best as the former CEO of PepsiCo and Apple, Sculley spoke of Enrico’s formative years as his mentee in the 1970s.
“I would like to tell you about the young Roger Enrico,” he shared.
Given the opportunity to make an internal career change and head up PepsiCo Foods International, Sculley was handed the chance to do something entrepreneurial within a large corporation. “I was told if I did this, I could recruit anybody I wanted. . . . So one of the people I contacted was a young executive from Frito-Lay, an up-and-coming brand manager named Roger Enrico.”
By appointing him president of Frito-Lay Japan, Sculley gave Enrico a similar intrapreneurial experience. “Roger built Frito-Lay Japan from scratch.”
Even going as far as to learn Japanese. Sculley remembers hearing Enrico speak to a packed audience in fluent Japanese. “That was just Roger. He was curious, resourceful, and inspirational . . . this carried throughout his entire life.”
Sculley, now vice chair of his startup, RxAdvance, targets Babson as a favorite for talent recruitment. “I give a lot of credit to Roger Enrico. I was witness to the success of his entrepreneurial mindset, and his ideas in leadership. They were all rooted in the experience and education he got from Babson, which is now well understood in the business community as an incredible talent-generating organization.”
Babson’s Academy of Distinguished Entrepreneurs
This year, Roger Enrico was honored alongside husband-and-wife team Sara Blakely, founder and CEO of SPANX, and Jesse Itzler, co-founder of Marquis Jet.
Since its inception, the academy has recognized and honored entrepreneurs who have contributed significantly to the development of free enterprise throughout the world.
Nominations of world-class entrepreneurs who have created great economic and social value are solicited from the Babson community as well as from outside the institution.
Through the years, Babson has celebrated entrepreneurs of all kinds as illustrated by the impressive list of inductees. Collectively, the 114 members of the academy have created millions of jobs and improved societies around the world.
Many of the most successful and visible entrepreneurs in the world are members of the academy. They represent companies that are some of the most highly regarded in their industry and household icons in their culture.
These members have capitalized on the need for change, accepted the associated risk and responsibility, and made an impact on the world. The energy and innovation embodied by these individuals will be appreciated and applauded for many generations to come.