Sally (Pearson) Heidtke

Sally Heidtke
  • BS Chemical Engineering 1981
Alumna Has a Balanced Life and Career

Sally Heidtke is a practiced engineer with a decidedly practical outlook. She has "thrived on making noticeable improvements to manufacturing systems and processes that are sustainable." She also is a heartfelt leader who has lived by this ethic: "Reach out to others for help, and to others who need help as well." Heidtke has fashioned that balance between the technical and soulful throughout her career.

She earned a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering in 1981 and went on to a distinguished career at Procter and Gamble. She started out as a process engineer in Cheboygan, Michigan, worked in Chicago, Cincinnati, and Annapolis, and finally in Green Bay, where she was logistics operations manager. Her career was built on a sound foundation at Michigan Tech. She has worked with engineers from all over the world. "At no point in my career did I ever feel at a disadvantage," she says. "There was never a question of being second-best. Tech prepared me extremely well."

In her day, she was one of a handful of women at Tech but says, "I felt welcome and I belonged."

A native of Kingsford, Michigan, Heidtke learned about Tech's Women in Engineering program, attended one summer while in high school, and was intrigued with a session in chemical engineering, which led her to Tech. Besides succeeding academically, she was a vice president of Blue Key, a member of the Student Foundation, and a member of the student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

She describes herself as a good student who was simply "shooting to do well." Her goals and outlook were: get a good-paying, challenging job. She describes her years with Procter and Gamble this way: "I learned a lot and contributed more."

While at Tech she had two summer internships with P&G and signed on with the firm full-time after graduating. She retired in 2006 and is vice president of Human Resources at US Special Delivery in Kingsford. The shipping firm has 240 employees and serves Minneapolis and Chicago, as well as elsewhere in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ontario.

Always a supporter of Michigan Tech, Heidtke became more active when she transferred to Green Bay in 1993 and was closer to campus. She is a member of the board of directors of the Alumni Association and a member of the Presidential Council of Alumnae. She also helps with student recruitment and is on Tech's Corporate Advisory Board for Institutional Diversity. She says of her involvement: "I have always had a great passion and love of Michigan Tech. I feel grateful and want to give back. I'm always glad to be involved in anyway that I can help."

She says that what Tech does exceedingly well is "capture imaginations and passions that provide the means to follow dreams." Academic programs, she adds, "are current, relevant, and effective."

She attributes a large part of her success to others: "family, friends, and coworkers." When she encountered tough times, she says, "Relationships with other people caused me to stick with it."

Her attitude about her career was: "Work hard to understand goals - and change and improve results." Meanwhile, her abiding avocation is to "support people, touch their lives, and help them live more fully."

Accordingly, she is involved with People Supporting People, which started out as a training program at P&G that targeted and guided women managers. She says the program simply transformed her. "I found my purpose in life, and it has a similar effect on others." Now it is a national program that encourages people "to live and lead." She's involved as a presenter and mentor, which suits her, for she cherishes giving insight and coaching. "I love it when someone gets it - when the light bulb goes on." She describes People Supporting People as "madly successful."

Overall, Heidtke has lived by this motto: "The universe cooperates with a made - up mind."

"What that means to me," she says, "is that, once things are clear and important to me, they fall into place. People come into my life to help me be confident about where to go and what to do. Once I get clear convictions, things start to happen and happen much more easily. The universe is helping me. That's esoteric but true."

"My plan is to not have a plan, and I'm right on track," she says. She and her husband, Dean, have been married since 1995. They live in Iron Mountain, Michigan, and enjoy a second home on Lake Superior near Skanee, Michigan, a place she describes as "a wonderful getaway in the middle of nowhere."


by John Gagnon - UMC, April 2009