After 20 years of dedicated service to the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation Board of Directors, Claude Nielsen has stepped down as Chairman. He hands the reins to Hendrik Steckhan, President of US Operations at Coca-Cola North America and prior board member.
During Claude Nielsen’s 8 years of thoughtful leadership of the Board of Directors, the Foundation reached several key milestones, strengthening its impact. In 2013, Claude was instrumental in securing funding of $25 million through a combined gift from The Coca‑Cola Company and Coca-Cola bottlers to the Foundation. In addition, during his tenure, the Foundation increased the number of $20,000 scholarship winners from 50 to 150. Claude welcomed many esteemed speakers to the Foundation’s annual Scholars Banquet, including Condoleezza Rice, Tom Brokaw, and David Rubenstein, to celebrate the newest class of Coca-Cola Scholars.
As impactful as his contributions have been to the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, his passion for education and service has also left a lasting impression on fellow board members, Foundation staff, and Coca-Cola Scholars.
“Claude Nielsen has been a thoughtful, empathetic, and inspiring leader for the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation and the Coca-Cola family. While many great leaders have a strong mind, Claude leads with an even stronger heart. His authentic passion and genuine love for Scholars has strengthened our community. It is under his leadership that we have brought greater financial strength to the Foundation, set a strategic course for the future, and embraced the voice of Scholars in everything we do. I am deeply grateful for his years of advocacy and ambassadorship on behalf of this family – his family – and will continue to be inspired by all Claude has helped us achieve together,” said Jason Pate, 2005 Coca-Cola Scholar and former member of the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation Board of Directors.
Claude recently retired after 25 years as CEO of Birmingham’s Coca-Cola Bottling Company United. Under his direction, United grew into the nation’s largest private Coca-Cola bottler.
Chairman-Elect Hendrik Steckhan leads as the first chair from The Coca-Cola Company in Scholars Foundation history. He was appointed the president of Coca-Cola’s U.S. operations in December 2015, previously serving as president of Coca-Cola’s North American still beverages unit. He was head of Coke’s German business from 2010 to 2014 and oversaw carbonated brands in North America from 2007 to 2010.
Hendrik brings a wealth of valuable experience with over 20 years of international business experience in strategy, marketing, commercial and general management roles with The Coca-Cola Company and formerly with Kraft Foods in Europe.
“We are thrilled about Hendrik’s tenure as the new Chair! I know that Scholars and alumni are excited to work alongside him in service of this Foundation and mission we believe in so passionately,” said Sue Suh, 1991 Scholar and member of the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation Board of Directors.
The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation represents the best kind of partnership between The Coca-Cola Company and Coca-Cola bottlers, bringing together the entire Coca-Cola system to bring better to the world, through investment in exceptional high school students who are dedicated to leadership, service, and action that positively affects others.
As the Foundation celebrates its 29th class this year, the Coca-Cola system has invested more than $66 million in 5,850 students who represent the most promising qualities of American youth throughout this country: academic excellence, positive leadership and a dedication to service. These students have a vision for positive change that is truly shaping a better future for our world and leaving a lasting legacy for generations to come.