Harriet Pedersen, a 1998 graduate, was named Alumna of the Year for her dedication and service to Concordia University.

We’ve all heard the adage, “it’s never too late,” but Concordia Distinguished Alumna of the Year Harriet Pedersen has lived by it.

The 1998 graduate completed her bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice Management when she was 46 years old, well after she had already begun her long career at Commerce Industrial Chemicals Inc.

“I started (there) in 1972 as a typist—the first full-time female employee at the company—and eventually became the president and CEO,” she said. “My career took many twists and turns.”

She credits her education at Concordia University Wisconsin with providing the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people and achieve a lifelong goal.

“(Concordia) helped me fulfill the dream of getting my degree,” she explained. “In fact, I’m the first person in my immediate family who did. I was grateful that Concordia offered a degree in the subject of which I was quite passionate and that was criminal justice.”

While Pedersen did not work in careers that most associate with criminal justice—attorney, FBI agent, crime scene investigator—she did volunteer for seven years as a reserve police officer with the Wauwatosa Police Department.

Service has always played a role in this Lutheran’s life. She served for nine years on Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor’s Board of Regents and currently serves as vice chairwoman. Prior to the board, she served a term on the Alumni Advisory Council for CUW. For six years, she served on the Lutheran High School Association of Greater Milwaukee’s Board of Directors as secretary, vice president and president. This list goes on.

In 2019, after 47 years of service, she retired from her position as CEO and president of Commerce Industrial Chemicals Inc. In her free time, in between her volunteer assignments, she enjoys traveling, boating, hiking, horseback riding, playing golf and other sports, and rafting in the Grand Canyon.

“My retirement job is as an usher for the Milwaukee Brewers,” she said.

The most valuable lesson she learned from Concordia? You may have guessed it. “It’s never too late to get your degree,” she said. “And, although I was an average student in high school, I was able to reach summa cum laude status by applying myself at Concordia.”

And those are her words of wisdom for current students. That, and “stick with it.”

Read more about the special commencement award winners here.

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