Vice president and controller, Harley-Davidson Inc.
BBA 1986 (Accounting)
Perry Glassgow’s tailgating campgrounds during home games at Kinnick Stadium are both easily identifiable and unmistakable. Next to a Hawkeye flag reaching into the sky, the 1986 accounting graduate proudly flies an equally recognizable Harley-Davidson flag visible from a distance.
This allows the vice president and controller for the iconic Milwaukee-based motorcycle manufacturer to honor his two loves simultaneously.
“No matter where I go or where I live and work, I’m always a Hawkeye first,” Glassgow says.
A season ticket holder and regular supporter of the college, Glassgow, who grew up in Davenport in a Hawkeye household, makes the trek from Wisconsin to Iowa for all home football games—missing only when it’s out of his control.
Since March, he also has made two trips back to his alma mater to share his business knowledge and acumen with Tippie administration, faculty, and the student body.
As a member of the School of Management Advisory Council (SOMAC), Glassgow meets to discuss what he’s seeing in business and pass along advice to make the school and students their most competitive and marketable. He also participates in discussions about the best ways to brand the Tippie School of Management to future graduating classes.
In addition, Glassgow has spoken to students in the Finance Career Academy and brought MBA students to Milwaukee for a firsthand view of Harley Davidson’s strategic planning sessions as well as the company’s outreach to a younger demographic.
It’s his way of not only giving back to the University of Iowa but also to the future of business.
“I’ve come to campus twice—first in March to get up to speed on the SOMAC mission and goals and again in September to answer a series of questions on whether or not the college’s curriculum is robust enough,” says Glassgow, who earned his MBA from Northwestern University while living and working in Chicago.
“It’s a great opportunity to do something for the university that gave me so much and still does. There was never any question about participating when I was asked. I was excited to help.”
Glassgow’s career path to his current post at Harley-Davidson Inc. began shortly after he finished at Iowa. He accepted an accounting position with Arthur Young (now Ernst & Young) in Chicago in 1986 and worked there as a public accountant until moving onto ITEL Corporation, holding various positions.
After leaving ITEL, he took some time off before getting the call that would create the path for the next phase of his professional life.
“I was enjoying a Cubs game at Wrigley Field in 1992 when I got the call to come work for Harley-Davidson,” Glassgow says. “It’s been a tremendous adventure the entire time. Lots of late nights and weekends, but it’s a terrific company that values and rewards its employees for hard work.”
He joined the company as a senior financial analyst at Harley-Davidson Financial Services (HDFS), served as vice president of finance and treasurer of HDFS, and was a member of the HDFS executive leadership team. Glassgow held various positions while at HDFS, including vice president of strategic planning, controller, and treasurer.
Before moving into his current role of vice president and controller of HDI in January 2010, Glassgow served as vice president and treasurer of HDI, where he was responsible for all treasury, cash management, and capital market activities. He also served as the interim president of HDFS from May to July 2009. These days, Glassgow is responsible for the financial planning, financial reporting, and analysis and cost management of the company.
And while he splits time between Milwaukee (weekdays) and Chicago (weekends), Glassgow says he feels most at home whenever he returns to the University of Iowa campus.
“It’s almost been 30 years since I started school at Iowa, and the campus has changed significantly since then, but there is always the same familiarity and comfortability that never goes away whenever I visit,” Glassgow says.
“Now, getting the opportunity to interact with the faculty and students at Tippie—even though I had class in a different building (Phillips Hall) when I was a student—brings all of those memories of my time in Iowa City back each visit. It’s a very reassuring feeling.”
Even though he owns Harley Street Glide and Fat Boy bikes and tries to ride whenever he can—attending Laconia Motorcycle Week in Laconia, N.H., and Bike Week in Daytona, Fla.—Glassgow admits he didn’t grow up a big Harley fan. That came later after working with the company.
He says he still hopes to eventually take some time off in the future (he didn’t get to ride much this past summer) and venture up to Sturgis, S.Dak., for the annual motorcycle event that swells the small town from 6,000 to over 100,000 each August.
In the meantime, Glassgow, who helped lead the company through the recession and near stoppage of bank lending over the past couple of years, is focused on continuing to make the company financially strong and marketable to a growing, changing audience.
He intends to do the same for the University of Iowa and the Tippie College of Business, which gave him the business foundation that has helped get him where he is today.
“Perry sees his interaction with the Tippie School of Management and the students as an opportunity to pay it forward,” says Cathy Zaharis, business director of the MBA Finance Career Academy in the Tippie School of Management, who recruited Glassgow to participate in SOMAC and campus lectures.
“He truly enjoys interacting with the students every time he comes back to campus, and the students also get a lot out of the visits with Perry and other business leaders. They are able to hear first-person perspectives not only about what’s happening in business but what business leaders are looking for in future graduates. It's a win-win all the way around.”