Michele Pelletier grew up in Augusta, ME, graduating from Cony High School, 7th in a class of 350. In field hockey, she helped take her team to two state championships. From her education at Bowdoin and then at Thomas, along with her hard work and innovative spirit, she built a successful career right in her own backyard.
Michele had her heart set on staying in Maine and applied early decision to Bowdoin. One day during the application process, she drove her friend Andrew to NorthCenter Foodservice, an Augusta company owned by his father, the late H. Allen Ryan H’08, who also served tirelessly as a Thomas trustee until his passing last year. At that time, Andrew wanted to borrow $20 from his dad. During the conversation, Michele asked Allen if there was an opportunity for her to apply for a summer job at NorthCenter. Allen was always interested in kids and their education and immediately started asking her questions about college and her future career plans. Happy that Michele was applying to his alma mater, he offered to write her a letter of recommendation and proposed she start her new job at NorthCenter on Monday, to which she gladly agreed. In Michele’s words, “That single conversation set the stage for my future career.”
After working in NorthCenter’s accounting department during the summer of 1990, she changed her major from pre-med to economics, with a minor in mathematics. Throughout her time at Bowdoin, she continued to work summers and school breaks, truly enjoying the people and the work.
After graduating, she worked at KPMG, a national accounting firm. Its Portland branch became Baker, Newman and Noyes, where Michele worked for five years. She passed her CPA exam and for two years spent nights working towards her master’s degree in taxation from Thomas – both crowning achievements in the financial world. “The program was offered in Portland,” Michele recalls, “and it was the right program at the right time in the right place.”
Missing central Maine and NorthCenter, she returned in 1999 to work for then Vice President of Administration and Finance David Crowell. Timing was everything, as Michele was the perfect person to support the biggest event in the company’s history: NorthCenter’s sale to Performance Food Group (PFG), based out of Richmond, VA. Michele’s foodservice and tax law expertise were critical in the successful transition.
In the accounting department, she worked for then CFO Dorcas Benner Riley, another Thomas trustee. With Dorcas’s exceptional accounting knowledge and Michele’s tax and foodservice experience, they brought many best practices to PFG.
In 2004, Vice President of Operations Tim Holt was promoted to Regional VP of Operations. Michele applied and was hired for the vacant position, making several operational innovations. In 2006, the VP of Purchasing and Marketing was promoted, and Michele was asked to step into the job. In 2014, the VP of Sales took a position in PFG’s West Coast operation; Michele was again tapped to take over the responsibilities. She ran both sales and purchasing until a VP of Purchasing was hired.
In 2018, the President of PFG NorthCenter Greg Piper – a former Thomas trustee – met with Michele. “I have some good news; you are now president of PFG NorthCenter.” Greg went on to serve as a Regional President for PFG until his retirement in the fall of 2019.
Michele attributes her success to the people who supported her every step of the way: the late H. Allen Ryan, the late Dave Crowell, Dorcas Riley, Tim Holt, Greg Piper, and the company’s wonderful employees.
Her advice to others is simple: “You have to love your business. Loving your work makes it easy and fulfilling.”
*This story was originally published in the Fall 2020 Thomas Magazine & Annual Report.