Paula George Tompkins, a 1974 Marshall University alumna and CEO & founder of the digital marketing and sales firm ChannelNet, will deliver the commencement address to undergraduates Saturday, May 9, at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in downtown Huntington.
The ceremony, the first of two on the day, begins at 9 a.m. A ceremony for those students receiving advanced degrees starts at 2 p.m. at the arena.
Tompkins, who earned a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree from Marshall, grew up in Huntington and graduated from Huntington High School in 1970. She has titled her speech, “Life is a Journey,” and plans to talk in part about how “a country girl” from Huntington was driven to start her own company.
“My goal is to tell them about my life’s journey, so when they walk through those doors to the world that awaits them, they will understand that their adult life is indeed a journey and one over which they need to assume control,” she said.
Interim President Gary G. White said he is thrilled that Tompkins has agreed to speak with the students and guests attending Marshall’s 178th commencement.
“Paula has a very special story to tell,” White said. “She is living proof that it doesn’t matter where you come from or what your background is, if you have a college degree and the desire to succeed in the world, you CAN do it. Paula certainly did it. I am looking forward to hearing her tell us how.”
After graduating from Marshall in 1974, Tompkins left Huntington and started her career as a commercial banker in 1974 with a stint on Wall Street at the Bank of New York. After leaving Wall Street in 1975, she went on to break gender barriers at both 3M and General Electric industrial sales divisions as a sales engineer. At GE, she sold computer components to Silicon Valley companies.
In 1985, she founded The SoftAd Group, which was renamed ChannelNet in 2004. She is an acknowledged pioneer in using personal technology to facilitate multichannel digital marketing and sales. In the past 30 years, she has helped hundreds of the world’s leading companies use technology to sell their products and build customer relationships, with a client list that includes Toyota, Harley Davidson and Benjamin Moore Paints, as well as Hunter Douglas, BMW and Ally Bank.
Tomkins also is an inventor, holding two U.S. patents for ChannelNet’s SiteBuilder internet software platform.
Under her guidance, ChannelNet received the 2010 Outstanding Achievement in Internet Advertising Award in the category Best Home Building Website.
As an expert in using technology to improve marketing and sales processes, Tompkins is a much sought-after resource for journalists and authors, and as a conference panelist and keynote speaker.
In her “spare” time, she actively works to promote Marshall’s programs, having served on the university’s foundation board of directors for 12 years.
In 2014, Marshall University’s Yeager Leadership Institute presented Tompkins with the second annual William E. Willis Leadership Award for her exemplary leadership in three areas–learning, guidance and honor.