Peter Jennings (’85), president of Dow Japan, serves as unofficial ambassador in Asia
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Office of Communications and Public Relations
February 25, 2013
If you should be on the the streets of Tokyo and see a man walking around in a Wake Forest University sweatshirt, there’s a good chance that’s Peter Jennings.
Jennings (’85) is Wake Forest’s unofficial ambassador in Japan where he serves as president of Dow Japan and associate general counsel – a job he describes as being somewhat ambassadorial as well.
“Anything that has the Dow diamond on it and relates to Japan is my job,” he said.
Jennings is a familiar face at Dow events, whether it’s a golf outing, party or community event sponsored by Dow. He is the only American that Dow has in Japan, so he feels a responsibility to represent Dow and U.S. business practices well.
Plunging into other cultures and embracing the experiences he finds there, takes a certain amount of confidence – a trait Jennings said he learned at the School of Law.
He arrived at Wake Forest with a degree in English from Albion College, and describes law school as more fun than his undergraduate years. His daughter, Gretchen, graduated from Wake Forest University in 2010 and his son, Spencer, is a senior, and a member of the Men’s Basketball Team for the past three seasons.
Wake Forest gave Jennings plenty of role models who taught him a lesson he has found useful in his travels around the globe.
“I think you can be an extremely successful, tough lawyer, but you can also be a gentle man or gentle woman,” he said, “and act in a professional manner.”
Even though he did not make the Law Review, Professor Suzanne Reynolds tapped Jennings to write for the publication because she admired the columns he wrote for the School of Law newspaper.
“When I left Wake Forest, I felt very confident that I’d gotten a great education,” he said, “but I also had a well-rounded perspective about life. I got a lot of encouragement from my professors who were always saying, ‘Why don’t you do that?’”
He also benefited from the excellent camaraderie and collegial learning environment at Wake Forest law school where he forged bonds of great friendships that have continued to this day. Although the law school curriculum was challenging, he was able to enjoy the personal interactions with classmates and professors as well as experiencing many outstanding opportunities that are unique to Wake Forest and make it such an exceptional university.
A summer clerkship at Dow Chemical during the summer of 1984, led to a full-time job offer after Jennings graduated. He began as an attorney in Michigan operations and moved onto Houston a few years later. In 1998, he became counsel for Dow Pacific, which is based in Hong Kong. He stayed in Hong Kong for six years and indulged his love of travel.
“It was pretty neat to say, ‘Next week I’ll be in Sydney, Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok,” he said.
His various moves have given him an opportunity to learn a lot about litigation and international law as well as manufacturing, environmental compliance and human resources.
His long experience with Dow allows him to help Japanese managers get things done within the company, and he takes a special interest in helping women and younger people advance their careers.
There is often no blueprint for Jennings to follow. Japanese culture, with its centuries of tradition, can be hard for outsiders to comprehend. He relies on his enthusiasm to carry him, just as it did in law school.
“Every single day is an adventure, just getting to work and talking to people,” he said. “You can’t take yourself so seriously. I make one hundred mistakes a day.”