Feature Story

Tracie Winbigler ’87 Means Business

October 27, 2014 – by Spenser Hickey ’15

Tracie Winbigler ’87 gave the 2014 Robert L. Milligan Leaders in Business lecture on October 23. At OWU, she majored in economics with a management concentration. (Photo by Paul Vernon)

Tracie Winbigler ’87, chief operations officer for the National Geographic Society, connected with students while on campus to deliver a presentation on the evolution of digital media. (Photo by Paul Vernon)

Ohio Wesleyan University professor Bob Gitter never doubted that student Tracie Winbigler would make a name for herself after earning her OWU degree. So when Winbigler ’87 was chosen to give this fall’s Robert L. Milligan Leaders in Business lecture, Gitter was not surprised.

“I knew she was going to be successful, but she really hit a home run,” Gitter said of his former student. Winbigler currently serves as chief operations officer for the National Geographic Society and had prestigious careers at NBC Universal and General Electric Co. before that.

Winbigler credits Gitter with helping to shape her OWU experience, including her decision to pursue an economics major with a management concentration. Further advice from Gitter led Winbigler to pick GE over a career in banking.

“I took some of his great advice over the years, so I highly recommend everybody take advice from Bob Gitter,” she said during her recent campus visit.

At GE, Winbigler rose up the ranks to become executive vice president and chief financial officer of GE Asset Management, overseeing $120 billion in assets. At NBC, she served as chief financial officer and executive vice president, finance, for NBC Universal Television Group and Digital Media.

“I think the well-roundedness of Ohio Wesleyan and the diversity really helps a lot, because it enabled me to have this breadth that I have today, to be able to do different industries (and) go between functional areas,” Winbigler said.

The media transitions that Winbigler has observed while working at these three prestigious companies were the centerpiece of her Leaders in Business lecture, “The Media Industry and the Digital Transition.”

Tracie Winbigler ’87 gave the 2014 Robert L. Milligan Leaders in Business lecture on October 23. At OWU, she majored in economics with a management concentration. (Photo by Paul Vernon)

Winbigler discussed how the Internet and digital technology impact all forms of media – from content creation to distribution and aggregation – and how rising companies such as Netflix, Vice Media, and even Uber and Tesla are affecting traditional industries.

After her October 23 presentation, Winbigler took several lengthy questions from the audience. She also met with economics and journalism students while on campus.

Winbigler’s visit was sponsored by OWU’s Woltemade Center for Economics, Business and Entrepreneurship, founded in 1985 while Winbigler was a student. She is one of the center’s distinguished graduates.

Learn more about Winbigler and the National Geographic Society at www.nationalgeographic.com. Learn more about the Woltemade Center and the Milligan Lecture Series at https://www.owu.edu/academics/departments-programs/department-of-economics/the-woltemade-center/.