Yale hires new spokesperson

A former Coca-Cola executive will be Yale’s new chief communications officer and special advisor to the president, the University said Tuesday.

Thomas Mattia, formerly senior vice president and director of public affairs and communications for The Coca-Cola Company, has worked in communications for more than 30 years, also managing public relations for Ford, IBM and EDS, a Texas-based technology services company. At Yale, he will manage the Office of Public Affairs, coordinate internal communications across the University and work closely with University President Richard Levin and University Vice President and Secretary Linda Lorimer.

“He was very highly recommended for his strategic thinking and ability to link communications effectively to the agenda of organizations he works for,” Levin said in a phone interview Tuesday night. “In the interview process, he was very thoughtful and insightful about how communications can be effectively used in an organization like ours.”

When Mattia retired from Coca-Cola last March, he received several offers — one from a non-government organization, one from a public relations firm and one from Yale, he said in an interview Tuesday. He said his financial success in previous years allowed him to choose based not on what would be the most lucrative position, but on what he thought would be most rewarding for him.

“I’m truly delighted to be here,” he said. “I think this university is a great institution that should only get better. Helping it grow and survive and thrive is why I came.”

Mattia will succeed Helaine Klasky, who left Yale in July and now runs global public affairs for General Electric.

Mattia has worked on issues of environmental sustainability and stewardship, especially in his role as a member of Coca-Cola’s executive committee from January 2006 to March 2009. He said he looks forward to continuing his work in these fields and others relating to global development while at Yale.

“In a corporate setting, the purpose is the sustainability of a business,” he said. “You hope to improve your business by improving your interaction with society, but the goal is to sell more bottles of Coke, or more Ford trucks.”

At an educational institution like Yale, Mattia explained, people are engaged more directly with the issues they teach about and research, and do not have to look at them as financial ventures.

At the same time, Mattia said he thinks his background in the business world will be an advantage in his new position, especially his experiences forming partnerships and negotiating agreements across the world, in countries ranging from Turkey to Tanzania, on Yale’s behalf.

Mattia began his career as a journalist, working for several daily publications including The Trenton Times in New Jersey. In 1980, he joined IBM, where he worked on the launch the company’s original PC, and managed communications during IBM’s divestiture from South Africa.

Mattia left IBM in 1990 to work with several public relations agencies, including Hill and Knowlton Asia in Hong Kong, and then took a job with the Ford Motor Company in 1995. As head of International Public Affairs at Ford, he worked with the governments of India, China, Russia, Brazil, Argentina and South Africa among others. Afterward he worked as Vice President of Lincoln Mercury. From Ford, Mattia went on to EDS in 2000. He started at Coca-Cola in 2006.

Starting Monday, Mattia will work within the Office of the Secretary, reporting directly to Lorimer.

Correction: Oct. 28, 2009

An earlier version of this article omitted one of the positions Thomas Mattia held at The Coca-Cola Company. Mattia served as the company’s senior vice president, as well as its director of public affairs and communications.

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