Alumnus Profile: John DeAngelis

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By: Miranda Burel ‘17

Big change happens with big ambition. AQ alumnus, John DeAngelis ‘13, is no stranger to working hard and trying to dramatically change America’s energy landscape. He got one step closer when he recently headed a 12-year power purchase agreement between Steelcase and Apex Clean Energy to reduce energy and greenhouse gas emissions by 25% from 2010 levels. 

When DeAngelis was looking at colleges, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. He was interested in business, but he felt like there was something more to be done. He came across Aquinas late in the game, when he searched for a Sustainable Business degree and only AQ came up. Aquinas also flew him up from his hometown in Fairfield, Iowa for the Spectrum Scholarship Competition. After that he was sold. 

DeAngelis began to really enjoy Sustainable Business. The concepts were broad, but the business skills gained were concrete. Starting the summer of his sophomore year, DeAngelis had an internship at Steelcase. He continued to work through his last two years of school as well, covering for a full-time staff member who was on leave. This experience allowed him to bring real-life experience into the classroom and bring what he learned in the classroom back to Steelcase.  

Upon graduating from Aquinas in 2013, DeAngelis was hired at Steelcase. He is the Energy Program Manager, where he manages electricity and natural gas sourcing for Steelcase facilities. He is also responsible for legislative engagement on energy policy in Michigan. 

“I also oversee Steelcase’s global renewable energy portfolio, which annually includes over 200 million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy,” he says, “and work to prioritize capital investments in energy efficiency projects. The skills I developed through the Sustainable Business program have been broadly applicable throughout many of the initiatives I’ve had the opportunity to lead at Steelcase.” 

One such sustainable energy initiative was the 12-year power purchase agreement (PPA) for 25 megawatts of wind power from a wind farm in Oklahoma. This agreement between Apex Clean Energy will soon compensate for 70 percent of Steelcase’s total U.S. electricity usage. By 2020, Steel case wants to reduce its 2010 levels of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent. Steelcase will pay Apex Clean Energy a fixed rate for the energy produced, which is the equivalent of powering 9,100 homes. 

Steelcase is one of the first larger businesses to enact such an initiative, other companies being fortune 500 companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook. The PPA is allowing Steelcase to develop a new model for business which, DeAngelis says, “shows that business can be done in a way that is really profitable while being beneficial to the environment.”

DeAngelis headed the PPA, and as a result earned a spot as one of GreenBiz’s 30 under 30 for 2016. But he was not alone in the process. DeAngelis insists the PPA wouldn’t have been possible without Steelcase’s company wide sustainability initiative. “It’s a testament to the great team we have at Steelcase,” he says. 

He also thanks Aquinas for embedding sustainability into his life. “Aquinas is a great place to help foster this kind of thinking,” he says. The comprehensive educational experience he got at Aquinas--the Sustainable Business program, with its concrete business skills and broad conceptual sustainability ideas, as well as his minor in Communication, allowed him to gain the expertise needed to begin changing the way business is done. 

“Because of AQ and all my other experience, I can lead cross functional teams to get great things accomplished for our company, the environment, and local communities.”