Humboldt State University

People on the Ground: Alumni Profiles

Michael Crooke, Ph.D.

He's led some of the world's foremost outdoor equipment companies and taken his education to the heights of academia, earning a Ph.D. in management from the esteemed Claremont Graduate University.

Michael Crooke ('86, '89) has spent much of his professional career working with nature. As a forestry major and business graduate student at Humboldt State, he tried to grasp why logging companies were developing harvest plans that seemed too rapacious to be ecologically sound.

"I wanted to understand why Pacific Lumber Company went from doing beautiful forest management and land stewardship to doing clear cuts and I wanted to understand that from a financial point of view. After I got my M.B.A. I still don't know why they did it," Crooke says.

After earning his business degree, the Oregon native was set to enter the high-tech field but instead capitalized on opportunities to work for outfitters such as Pearl Izumi and Kelty. Later, as CEO of the outdoor clothing manufacturer Patagonia, Inc., Crooke was able to help the brand cement its niche as a leading provider of environmentally conscious clothing and accessories.

But it was before Crooke entered the business world that he was first exposed to the idea that would become the guiding principle in his doctoral work at Claremont. As an elite member of the U.S. Navy SEALS, Crook proved he could run with the military's best. He also discovered that the high stress moments he and his team would experience created what has come to be called "flow," or the state one enters when the stakes are high and the team's sole focus becomes so clear that time seems to stand still.

"When you have those congruencies of values and people are all working toward the same goal, much like on a SEAL team, you have a high level of integration and they reach a 'flow' state and you obtain a high level of creative output."

For Crooke, working toward a state of flow became a mandate in his professional life.

"A lot of organizations I've gone into as CEO weren't necessarily high performing organizations, I made it a priority to seek out those values and manifested them in the strategic plans of those organizations.

"If you don't compromise your values, no matter what you do when you go out, you'll be successful and happy and I'm living proof of it. Many of our values come from our surroundings and mentors and parents as we grow up, and HSU is a place where I was able to put together all the pieces."