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Rising to the Top: Theresa Bresten MSF ’87
This article originally appeared in the Bentley Magazine.
Theresa Bresten developed a taste for challenge early on. “My parents stressed the importance of learning new things,” says the Master of Science in Finance alumna. “I was taught that I shouldn’t limit myself.”
That nourishing lesson in self-confidence has helped take Bresten to the upper reaches of corporate America, most recently, as vice president and treasurer for HP Hood LLC.
“I have the opportunity to provide leadership when it comes to making business decisions on a multitude of issues,” says the Missouri native. “And I love that no two days are the same.”
Bresten joined Lynnfield, Mass.-based Hood in 1986, after auditing positions at Coca-Cola Bottling of New York and General Cinema Corporation. She was drawn by the dairy giant’s reputation for using internal audit as a management training ground.
“Most of the senior financial executives had come up through the internal audit ranks, including the controller, treasurer and CFO,” she says. “Hood offered an opportunity for eventually expanding my role within the organization.”
Indeed, over the next 10 years, Bresten moved from internal audit to accounting to finance.
“I’ve seen the company through centralization projects, decentralization projects, acquisitions, divestitures, expansion, contraction, and several different ownership scenarios,” she says of her 25-year tenure. Her current role at the 165-year-old company involves overseeing the full range of finance-related matters: tax compliance, risk management, lender relationships, employee retirement savings plans, external reporting and leasing, to name a few.
Soaking Up Expertise
Early in her career at Hood, Bresten enrolled in Bentley’s Master of Science in Finance (MSF) program to top off her credentials.
“Since I was progressing in my career at the same time, I was able to apply what I was learning at Bentley on the job,” she recalls. “It made me even more invested in the program.”
But there was no denying that school, career and family presented a full cup of responsibilities.
“At work and at home, I was a perfectionist,” admits Bresten, who raised a daughter and son. “I needed to learn how to be realistic, flexible and adaptable.”
Over the years, her ability to prioritize and delegate has made room for other meaningful challenges. One current commitment is serving as treasurer of the board for Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries, which provides job training for individuals with disabilities and other barriers to self-sufficiency.
Career success notwithstanding, the Hood executive does not brand herself a pioneer. She approaches the topic of gender in the workplace with pragmatic candor.
“Most women will have to deal with issues of the double standard or sexual harassment in some form or another,” she says. “It’s important to face issues head on and establish boundaries, and don’t back down. We all build on experiences and they make us stronger.”
Bresten’s own experience suggests another quality not to be undersold: patience.
“Career success can be gradual. For me, it has meant building a knowledge base and technical expertise over time. I am continually looking for opportunities to challenge myself and further my skills.”
Alison Davis-Blake, the former business school dean at the Universities of Michigan and Minnesota, was inaugurated as the eighth president of Bentley University in a ceremony attended by students, faculty, staff, alumni and other members of the extended Bentley community.