Northwestern University Evans Scholars and local caddies talk leadership with BMW exec during BMW Championship

“Leadership is not a position. It’s an attitude.”

Those are the words of wisdom from the highest ranking female executive at BMW, Ilka Horstmeier, while visiting Northwestern University this weekend. Golf Channel’s Hailey Hunter moderated the fireside chat in Evanston about professional development and how to take advantage of your time at college heading into the new school year.

Meeting about 50 Evans Scholars recipients in Evanston on Saturday, Horstmeier flew from Germany to Chicago for the PGA’s BMW Championship tournament. The second-leg of golf’s FedEx Cup playoffs resulted in Viktor Hovland earning the highly coveted $20,000,000 purse and taking the top leaderboard spot. Hovland shot a 61 on Sunday, which is the lowest score ever posted in a FedEx Cup playoff round.

However, it wasn’t just Hovland who considered himself a winner this weekend. Marisa Wielgos, a junior at Northwestern and on the Evans Scholars executive board, said meeting Horstmeier as she transitions into planning her post-grad professional aspirations was invaluable.

“Seeing Ilka and where she is in her position is just absolutely incredible,” Wielgos said. “You don’t see too many women, even now still, that have these high up positions especially in the golf industry and the sports industry in general.”

Horstmeier is a Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG where her responsibilities include human resources, labor relations, and real estate. On a day-to-day basis when she’s not keeping appointments with Chicago collegians, Ilka manages transformation projects focusing on operational excellence, sustainability, and social impact, and encouraging BMW employees globally to become responsible leaders.

Leadership, which the assembled Evans Scholars on August 19 hope to continue to exemplify after getting to go to college for free. The Western Golf Association Evans Scholars Foundation (WGAESF) awards full four-year tuition and housing scholarships to deserving golf caddies who demonstrate exceptional merit, grades and financial need. Allowing more than 12,000 caddies nationwide to go to the college of their choice since 1930 when the scholarship began.

When speaking to WLS-Radio about how meaningful it is to have college paid for thanks to this scholarship, Horstmeier emphasized, “I think it’s very important to them because they couldn’t afford this.”

“Now, it really gives them a good opportunity to shape their life and to make the best out of it,” Horstmeier continued. “To become great leaders in the future.” Since the partnership with the Evans Scholars Foundation in 2007, BMW has donated approximately $45 million dollars to the organization.

Northwestern was the first chapter of Evans Scholars back in 1930. Now, 24 universities are the current homes of Evans Scholars across the country. During the six-year “The Promise Campaign” which ended in 2022, the WGAESF raised more than $371 million dollars through donations, sponsorships, and their biggest fundraising event of the year the PGA’s BMW Championship where all proceeds go to the Evans Scholars Foundation.

“It’s not only a blessing for me because student debt is a big word today, it’s also a blessing for my entire family,” Ryan Lach, Northwestern Evans Scholars chapter president, highlighted. “I read my [scholarship] letter around the table with them surrounding me because it’s not just for me it’s for them.”

“Their hard work as well really made all of this pay off.” Lach, a junior at Northwestern, shared when talking about his time so far on campus. “It’s a fantastic community. I couldn’t see it any other way than with Evans Scholars.”