Gap CFO Sabrina Simmons, BS 85, to Give Undergrad Commencement Speech

Gap CFO Sabrina Simmons, BS 85, is returning to her alma mater May 19 to speak at the commencement of the Haas School’s undergraduate class of 2010.

The undergraduate commencement will begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday, May 19, in the Greek Theatre.

“Sabrina Simmons continues our tradition of particularly distinguished alums returning to speak to our graduates,” says Dean Rich Lyons. “We are proud of her successful career in finance and look forward to her inspiring address to our undergraduate class of 2010.”

As CFO, Simmons oversees all global financial departments for Gap Inc., which includes five brands: Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Piperlime, and recently acquired Athleta. The company is one of the world’s largest specialty retailers, with $14.2 billion in sales in fiscal 2009 and about 3,100 stores in North America, Europe, and Japan. The company also recently announced plans to open stores in Italy and China, and to sell online in Canada and Europe.

Simmons joined Gap as treasurer on Sept. 4, 2001 — a dark period for the country and the company. After shoring up the balance sheet, company leaders vowed to never again rely on capital markets, says Simmons, who became CFO in January 2008. That fiscal discipline has helped Gap return profits even as sales drop.

“Nobody is coming through this recession unscathed, but it feels great to sleep at night knowing our balance sheet is rock solid,” Simmons said in an CalBusiness article in Winter 2009. Gap ended 2009 with $2.6 billion in cash and grew earnings 14 percent for the year.

Simmons, who grew up in Marin County, came to Berkeley as an undergraduate with a prestigious Regents Scholarship and attended business classes in Barrows Hall. After earning an MBA at UCLA, she landed in corporate accounting at Hewlett-Packard and then at USL Capital, a Ford subsidiary.

Simmons went on to become assistant treasurer at Levi Strauss & Co., where she spent several years before taking the CFO post at British genetics company Sygen International. But she missed the apparel business, and jumped at an opening in the treasurer seat at Gap, which was co-founded by another Haas School alumnus, the late Don Fisher, BS 50.

Read a transcript of the commencement address >