Jim Sinegal

Jim Sinegal

Next time you go shopping at Costco, you can thank San Diego City College graduate Jim Sinegal.

Sinegal, who co-founded Costco Wholesale Corp. with business partner Jeff Brotman in 1983, says his days at San Diego City College played an instrumental role in shaping his future.

“I can truly say that attending San Diego Community College, it was called San Diego Junior College in 1953, was a life changing experience for me,” Sinegal said. “I was 17 years old and just graduated from high school, and education had become a low priority in my life for my last two years in high school. The state university system strongly recommended I attend junior college for a semester to determine if I really wanted a college education. I loved the (community college) system and enjoyed it so much that I once again became engaged in learning and stayed for four semesters before transferring to San Diego State University.

“There is no question that I would never have succeeded in business if that experience had not been available.”

Sinegal started working as a bagger at FedMart in 1954 while attending San Diego City College and worked his way up to executive vice president in charge of merchandising and operations. He was a vice president of merchandising for Builders Emporium from 1977 to 1978 and executive vice president for the Price Company from 1978 to 1979. From 1979 to 1983, he worked with Sinegal/Chamberlain and Associates, a company that acted as a broker and sales representative for food and non-food products.

Sinegal's innovations made Costco the first warehouse club to include fresh food, eye-care clinics, pharmacies and gas stations.

In 1993, Costco merged with Sol Price's Price Club to become PriceCostco. Sol Price left the company in 1994, the company changed its name to Costco Wholesale three years later, and all Price Club locations were rebranded Costco. From 1983 until his December 31, 2011, retirement, Sinegal served as Costco's president and CEO.

City College recently named him a Most Distinguished Alumnus.

"I've never been told I'm a most distinguished anything," Sinegal quipped.