Roe McFarlane


Roe J. McFarlane currently serves as the President & GM of The Follett Higher Education Group in Chicago - The nation’s largest online & on campus retail solution provider, and digital marketer to over 1200 campuses and 1800 online properties within the USA & CANADA.

Serving over 52% of America’s students, Follett Corporation is a $3.4B private family-owned company, and has been a trusted partner to K-12 school districts, colleges, and university campuses for more than 140 years, taking care of the critical details that make it easier for schools to run, teachers to teach, students to learn, and fans to celebrate.

The Follett Higher Education Group (FHEG) operates over 1200 on and off campus retail locations, and is the nation’s largest provider of e-commerce operations, academic technologies, marketing services, fulfillment and merchandising services to over 1800 eCommerce websites offering multi-branded merchandise that delivers 360 degrees of the student experience.  Ranked #92 on the Internet Retailer 500, Follett Higher Education is a leader in offering online athletic & fan apparel, digital course materials, and a wide array of customized / emblematic general merchandise.

Reporting to CEO of Follett Higher Education Group, and member of the corporate executive board, Roe is responsible for the $1.8B P&L that drives over $500M in online & digital product revenues.  His responsibilities include retail e-commerce solutions, omni-channel marketing, digital academic tools & programs, online & In-store merchandising, analytics, customer experience, product application development, and divisional strategic planning.  In 2018 Roe was selected to keynote IBM Think in Las Vegas to discuss investment in digital disruption (Video).

As Follett’s former EVP & Chief Digital Product & Marketing Officer, Roe led the performance marketing teams to deliver multi-channel marketing programs via mobile, social, SEO/SEM, retargeting, comparison shopping engines, e-mail, brand partnerships, and in-store experiences.  Under his leadership his ream developed a sophisticated digital delivery platform, and grew from dollar zero – a $100M disruptive academic program live on over 250 Follett campuses that includes student course materials with tuition, so 100% students have materials on or before the first day of class, which drives increased success rates, completion times, and less withdrawals.

As a respected speaker & presenter with more than 17 years of extensive international business, product management and marketing experience relating to developing, marketing, and managing digital businesses for both enterprise and consumer software, he has played integral roles in over 20 technology acquisitions within the digital graphics, multi-channel marketing, content management, retail, and premedia software space.  Leveraging his software product management & marketing experience, Roe has managed IT development and business teams delivering both B2B & B2C digital products, executed international product launches & marketing campaigns, lead user experience & design teams, and managed acquisition strategies for both public & private enterprises.

Prior to joining Follett, Roe was SVP of Product Innovation and Customer Experience at Redbox Entertainment in Chicago, where he managed a team responsible for user experience and design, project management office (PMO), digital payments & loyalty programs across all consumer channels (web, mobile, kiosks, API platform, and campaign management). Roe's teams supported 60,000 locations across the U.S. and Canada, generating more than 65 million transactions per month.

Prior to Redbox, Roe was Vice-President of Product Management and Innovation at RR Donnelley in Chicago where he was instrumental in growing the company's digital service offerings to their Fortune 500 customer base in the areas of digital asset management, commercial photography, outsourced design, and multi-media channel management.

During his tenure at RR Donnelley, he built and scaled product management & development teams, which played leading roles in the company's digital acquisitions, and and was responsible for all aspects of product integration and strategy.  Foundational work performed led to the spinoff of this division in 2016.

In earlier years, Roe worked in Ottawa, Canada at Corel Corporation with global product management responsibility for their Office Productivity Toolset and digital artistry tools localized in over 10 languages and 20 countries.


Prior to his digital business roles, he worked in the Canadian higher education segment developing international student recruitment strategies for Asia, Europe, and the Middle-East.  He also championed and led a project to establish several Chinese-Canadian high schools throughout China, which facilitates international exchanges for Canadian teachers.

As an advocate for disruption and change with the nation’s higher education system, he represents Follett’s equity investment in Lumen Learning as a Board Director.  Lumen Learning is an innovator in offering highly affordable Digital OER (Open Education Resources) courseware solutions that dive student retention, access, and success on college campuses.

Roe holds an MBA in International Business and Marketing from the University of New Brunswick (Fredericton), Canada, and a BA in Political Science and Psychology from St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, Canada.  He moved to the United States 15 years ago, and is both a Canadian & American citizen.  He, and his wife Chantal, live in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood, and have two children.






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