Green Bay Native Credited with Transforming Company, Industry Through Innovative Use of Technology and Commitment to Continuous Improvement of Associates
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Jan. 13, 2012 – Donald (Don) J. Schneider, chairman emeritus and former president and CEO of Schneider National, Inc., one of the Green Bay area’s largest employers and one of the nation’s largest truckload carriers, died Jan. 13, 2012 in De Pere, Wis., with his family by his side following a lengthy and courageous battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 76.
Mr. Schneider was born on October 19, 1935, the same year his father, Al (AJ), sold the family car to buy his first truck … a seemingly simple purchase that laid the groundwork for what would become, under Don’s leadership, one of the most successful, recognizable and respected transportation and logistics companies in North America.
"The transportation and logistics industry has lost one of its most passionate and influential voices," said Governor Bill Graves, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations. "Don Schneider was a visionary, bringing business acumen and technology to blaze a trail and set the standard in the modern day development of our industry."
Don started working for the family business while in high school in the early 1950s, first as a mechanic’s helper and then as a truck driver. He continued in this capacity while attending St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wis., in the late 1950s, using the job to fund his college education. To mechanics and drivers he was known as “Donnie,” a term of endearment he earned and one still used affectionately by retired drivers today. To the majority of Schneider National’s shop, driver and office associates, one of the industry’s most accomplished icons was simply known as “Don,” a man just as likely as they were to wear blue jeans, a denim shirt and cowboy boots to work.
Julius Borley has been working for Schneider National for more than 60 years and remembers Don’s down-to-earth style. “Don thought of himself as a regular guy and always wanted to stay in touch with the drivers. When I stopped driving and became a company tour guide, he always asked us to bring the drivers to his office during the tour. Don’s door was always open. He wanted to meet the guys behind the wheel to let them know how much he respected how hard they worked and to thank them for working for Schneider. That’s the kind of man he was.”
Schneider graduated from St. Norbert College with an undergraduate degree in business and married his wife, Patricia (Pat) O’Brien, in 1957. After serving a 13-month military tour of duty in Korea, Schneider returned to the United States and enrolled in graduate school at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Upon earning his master’s degree from Wharton, he returned to the Green Bay area in 1961 to join his father’s trucking company as a manager. He also taught finance at his alma mater, St. Norbert College, during this time. In 1976 Don officially became president of the then $82 million company. His father, Al, passed away in March of 1983.
Schneider led the organization bearing his family’s name for more than 25 years. During that time, the company grew, survived and thrived during some of the modern trucking industry’s greatest challenges, including deregulation in the early 1980s. Schneider brought both business savvy and a keen ability to anticipate customer needs to the business, as well as a steadfast belief that with innovation, hard work and the commitment to excellence of associates, anything was possible. Through the years, Don was responsible for creating thousands of jobs and providing a livelihood for many.
Don’s commitment to technological innovation was instrumental to the company’s success. Schneider National was the first in the industry to adopt satellite-based communications and positioning in its trucks. Don’s vision extended beyond trucking as Schneider was a pioneer in providing intermodal and logistics services. In 1993 Schneider founded Schneider Logistics as a wholly owned subsidiary of Schneider National. Today Schneider Logistics is a leading solutions provider, enabling customers to effectively manage the flow of materials, funds and information throughout their supply chains. His vision and talent extended beyond the transportation industry as he formed Schneider Communications, a regional telecommunications company, in 1982.
Schneider retired from the day-to-day responsibilities in 2002, selecting then chief operating officer Chris Lofgren to succeed him as president and CEO. Don continued on as chairman of the board for the privately held firm until 2007 when he reached the board’s mandatory retirement age.
“Don Schneider was one of the finest individuals I have ever known,” said Lofgren. “He was true to his convictions and committed to his values. I will be forever grateful that I had the opportunity to work for and be mentored by Don. He entrusted our management team to continue his vision of providing exceptional transportation and logistics services at a fair price, while enhancing the standard of living worldwide. Our Schneider National family of associates shares our deepest sympathies with his wife, Pat, and the entire Schneider family during this sad time.”
Schneider shared his time and talents with a wide range of academic, industry, business and community organizations. Most notably, he served as chairman of the Business Advisory Committee for Northwestern University’s Transportation Center, was a member of the Advisory Board for the Kellogg Graduate School of Management, was a director on the Federal Reserve Board in Chicago and served on the Board of Directors at Fort Howard Paper Company and Franklin Electric. He was also a member of the Board and Executive Committee of the Green Bay Packers and sat on the Board of Trustees for St. Norbert College.
“Don was a very valuable member of the Packers executive committee for over 20 years. His business skills were extraordinary. He was a great sounding board for me, and I relied on his advice on numerous occasions,” noted Bob Harlan, chairman emeritus of the Packers. “Don also had a tremendous passion for the Packers and was as enthusiastic as any fan we have on game day,” Harlan added.
Schneider was also an active philanthropist in the Green Bay area, having chaired the capital campaign for Notre Dame Academy, the annual campaign for United Way of Brown County and provided the lead gift for the St. Norbert College athletic complex – Donald J. Schneider Outdoor Athletic Complex – in 2008. In 1982 Schneider founded the company’s charitable arm, the Schneider National Foundation, to bring about positive change in the communities where his associates live and work. The foundation has donated millions of dollars and thousands of volunteer hours to charities in need since its founding.
According to long-time fellow associate and personal friend, Wayne Lubner, Don spoke often of the importance of building a company that was “built to last.” At the very heart of this philosophy was Don’s steadfast commitment to the core values of safety, integrity, respect and excellence. These core values guided many of the decisions Don made for Schneider National and are still the decision-making bedrocks used by thousands of associates today. “Don’s strength of character and instinctive leadership have been felt well beyond the transportation and logistics field,” Lubner reflected. “His competitive spirit, persistence and drive in everything he did made him such a remarkable leader and incredible man.”
Schneider is survived by his wife of 53 years, Pat, five children, 13 grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and 18,222 members of his Schneider National family around the world.
About Schneider National, Inc.
Schneider National, Inc. is a premier provider of truckload, logistics and intermodal services. Serving more than two-thirds of the FORTUNE 500 companies, Schneider National offers the broadest portfolio of services in the industry. The company’s transportation and logistics solutions include Van Truckload, Dedicated, Regional, Bulk, Intermodal, Transportation Management, Supply Chain Management, Warehousing and International Logistics services.
Headquartered in Green Bay, Wis., Schneider National has provided expert transportation and logistics solutions for 75 years. A $3.1 billion company, Schneider National conducts business worldwide. For more information about Schneider National, visit www.schneider.com.