GARY L. Thoe

Chairman of the Board (retired) ThyssenKrupp Waupaca Foundry Inc. Waupaca, WI

Gary L. Thoe displays the Peter L. Simpson Gold Medal awarded to him earlier this year by the American Foundry Society. (Photo by courtesy of AFS.)

Since 1992, FOUNDRY Management & Technology has been recognizing men and women who have made significant contributions to the metalcasting

industry, in order to honor those achievements and to encourage others to follow their examples. It began as a commemorative effort for our own centennial celebration, but it has become an annual highlight of our publication and a tradition we're privileged to uphold.

This year, we are pleased to recognize a man who not only gave a lifetime of commitment to his own company, specifically, but has worked throughout the industry to help metalcasters become more competitive in the global economy. He helped to guide his foundry's growth from four to six production plants, steadily increasing the level of its performance as it expanded its capacity and capabilities, and established itself as a world leader in gray- and ductile-iron casting production.

As one admirer explains, "He has always been an inspirational leader for all who worked for him, as well as those of us working on the vendor side of the foundry industry."

We are not the first to recognize the accomplishments and contributions of Gary L. Thoe. Before he was named this year's Hall of Honor inductee, he was awarded the American Foundry Society's 2007 Peter L. Simpson Gold Medal for his "outstanding contributions in promoting public esteem or service which reflects credit on the metalcasting industry."

More specifically, Gary Thoe was recognized for being a "unique individual among foundry leaders. His contributions go far beyond pioneering and perfecting the use of new processes and equipment throughout the years. He was a visionary in making the casting business profitable and the foundry a desirable place to work. He had a passion to please the customer, to provide the best possible casting, regardless of the time and effort involved. His greatest joy was to inspire every employee to be his best and contribute the most he could."

Gary Thoe is also an uncommon foundryman in the current age, in that his entire metalcasting career has been grounded in one company. He started out there as an enthusiastic 17-year-old grinder, and later moved on to become a squeezer molder. "I joined Waupaca Foundry in September 1955, one of 20 employees," Gary reminisces.

"Capital was extremely limited for Waupaca Foundry," he recalls. "In fact, Don Brunner (the company's former owner) built our first end-loader out of an old truck. And, our first forklift was built from scratch." Despite a modest start, Waupaca grew to produce 10 tons of castings per day by 1957.

Thoe laughs when he remembers the "good old days." "Sand testing? We threw sand at the cement block wall. If it stuck, it was OK. If the molders didn't like the sand, they took a fist full and threw it at the muller man!"

By 1964, Gary had become assistant superintendent, and in 1968 he took on the responsibility of superintendent for the company's Plant No. 1. By 1973, he had become manager of manufacturing for all Waupaca facilities.

In 1979, Gary attended Harvard Business School. "You will be much more successful providing higher education to an employee who is presently a foundry person, and eager to earn an M.B.A., rather than hire an M.B.A. and ask him or her to learn the foundry business from the bottom up. I would like to think that I am an example of this," he affirms.

In 1988, Gary became president and chief operating officer of Waupaca, and in 1997 he became president and chief executive officer. In October 2004, he was named chairman of the board of the company, by then known as ThyssenKrupp Waupaca Inc.

Beyond his career at Waupaca, Gary served on the American Foundry Society's National Board of Directors from 1999-2003, and also as president of the Northeast Wisconsin Chapter of AFS.

By the time Gary stepped down from full-time management of ThyssenKrupp Waupaca in October 2005, after working with the company for 50 years, it had grown to 3,570 employees, and was producing 9,000 tons/day, generating $1.2 billion annually in sales. He now works as a consultant for Waupaca, as well as for Intat Precision Inc., Rushville, IN.

Since his retirement, Gary has kept busy by heading up a fund-raising effort to build a 24-unit assisted living facility, Living Oaks, in Iola, WI, where he attended high school. The new facility will open later this year, on October 1. He also continues to speak to many foundry organizations, to deliver a message about what foundries need to do to become more successful in a global economy.

What is the most important element of success? "People," Gary confirms. "It is critical to maintain a highly motivated work force. We survived some very lean times but we continued employee benefits, even though in 1980 we worked some plants four days, 10-hour days, every other week in some plants. We never had a shortage of labor. We had thousands of applications on file. Our employees never found it necessary to be represented by a union."

Most of all, however, Gary is enjoying his retirement by spending time planting and caring for his tree farm, also in Iola, and traveling and golfing with his wife Eileen. He gives first credit to Eileen for their private accomplishments — raising their seven children — but says she has been instrumental in his professional success.

Hall of Honor

Gary L. Thoe

Chairman of the Board (retired), TK Waupaca Foundry.
Hall of Honor Inductees

BERNARD N. AMES

* E. WILLIAM AYLWARD SR.

PAUL L. BARKER, JR.

DWIGHT J. BARNHARD

* XARIFA BEAN

* GEORGE N. BOOTH

*W. SCOTT BROWN

* DONALD G. BRUNNER

PAUL CAREY

SAMUEL CLOW

* EDWARD H. COOLEY

*A. STUBBS DAVIS

* HERMAN H. DOEHLER

* ROBERT W. ECK

* MURVIN ENDERS

* WILLIAM E. GEPHARDT JR.

* WILLIAM J. GREDE

* JOSEPH W. HARRISON

DARYL F. HOYT

LOUIS IANNETTONI

BURLEIGH E. JACOBS

* EARL W. JAHN

LYLE R. JENKINS

* GREG J. KEDROSKY

EZRA L. KOTZIN

LAWRENCE S. KRUEGER

* MAX KUNIANSKY

* KARL L. LANDGREBE

* WALTER O. LARSON, JR.

CARL R. LOPER, JR.

* GEORGE W. MATHEWS, JR.

PAuL H. MIKKOLA

* KEITH D. MILLIS

JACK R. MOORE

HENRY M. ROWAN

* FRANCIS SCHUMANN

HUGH M. SIMS JR.

* GLENN W. STAHL

* VICKIE VAN STEENBERGE

* PARKER A. STROOM

JOHN A. WAGNER SR.

JOHN F. WALLACE

R. CONNER WARREN

* RAY H. WITT

1992 CHARTER INDUCTEE* DECEASED