Donald (Don) J. Schneider, chairman emeritus and former president & CEO of Schneider National, died this morning after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s disease, the company announced. He was 76.
Schneider began working at Schneider National in the early 1950s while in high school, first as a mechanic’s helper and then as a truck driver. He used his job with the company founded by his father Al Schneider to pay for his college education at St. Norbert College in De Pere, WI.
Upon his graduation from college, Don Schneider married his wife, Patricia in 1957, before serving a 13-month military tour of duty in Korea. After military service, he enrolled at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, where he would earn his Master’s Degree.
Returning to Green Bay in 1961, Don Schneider rejoined his father’s trucking company as a manager while also teaching finance at St. Norbert College. In 1975, Don Schneider officially became president of Schneider, which at the time was an $82 million company.
“The transportation and logistics industry has lost one of its most passionate and influential voices,” said Bill Graves, president & CEO of the American Trucking Assns. “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.”
After 25 years at the helm of Schneider National, Don Schneider retired from day-to-day responsibilities in 2002, although he remained chairman of the board until 2007.
Chris Lofgren succeeded Don Schneider as president & CEO.
“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.”
During his tenure, Don Schneider proved to be something of a visionary. Schneider grew as a company throughout the early 1980s as the industry adjusted to deregulation. The company was also the first to adopt satellite-based communications and positioning in its trucks.
In 1993, Schneider Logistics was born, offering customers supply chain management and control. Don Schneider also founded Schneider Communications, a regional telecommunications company, in 1982.
“Don thought of himself as a regular guy and always wanted to stay in touch with the drivers,” said Julius Borley, a 60-year employee of Schneider. “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.”
Outside of work, Don Schneider gave of himself to local organizations, from academic, to industry, to community. 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,” said 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.
In addition, Schneider 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.
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.