Kendrick Melrose, the former chairman and chief executive of the Toro Co. who died in May, is being honored with a $3 million endowment at the University of St. Thomas.
The Toro Co. and the Hoffman Family Foundation established a four-year gift commitment that will rename the school’s Center for Ethics in Practice at the Opus College of Business to Melrose & The Toro Company Center for Principled Leadership.
Melrose, who rescued Bloomington-based Toro from near bankruptcy in the 1980s was known as proponent of “servant leadership” that was based on people, values and trust. It was a change from a top-down leadership style Melrose advocated for, trusting employees to bring their best talents forward in service of the organization.
“Ken was a dear friend of our family, and an incredible mentor to me personally. He was a very giving person who helped many people grow into better leaders at the Toro Company, St. Thomas and beyond,” said Mike Hoffman, former chairman and CEO of Toro and the successor to Melrose. “My wife, Tami, our children and I are thrilled that the Hoffman Family Foundation can honor him and his legacy through an organization that so deeply shares his values.”
Melrose put forth his ideas in a well-regarded business book “Making the Grass Greener on Your Side: A CEO’s Journey to Leading by Serving” in 1995.
After retiring from Toro in 2006, he founded Leading by Serving LLC to promote his ideas and as a vehicle for his many philanthropic efforts. He also taught at St. Thomas.
The Hoffman Family Foundation is making this its first major gift by giving $1 million while the Toro Co. is contributing $2 million toward the endowment.
Stefanie Lenway, dean of the Opus College of Business, has global ambitions that the center will demonstrate that successful business models can be built on foundations of ethical and principled leadership.
“This generous gift will honor and celebrate Ken Melrose as a principled leader who promoted the values, practice and impact of servant leadership,” Lenway said in a statement.
Executive Director Nicole Zwieg Daly and Academic Director Christopher Michaelson will lead the center, which will establish an annual award in Melrose’s name that will recognizes principled leadership.