Don’t call Stan Gault a “self-made” man. “No one person makes his or her own success,” he says. “You need to have help, support, and someone giving you an opportunity.”
In his long and distinguished business career, Gault has been given his share of opportunities, and has made the most of every one. Fresh out of Wooster with a degree in geology, he joined General Electric as a sales trainee in 1948, and over the next three decades, rose to senior vice president, along the way running two of the conglomerate’s largest sectors: consumer and industrial.
“I worked for some exceptional leaders [at G.E.],” he recalls. “I wonder sometimes, if I had been in their positions, would I have given Stan Gault some of the assignments they gave me? I often was the youngest person to take the job, or the first person ever to do a certain job.”
In 1979, Gault left G.E. to become chief executive officer at Rubbermaid, then a relatively small home products manufacturer headquartered in his hometown of Wooster. When he stepped down as chairman and CEO 11 years later, Rubbermaid’s annual sales topped $1.5 billion, and the company was a regular on Fortune magazine’s list of the most admired companies in America.
Six weeks after retiring from Rubbermaid, Gault signed on as chairman and CEO of Goodyear. The company’s stock rose on the announcement, and Gault’s turnaround of the troubled tire maker validated the market’s optimism. In four years, he cut Goodyear’s debt by 59 percent, pared non-performing divisions, re-energized marketing efforts, and saw the company’s market value grow sixfold, to $6 billion.
Since retiring a second time, Gault has, in the words of Smart Business magazine, made “a second career out of civic mindedness” in the town he and his wife, Flo, still call home. Gault has been the driving force behind — and a major donor to — projects as varied as construction of a new high school, development of an arts center, and the renovation of a hundred-year-old buggy factory to house programs for substance abuse treatment and prevention. He and his family also have given generously to the college, leaving their mark on every corner of campus, from the Gault Admissions Center and Gault Recital Hall, to Gault Library for Independent Study.
When asked about the value of a liberal arts education, Gault replies without hesitation. “Leaders in the business community have a very high regard for people who have come through the liberal arts system. They are in a position to be fast learners in different professional fields, whether it be in marketing, sales, finance, or personnel.”
For proof, look no further than Stan Gault.
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