Bawel, Menke to join business hall of fame

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

Doug Bawel
Robert Menke Sr.

JASPER — Doug Bawel and the late Robert Menke Sr. will be the 2019 inductees into the Dubois County Business Hall of Fame.

Junior Achievement of Southwestern Indiana held a press conference this morning to make the announcement.
“As anyone who has had the pleasure of working or associating with them know, these two individuals are well deserved of this prestigious honor,” Christian Blome, assistant vice president of Vincennes University and dean of the university’s Jasper campus, said this morning. “Through business excellence, vision, innovation, and community involvement, they have provided inspiring leadership to this community.”

Bawel and Menke will be inducted during a breakfast ceremony at 7:30 a.m. May 2 at The Huntingburg Event Center, 110 E. 14th St. A crystal eagle symbolizing the spirit of free enterprise will be presented to each laureate.  
Doug Bawel is CEO and board chairman of Jasper Engines and Transmissions, a title he has held since July 2011.

He is a Jasper High School graduate and has a Bachelor of science degree in management and marketing from the University of Evansville. 

He is a past recipient of the Indiana Business Leader of the Year Award, Indiana Corporate Leadership Award, and Entrepreneur of the Year for Manufacturing. He currently serves as president of the Patoka Valley Health Care Cooperative, is on the board of OFS Brands, and is president of Affinity Insurance, the world’s largest heterogeneous captive insurance company.

Bawel joined Jasper Engines as a sales trainee in 1976, and later served as advertising manager, sales manager and vice president of sales before partnering with a group of associates to purchase the company from its founder, Alvin Ruxer, in 1987; Bawel was then elected president. At the time, the company had 550 associates and sales of $58 million.

In 1989, the company became involved with NASCAR, and in 2001 teamed with Roger Penske to form Penske Jasper Racing and turned all their attention on building NASCAR’s future transmissions. Eleven cars use them currently with 178 wins.

Jasper Engines is the world’s largest remanufacturer of gas and diesel engines, transmissions and differentials. It also owns a $40 million parts company, a remanufacturer of large electric motors and two health clinics.

In 2010, Jasper Engines became a 100-percent employee owned/employee stock ownership plan company. Sales were $245 million with 1,460 associate-owners. 

In 2014, the company purchased Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Weller Truck Parts, which remanufactures transmission, differentials and steering gears for the heavy duty truck market. Today, Jasper Engines and Weller have 11 manufacturing facilities in Indiana, Michigan, and Missouri, along with 78 branch locations across the country.

Today, there are 3,300 associate-owners who have received in excess of $115 million in stock; as of 2018, sales were $649 million. Jasper Engines was named to Forbes’ list of America’s Best Midsize Employers for 2018.

The late Robert Menke Sr. grew OFS from a small manufacturing company into the major employer it currently is with more than 1,700 employees. 

Menke Sr. started his business journey working at Du Crafts, which was owned by his father, William Menke, stringing Venetian blinds. After his father’s death, Menke Sr. took over the company, which has about 30 employees at the time. When the company’s Ferdinand plant burned in 1970, it was moved to Huntingburg. Du Crafts became Styline and the businesses were merged.

He was a member of the 1940 Indiana University NCAA championship basketball team, won the Gimbel (now the Trester) Award, and was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982. Menke Sr. valued education, and obtained his bachelor's degree in government from Indiana University in 1941 and his master’s degree in government in 1953. 

Menke Sr. was a first lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force during World War II, and returned home in 1945 to take over business responsibilities. He was a state representative to the Indiana General Assembly from 1952 to 1954. He was environmentally-conscious and helped encourage education in public and environmental affairs.

During his life and career, Menke Sr. was awarded several honors, including multiple Sagamore of the Wabash awards; the Nature Conservancy’s highest award, the Oak Leaf, in 1982; the University of Evansville Medal of Honor in 1988; and the Distinguished Citizen Award of Boy Scouts of America in 1996. Menke Sr. and his family have been very charitable and supportive of the Dubois County Community Foundation and the various endowments managed by the Foundation.

Menke Sr. died in 2008. His son Hank, now president and CEO of OFS Brands, was inducted into the Business Hall of Fame in 2017. 

Menke Sr. and his family were instrumental in the development and building of the Huntingburg Event Center, which fills a major role in the economic and tourism development of Dubois County.

Bawel and Menke Sr. were selected by a committee comprised of Dubois County leaders and community members.

The hall of fame honors members of the county’s business community who are visionaries within their respective industries, a Junior Achievement spokeswoman said.

“We all owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Doug Bawel and Robert Menke Sr. for their generous philanthropy, tremendous efforts in the community and for the overall excellence of their character, in the way they conduct their business, and the way they conduct themselves,” Blome said. “They truly are the kinds of role models we need for our young people, and for the area’s future business leaders.”

Past Hall of Fame inductees include German American Bancorp Chairman and CEO Mark Schroeder and the late Stanley Krempp, founder of United Cabinet, later named Aristokraft, in 2018; OFS Brands President and CEO Hank Menke and the late Gervase Schwenk, former CFO of Jasper Engines and Transmissions, in 2017; Best Home Furnishings founder Clem Lange and the late Alvin Ruxer, founder of Ruxer Ford and Jasper Engines and Transmissions, in 2016; and Robert Ruckriegel, chairman of Jasper-based Servus!, and the late Arnold Habig, founder of Kimball International, in 2015.

A display honoring all hall of fame inductees is currently under construction at the Dubois County Museum. The display could be completed in the next month, the spokeswoman said.

Along with honoring local business leaders, the Dubois County Business Hall of Fame also raises funds for Junior Achievement programs in Dubois County. Sponsorship information, table reservations, or individual tickets for the May 2 ceremony can be obtained from Junior Achievement of Southwestern Indiana at 812-425-8152.




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