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McKernan Receives E.M. Morris Award

April 14, 2006

Leo J. McKernan, former CEO and president of Clark Equipment Co., recently received the E.M. Morris Award from Indiana University South Bend’s School of Business and Economics.

The award is given for distinguished achievement, leadership and contributions to the advancement of business and the quality of life in South Bend.

Born in Philadelphia, he attended Iona College, New York; New York University and the University of Bridgeport, Bridgeport, Conn. He began work at Eaton Corp., White Plains, N.Y., and later with the Yale Lock and Hardware division of Eaton.

At the age of 27, he was general manager of Yale Lock and Hardware in Canada, and two years later, he was vice president of sales for Yale in the U.S.

In 1974, he joined Clark as vice president and general manager of the Axel Division in Buchanan, Mich.

By 1977, he was named group vice president of Clark’s worldwide construction machinery business and was appointed to the board of directors. In 1983, he was named executive vice president of all of Clark’s product businesses. In 1985, the board appointed him president, CEO and chairman of the board.

The board authorized him to implement a plan to restructure the firm during financial difficulties. Over the next few years many of the service businesses were turned over to employee managers and others were decentralized. A program of acquisitions and divestitures changed the direction of Clark Equipment.

McKernan was on the cover of Fortune magazine in 1990 and the company was called “The New Turnaround Champs.”

The changes were dramatic and the stock prices grew from $15 a share to $86. The company was bought in 1995 by Ingersoll Rand Corp. through a tender offer on the New York Stock Exchange.

McKernan retired in 1995. He lives in South Bend and Florida.