hARRY M. CORNELL, JR.
Harry M. Cornell, Jr. (b. 1928), chairman emeritus of Leggett & Platt Inc., built a small regional company into a Fortune 500 manufacturing giant. The grandson of a founder of Leggett & Platt, Mr. Cornell joined the company in sales in 1950 and rose through the ranks to become president and chief executive officer in 1960. During the next 52 years, he transformed Leggett & Platt from five plants and $7 million in annual sales into a $4 billion company with 130 plants in 18 countries. Today, Leggett & Platt, a world leader in component manufacturing, employs nearly 19,000 around the globe.
Mr. Cornell achieved remarkable growth through innovation and acquisition. His many milestones included the initial public offering of Leggett & Platt common stock in 1967 and the 1979 listing on the New York Stock Exchange. As a supplier that manufactured component parts, created the machinery to make them and produced the raw materials, Mr. Cornell expanded Leggett & Platt into eight industries. He directed the opening of national production plants with satellite distribution centers, established consistent quality standards, emphasized impeccable customer service, and provided "just in time" delivery before the term existed. In 1998, it ranked in the top 6 percent of nearly 500 major corporations in the Fortune survey, "America's Most Admired Corporations." A visionary who considered each achievement to be a team effort, Mr. Cornell encouraged everyone around him to strive for excellence. He believed in "an attitude of discontent," briefly celebrating an accomplishment and then challenging his team to make its own products obsolete, because he believed the company owed its customers continual innovation.
Mr. Cornell is past president of the American Innerspring Manufacturer's Association and received the Award of Exceptional Service in 1983 from the National Association of Bedding Manufacturers (now the International Sleep Products Association). He was honored with the CEO Award from Financial World for five years and with the CEO Award from The Wall Street Transcript for three years. Under his direction, Leggett & Platt has always generously supported industry causes, both financially and with leadership resources.
At the University of Missouri, his alma mater, he helped conceptualize the new Business School building, dedicated as Cornell Hall in 2002. In 2003, the university awarded him an Honorary Doctorate of Law. He also funds the Cornell Leadership Scholarship. Mr. Cornell served on the Carthage Board of Education and the St. John's Hospital Board of Directors, and was active in many other community organizations, as well as local and state politics. In 1998, he was named Citizen of the Year in Carthage, Missouri, where Leggett & Platt was founded and remains headquartered today.
Mr. Cornell, an avid big game hunter, bird watcher, tennis player and collector of Western Art, continues to serve as chairman emeritus of Leggett & Platt, an S&P 500 company.