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howard g. haas

A man of vision, wisdom, discipline and integrity, Howard G. Haas (b. 1924 d. 2016) led Sealy Inc. to unprecedented growth and renown in the home furnishings industry.

During his 19-year-tenure as president, CEO and director of Sealy Inc., company revenues increased from $32 million to more than $550 million without the acquisition of a competitor or supplier. Mr. Haas took Sealy's profits from slightly better than break-even to one of the highest returns in the industry. Because of the strong legacy built through his marketing expertise, Sealy Posturepedic continues to be among the most recognizable brands in the industry.

Mr. Haas integrated a group of 34 independent Sealy licensees into a unified entity, providing efficient services. He developed information technology systems to lower the level of raw materials and reduce the need for finished goods in factories, resulting in the best return on capital in the bedding industry. A committee to oversee manufacturing techniques in all company factories ensured there was no product variation and improved operations to the point that products could be delivered to customers in as little as a single day. His first in-store display showcased Posturepedic bedding and was among the first in the industry to envision the potential of sleep shops. Under Mr. Haas' leadership, Sealy also was the first bedding company to run national television advertising.

A graduate of the University of Michigan, where he was honored as a Goldstein Scholar, Mr. Haas joined Sealy in 1956 as sales manager. He was promoted to vice president of marketing in 1960 and to president in 1965. His exceptional leadership skills attracted top talent and he instilled in them the pride of being No. 1 and to share best practices. Three that he mentored currently lead Simmons, Sealy and Serta.

After retiring from Sealy in 1986, Mr. Haas joined the faculty of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, where he served as an adjunct professor of strategic management. Teaching MBA classes from 1988 to 2009, he specialized in classes on the practice of leadership and strategy in business with a goal "to integrate theory with practice and focus not just on doing things right but doing the right things." He organized and taught the university's first graduate-level course on leadership, which was recognized by CEO Magazine. Among his published work is "The Leader Within," a book written with Bob Tamarkin, which received wide critical acclaim and was on the best-seller list. Mr. Haas is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Strategic Management Education and a columnist for Fairchild Publications. He also has served as chairman of the board of Sealy Sleep Products Ltd. in Canada and chairman of Broadcast International.

A first lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force during World War II, Mr. Haas flew more than 50 missions over Axis-occupied Europe, winning the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters. Active in the community, he served as president of the Orchestra of Illinois and on the school board for the Glencoe School System. He also was a member of the Print and Drawing Committee of the Art Institute of Chicago, on the board of directors for the Jewish Children's Bureau, and a member of the Visiting Committee of Chicago's Oriental.