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John Boler, Visionary

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Chairman of the Board of The Boler Company

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John Boler Aquires Hendrickson in 1978

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Charity Event

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John M. Boler was born in the blue-collar town of Marion, Ohio, and dreamed at a young age of eventually owning and running his own business. Early on, he developed a fascination with the transportation industry, fueled by hands-on experience gained while coordinating team transport in high school, serving in the Army Transportation Corps, and working for a trucking firm to pay college expenses. Owning his own company became a goal partly because he felt that the only people truly successful in business were the ones willing to take the risks associated with ownership.

After earning a business degree from John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio, John began his business career with the Clevite Corporation, a manufacturer of engine bearings and bushings for the automobile and truck industries. After Clevite's merger with Gould, Inc., he ran several of the company’s manufacturing facilities, working his way up to the management of a major division. He gained experience in mergers and acquisitions, eventually becoming Gould’s Vice President, International, with responsibility for worldwide marketing. John left Gould in 1977 to embark on his own entrepreneurial ventures by starting The Boler Company, with a goal of acquiring existing businesses supplying the transportation industry, particularly suspensions and their components.

The Company used an asset-based lending technique, a forerunner to the leveraged buyout, to make its early acquisitions, the first being a relatively small supplier to the automobile industry. The next acquisitions were of a manufacturer of bumpers and metal stampings for the truck and trailer industries and a manufacturer of leaf springs for the truck suspensions industry. These were followed by the Company’s most significant acquisition, that of Hendrickson Mfg. Co., a successful manufacturer of suspension systems and leaf springs for the truck industry and of a broad range of specialty vehicles. A few years later, the Company acquired an innovative manufacturer of suspensions for the trailer industry, leading to its present position as a multinational corporation providing a broad range of truck and trailer components. More recently, the Company acquired Watson & Chalin Manufacturing, Inc., adding to its product offering and a new brand to its portfolio.

Prior to its acquisition by the Company in 1978, Hendrickson Mfg. Co. had won its pedigree - and more than its share of plaudits - in suspension technology. Its roots, reaching back to 1913, were in building trucks and suspensions customized to provide the best performance in a variety of specific applications. Founded by self-taught Swedish engineer Magnus Hendrickson and his sons, the family-owned firm had patented its unique "walking beam" tandem suspension in 1926. By the 1970s, Hendrickson Mfg. Co. had grown to include facilities in North America and an international subsidiary providing suspensions in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, and South Africa. The Hendrickson family cared deeply about their company and were willing to sell only to someone they felt would carefully and astutely manage the operations they had worked so many years to develop. Having worked with the Hendricksons over the years during his time running various Gould manufacturing facilities, the family saw John’s worthiness as a successor.

Despite strong competition in the truck suspension business, John had a strong belief in Hendrickson's long-term viability. It dominated in suspensions for the on/off highway market — for example, applications for crane carriers, drilling rigs, and other heavy-duty vehicles in which the suspensions had to stand up to both the rigors of the job site and to highway travel; and John felt strongly that it possessed the expertise to expand into other segments. He envisioned Hendrickson as the foundation for a "heavy-duty" enterprise, with long range goals of international marketing and distribution of highly engineered, precision manufactured, and technically innovative transportation industry components.

Over the next thirty-five years, the Company experienced significant growth and has become a major supplier to most North American heavy-duty truck and trailer manufacturers, as well as to many manufacturers in Australia, China, Europe, India, Japan, Korea, Latin America, Mexico, Spain, and Turkey. After having produced more than two and a half million walking beam truck suspensions, the Company continues to strive to provide the most technologically advanced and differentiated products available to help its partners increase durability, lower operating costs, enhance driver comfort, and reduce weight.

John continues to serve as Chairman of the Board of The Boler Company, headquartered in Itasca, Illinois. His son, Matthew J. Boler, succeeded him as President and Chief Executive Officer in 2007. The Company now has over 4,000 employees and is comprised of state-of-the-art facilities in the United States, Australia, Canada, China, India, Japan, Mexico, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. Hendrickson is a premier global manufacturer and supplier of truck suspensions, trailer suspensions, controls and nonintegrated axles, truck and trailer lift axles, bumpers and trim components, and truck and trailer springs to the commercial transportation industry.