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In memoriam: Schneider National trailblazer, 'visionary' Don Schneider

Don Schneider, the former president and chief executive officer of multi-modal giant Schneider National Inc., who led the company through periods of extensive growth, died Jan. 13 in De Pere, Wis., following a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 76.

The firm’s chairman emeritus since his retirement in 2007, Schneider was born on Oct. 19, 1935, the same year his late father, Al, laid the groundwork to form what later became a major truckload, intermodal and logistics company. Don Schneider started working for the family business while in high school in the early 1950s, first as a mechanic’s helper and then as a truck driver, and continued to work there while attending St. Norbert College in De Pere — where he earned an undergraduate business degree — in the late 1950s.

After serving a 13-month military tour of duty in Korea, Schneider earned a master’s degree from the Wharton School of Business and rejoined Schneider National as a manager in 1961. He became president in 1976 and led the organization for more than 25 years. During that time, the company became a major trucking provider and a pioneer in providing intermodal and logistics services. In 1993, Don Schneider founded Schneider Logistics as a wholly owned subsidiary. Today, Schneider National provides transcontinental, regional and dedicated intermodal services, as well as Canada Direct and Mexico Direct services.

“Don Schneider was a visionary, bringing business acumen and technology to blaze a trail and set the standard in the modern day development of our industry,” said Bill Graves, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations, in a prepared statement. “The transportation and logistics industry has lost one of its most passionate and influential voices.”

Schneider retired from day-to-day responsibilities in 2002 and continued to serve as chairman until he reached the board’s mandatory retirement age in 2007. Julius Borley, who served Schneider National for more than 60 years, remembers Schneider’s down-to-earth style.

“Don thought of himself as a regular guy and always wanted to stay in touch with the drivers. [His] door was always open,” he said.

Schneider was true to his convictions and committed to his values, said current company President and CEO Chris Lofgren.

“I will be forever grateful that I had the opportunity to work for and be mentored by Don. He entrusted our management team to continue his vision of providing exceptional transportation and logistics services at a fair price, while enhancing the standard of living worldwide,” he said.
Schneider is survived by his wife of 53 years, Pat; five children, 13 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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