Kendrick B. Melrose

July 31, 1940 ~ May 3, 2020 (age 79)


Melrose, Kendrick B. Kendrick "Ken" B. Melrose, founder and Chief Servant of Leading by Serving, LLC, and former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Toro Company, passed away on Sunday, May 3rd, 2020, at the age of 79. Ken is fondly remembered as a humble, kind, philanthropic Servant Leader, and a jokester who loved to make people smile. Ken positively impacted the lives of those he loved as well as the thousands of others he touched throughout his professional life; by his ongoing mission to advance the principles of servant leadership in businesses, churches and universities; and by his generous philanthropic efforts. Ken was born on July 31, 1940 in Orlando, Florida, to Henry B. and Dorothy Lumley Melrose. The Melroses were known as a family of deep Faith and dedicated to both education and serving others. As Ken once recalled, "Both of my parents used to tell me that the purpose of life is to serve others." This principle shaped Ken's personal and professional journeys and the countless relationships he formed. Ken attended Boone High School in Orlando before going on to Choate Rosemary Hall, a college-prep institution, in Wallingford, Connecticut. He graduated with honors from Princeton University in 1962, where he majored in mathematics and electrical engineering. Ken received a master's degree from the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and later earned a master's in business administration from the University of Chicago. In 1970, Ken joined The Toro Company where he would spend the next 36 years in a variety of leadership positions. In 1981 Ken assumed the role as president of the company and his commitment to servant leadership helped him to inspire employees and distributors to turn the company around from the brink of bankruptcy and lift it to historic levels of prosperity. Ken became the company's Chief Executive Officer in 1983 and Chairman of the Board in 1986. Ken authored Making the Grass Greener on Your Side: A CEO's Journey to Leading by Serving, published in 1995. In 2006 Ken retired from Toro as Chairman and founded Leading by Serving, LLC. He tirelessly championed ethics and servant leadership by writing and travelling extensively speaking to a variety of forums on ethics, business cultures and the principles of servant-leadership. He appeared in such forums as Princeton's Faith in Work initiative and was the first to hold the Holloran Endowed Chair in the Practice of Management and Ethical Leadership and he taught at the University of St. Thomas' Opus College of Business. Ken also continued his focus on a wide range of philanthropic interests. While still at Toro, Ken founded a special needs-based scholarship fund for the children of employees and an emergency relief fund for employees in financial distress due to circumstances beyond their control. He also established and supported a number of golf industry foundations, environmental efforts to support sustainability and educational programs for the professional development of golf course superintendents. To honor his parents and brother he established programs and initiatives that paid tribute to their interests and passions. The Melrose Family Foundation has also made generous donations to local and national charities. Ken's leisurely pastimes included white water rafting, golf, and hiking. In a return to his collegiate sports interests, Ken was proud to have completed a Boston Marathon. Ken was preceded in death by his parents, Henry and Dorothy, and his brother, Bob. Survivors include his children, Rob Melrose (Paige Rogers), Lia Melrose (Jeff Thorpe), Kendra Melrose (Roshan Bharwaney); grandchildren, Charlotte Melrose and Sebastian Melrose; and his partner, Kaye O'Leary. Of all the high titles Ken held through the years, he most valued the designations of Father, Grand- father, Partner, Devoted Friend, and Chief Servant. In lieu of flowers, memorials preferred to Park Nicollet Foundation, Kendrick B. Melrose Leadership and Excellence Endowment Fund for Melrose Center, 6500 Excelsior Blvd, St. Louis Park, MN 55426. Celebration of Ken's life will be announced at a later date.

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