John H. McConnell was the majority owner, chairman and governor of the Columbus Blue Jackets and the founder of Worthington Industries. A business leader, noted philanthropist and beloved community leader, Mr. McConnell passed away on April 25, 2008 at the age of 84.
Mr. McConnell was born on May 10, 1923, in Pughtown, West Virginia. The son of a steel worker, he grew up during the Great Depression. He served aboard the U.S.S. Saratoga during World War II and married his high school sweetheart, Peggy Rardin, upon discharge his from the Navy. He then used the GI Bill to enter Michigan State University, where he studied business and played football.
While working for Weirton Steel Corp., Mr. McConnell identified a niche in the industry for custom steel processing services. He used his 1952 Oldsmobile as collateral for a loan and, in 1955, launched Worthington Industries and the steel processing industry. Today, the company he founded in Columbus is traded on the New York Stock Exchange and employs 8,000 people in 69 facilities in 11 countries. It has annual sales of approximately $3 billion.
He served as chairman of Worthington Industries until 1996 and retired from the board in 2002. Although he stepped down from a formal leadership role in the company, Mr. McConnell's leadership style, which has been included in the business curriculum at Harvard University and praised by management guru Tom Peters, still drives the company's culture. That philosophy, based on the Golden Rule: "We treat our customers, employees, investors and suppliers as we would like to be treated," is the subject of Mr. McConnell's 2004 book, "Our Golden Rule."
Through his humanitarian and community efforts, Mr. McConnell became widely recognized as one of Columbus' most generous citizens. His charitable contributions led to the McConnell Heart Hospital at Riverside Hospital, which provides treatment and prevention services for heart-related illnesses. The more than $15 million donation to develop the hospital and the McConnell Heart Health Center was the largest gift ever received by Riverside Hospital or its parent company, OhioHealth.
In 1997, Mr. McConnell led a group of investors to bring the National Hockey League to Columbus and the Blue Jackets played their first game in September 2000. The arrival of the team brought an influx of development and community pride to Columbus. Before the team even took the ice, he made sure the Blue Jackets organization would serve its community in other ways, too. The Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation was established in March of 2000 to help improve the quality of life throughout central Ohio.
Mr. McConnell's love of sports was also evident through his role as an early investor in the Columbus Crew Major League Soccer franchise and his involvement as a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball Club and the Arena Football League's Columbus Destroyers.
Through his work ethic, business acumen, philanthropy, sense of community and genuine desire to do the right thing for his customers, employees and community, Mr. McConnell established himself as a leader, not only in Columbus, but also throughout the steel industry and the business world.
Mr. McConnell was named Chief Executive Officer of the Year by Financial World magazine and Industry Week magazine recognized him for Excellence in Management. He was the recipient of the Horatio Alger Award and the National Football Foundation Gold Medal Award. He received the 33rd degree Scottish Rite Mason, the Ohio Governor's Award and the Michigan State University Outstanding Alumni Award. He was inducted into the Junior Achievement National Business Hall of Fame, the Central Ohio Business Hall of Fame and the Columbus Hall of Fame.