In mid-November, Robert “Bob” Kern passed away at age 96. I met Mr. Kern decades ago when he invited me to Wisconsin to meet his colleagues at the Kern Family Foundation. What I vividly recall during my time with Mr. Kern was not only his hospitality but his fierce commitment to character.
More recently, I had the opportunity to get to know several Kern staff members and each one
embodies Mr. Kern’s deep belief that character formation is essential to living a good life, especially a life filled with meaning and purpose.
Mr. Kern started Generac Corporation in 1959 in a garage in Wales, Wisconsin. The company initially sold portable generators to farmers and construction crews. Years later, Mr. Kern and his team developed generators for homeowners, hospitals, and other facilities. In 1998, Mr. and Mrs. Kern established the Kern Family Foundation to foster character and the entrepreneurial mindset.
In recent years Mr. Kern has supported a wide range of character formation initiatives, including the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University, The Hope Institute in Alabama, the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtue in the U.K., the College of Education at the University of Northern Iowa, the Center for Character and Citizenship at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, the Program for Leadership and Character at Wake Forest University, and the Canyon Center for Character Education at Grand Canyon University.
Mr. Kern was especially focused on inspiring the next generation of educational leaders to grasp how critical and essential character formation is to the future of our society. The foundation was also keen on bringing their grantees together so they can learn and grow together.
In Colossians 3:23 we read that “whatever you do, work heartily.” Clearly, Mr. Kern put his whole heart and soul into his philanthropy. He can rest, knowing that his character-inspired vision will continue to burn brightly for years to come.