Generac remembers founder Robert Kern
By Mike Brezonick09 November 2022
Generac Power Systems, Inc., a global designer and manufacturer of energy technology solutions and power products, announced the passing of Generac founder Robert D. Kern at the age of 96. Kern passed away on November 8th.
In 1959, Kern started Generac with just five employees in a garage in Wales, Wisconsin. An engineer by training, he spent the next several decades growing Generac into an industry leader through the development of new products and the creation of new markets for the company’s generator and engine technologies. Generac was among the first companies to commercialize portable, engine-driven generator sets particularly to provide standby power for homes, businesses and critical infrastructure.
After nearly five decades of growth and leadership, Kern sold the company in 2006 to New York City-based private equity firm CCMP Capital to focus on philanthropy. The generosity started at home, as on his way out, he gave bonuses of up to $40,000 to longtime employees. Generac subsequently became a public company in 2010.
“Bob’s passing is a tremendous loss for the Generac family and the larger community,” said Aaron Jagdfeld, president and chief executive officer. “His forward-thinking vision laid the solid foundation for what Generac is today. I had the distinct honor of working with Bob for nearly 15 years, and he continued to serve as a mentor to me and to others well into his retirement. He was a true entrepreneur in every sense of the word as his work ethic, tenacity, and innovative spirit are the embodiment and the defining characteristics that live on in our company today.”
Kern and his late wife, Patricia, established the Kern Family Foundation in 1998 with a mission dedicated to enhancing lives by promoting the value of work, developing the formation of good character, increasing educational achievement and instilling an entrepreneurial mindset.
The Kern Family Foundation has donated generously to numerous local organizations in the Milwaukee area, including transformational gifts to the Milwaukee School of Engineering, the Medical College of Wisconsin, and Marquette University’s College of Engineering. In addition to local area giving, the foundation has been active in supporting many nationwide programs, causes, and organizations.
Kern is survived by his three daughters and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.