Junior Achievement announces Dubois County Business Hall of Fame inductees

Two Dubois County business people were named as the most recent addition to the Junior Achievement of Dubois County Business Hall of Fame.

Gil Verkamp will be recognized as the living laureate and the late Jerry Seger will be recognized as the historical laureate at a special ceremony in May. The two will join the ten other laureates whose names and photos appear in a special display at the Dubois County Museum.

They will be inducted into JA Dubois County Business Hall of Fame at 7:30 a.m. EST on Thursday, May 7, 2020, at The Huntingburg Event Center.

The JA Dubois County Business Hall of Fame honors members of the Dubois Business Community who exhibit strong vision, innovation, inspiring leadership and who are visionaries within their respective industries. Nominees come from the business community as well as a local Hall of Fame advisory committee.

The laureate or their families are presented with a crystal eagle symbolizing the spirit of free enterprise.

“Gilbert Verkamp and Jerry Seger are the kinds of role models we need for our young people, and for the area’s future business leaders,” said VP and Campus Dean of VUJC Christian Blome.

Junior Achievement works to introduce business and entrepreneurship principles and ideas to students. Volunteers with the organization regularly meet with students in all the schools across the county to speak about their own business background and teach a curriculum provided through Junior Achievement.

Dubois County excels in the number of students taking part in Junior Achievement courses; more than 50 percent of Dubois County students compared to about 9 percent on average nationwide.

The annual induction ceremony is one of the ways Junior Achievement supports its activities in the county and region. Money raised through the event supports training, supplies and administrative support for the many volunteers working in local schools.

“By giving students the knowledge and skills to be successful, Junior Achievement is empowering the students to have a belief in themselves, prepared to excel in a global economy, our volunteer mentors, inspire students by making the connection between what they are learning in school in their future success,” said President and CEO of Junior Achievement of Southwestern Indiana Marcia Forston.

Choosing the laureates is always a difficult process for the selection committee, said committee chair Kathy Herndon. This year, the committee sifted through 11 nominations — six living and five historical — before voting for the 2020 nominees.

Verkamp and Seger will be added to the list of former laureates who were inducted the following years: 2019, Jasper Engines and Transmissions CEO and Chairman Doug Bawel and the late Robert Menke Sr., founder of OFS; 2018, German American Bancorp Chairman and CEO Mark Schroeder and the late Stanley Krempp, founder of United Cabinet (Aristokraft); 2017, OFS Brands President and CEO Hank Menke and the late Gervase Schwenk, former CFO of Jasper Engines and Transmissions; 2016, Best Home Furnishings founder Clem Lange and the late Alvin Ruxer, founder of Ruxer Ford and Jasper Engines and Transmissions; 2015, Robert Ruckriegel, chairman of Jasper-based SERVUS! and the late Arnold Habig, founder of Kimball International, in 2015.

The newly completed display at the Dubois County Museum will be featured in a special grand opening in the future.

Tickets for the Hall of Fame ceremony and breakfast are available through Junior Achievement and can be purchased by calling 812-425-8152.

GILBERT VERKAMP: Chairman and CEO, MasterBrand Cabinets Inc. (Active)

Gilbert Verkamp is a successful business person and community supporter.  Under his leadership at Aristokraft/MasterBrand Cabinets, Inc., the company went from a small regional player to becoming the most recognizable cabinet company in North America. Gilbert not only had a vision to make Aristokraft/MBCI a great company, but he also possessed the drive to make it happen. Gilbert cared for his employees and knew that a successful company would provide opportunities for this community.  During his tenure at Aristokraft/MasterBrand Cabinets, Inc., Gilbert was very supportive of Junior Achievement.  He directed the company to financially support Junior Achievement in Dubois County as well as supported employees that volunteered their time to JA during work hours.

In 1968, he started with Aristokraft/MasterBrand Cabinets, Inc. as assistant to the president and founder, Stan Krempp. Gilbert Verkamp became president in the early 1980’s when Aristokraft was about $20M in annual sales.  Through organic growth and acquisitions, the company was nearly $800M when he retired in 2000. He led the company through its first major acquisition which was the Schrock Companies in the mid ‘90’s.  This acquisition led to its channel strategy and current success. MasterBrand Cabinets Inc. is now a $2.6 billion company supporting over 13,000 employees across North America.

In addition to Gilbert’s leadership at Aristokraft/MasterBrand Cabinets, Inc., he took roles, including leadership positions, in multiple organizations. He sat on the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association board where he served as President, the Indiana State Alumni Association board where he also served as president and the Indiana Furniture Board where he was a Board Member for 26 years and Chairman of the Board for 8 years.  Additionally, he was a founding board member of the Dubois County Community Foundation and served on the Jasper Country Club Real Estate Board and the Jasper Action Committee.  He was also a founding stockholder and board member of Freedom Bank.  He is a long-time member of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Jasper and currently resides in Jasper.

JERRY SEGER: CEO and President, Wabash Valley Produce (Historical)

Jerry Seger was “earning his keep” by the age of ten.  Working on the family farm year-round, he went to school only eight months out of the year in order to help with the crops full time during the summer.  During this time, he learned that the family and the farm were an inseparable unit; his family relied on his contributions.  This embedded culture of responsibility and devotion provided the blueprint for what would become Seger’s family-committed, self-reliant persona.  These humble beginnings laid the groundwork for what today is one of the nation’s top-5 egg processing companies that exceeds approximately 7 million eggs per day and the nation’s fourth largest turkey processor by volume (15 million turkeys annually).

Following graduation from the Indiana University School of Business in 1947, Seger returned to Dubois County.  During this time Seger joined his father at the Dubois Co-Op and his interest in meat production began.  With little capital, he started to raise fryers and broilers.  He bought the chicks from a hatchery and supplied the feed, while contracting with farmers for a fee to supply the land, buildings, and labor.  To further utilize his feed mill capacity, he started raising pullets and soon became interested in the egg production business.  Managing layers in a confined environment to achieve maximum efficiency, resulting in experimentation with lighting, feed formulation, and breed selection, ventilation, and labor efficiency.  While Seger worked through all of these day-to-day problems, he did not fully realize the extent to which he helped revolutionize the meat-production industry.

Those beginnings have transformed today into Wabash Valley Produce and Farbest Foods in Indiana, Brown Produce in Illinois, and Ballas Egg Products in Ohio.  Combined these entities employ over 2,000 people and contract with over 225 local family farms.  Seger’s goal was for his business to remain a family one.  This has come to pass over the years as 7 members of the second generation and 5 members of the third generation have entered the businesses.  Seger proved himself to be a hard-charging entrepreneur with a vision to take a small country elevator to a multi-state enterprise supplying egg and turkey products to multi-national corporations.  He leaves a legacy of family and business which he and his family have grown into an enterprise supplying quality food products throughout the world.

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