1982 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"Our Congress has not recognized the fact that we’re in a worldwide competition. I don’t think they’ve taken the steps to make the U.S. industry competitive at all, or even recognize what those steps are."
Born in 1918 in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, Charles Pilliod grew up on a small farm on the edge of town. During the Depression, his family moved into town, and his father opened a small dry cleaning shop where Pilliod and his two brothers worked after school. He attended Muskingum College in southeastern Ohio. While there, he worked mornings in the local power plant run by the college and also assisted the coach in wrestling, a sport in which he excelled in high school. He also played football. The following year his mother became ill and he transferred to Kent State University to be closer to home. While there, he managed a small confectionery.
In 1941, when he could no longer afford to go to school, he dropped out and got a full-time job with Goodyear, making 67 cents an hour. The following year, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps and became a B-29 bomber pilot. At the end of the war, he returned to Goodyear as a staff person in the foreign operations division. Over the next 25 years he worked his way up the corporate ladder. He was elected president of Goodyear International in 1967. In 1973, he was elected chairman and CEO of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. Under Pilliod, Goodyear's worldwide sales grew from $3.6 billion in 1971 to more than $9 billion in 1981. He retired in 1983.
President Reagan appointed Pilliod Ambassador to Mexico in 1986. At the time, Mexico was the largest U. S. embassy. "I enjoyed being ambassador very much," says Pilliod. "I have great admiration for the Mexican people." Upon his return in 1989, Pilliod ran a holding company that covered three aluminum companies.
Pilliod holds several honorary doctorates and seven foreign decorations, including the Honorary Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire and the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle, conferred by President Salinas of Mexico in 1989.
A former trustee of the University of Akron, Pilliod is a proponent of higher education. "I was glad to see the Horatio Alger Association begin to give scholarships two years after my induction. The program has grown tremendously since then, and I'm happy to be part of an organization that is doing so much to help students who need it the most."