1988 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"Successful people aren’t necessarily brighter or more talented. They’re successful because they are disciplined and dedicated."
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, David Roderick was the son of a postal employee. There were three children in the family, but the household also included Roderick's grandparents and an uncle. Roderick's grandfather was an Irish farmer who, at 65, immigrated to Pittsburgh to work in a department store. 'He worked six days a week, 10 hours a day until he was 95,' says Roderick.
Following the example of his elders, Roderick started working at an early age, delivering newspapers, selling the Saturday Evening Post, and caddying at a local country club. After high school, he worked as a messenger for Gulf Oil Corporation. During World War II, he served as a platoon sergeant in the Marines. He returned to Gulf Oil at the end of the war. He used the G.I. Bill to finance his education in accounting, attending the Robert Morris School at night. He later earned a degree in economics and finance from the University of Pittsburgh.
In 1953, Roderick left Gulf to serve as a financial analyst for the Union Railroad Company, a subsidiary of U.S. Steel Corporation. He worked his way up to assistant comptroller, and began to steadily rise within the company. In 1973, he became the chairman of the finance committee. Two years later, he was named president of U.S. Steel, and he became chairman in 1979.
Roderick is credited with guiding U.S. Steel through the most turbulent years of its existence, transforming it from total dependence on the shrinking steel market to a diversified energy company with nearly two-thirds of its revenues derived from sources other than steel. 'It was clear when I became chairman that we would need massive restructuring in the steel sector, says Roderick. 'Steel was not a growth area. My contribution was to reshape the company.' A year later he received his Horatio Alger Award in 1988. Roderick retired from USX Corporation, formerly U.S. Steel, in 1989.
An avid outdoorsman with an interest in conservation, Roderick was pleased in 1991 with the dedication of the David M. Roderick Wildlife Reserve. The USX Corporation owned the property and the company thought it appropriate to name the reserve after the man who had done so much to lead the corporation through difficult times. More recently, Roderick was honored with the American Ireland Fund's Distinguished Leadership Award in recognition of his exceptional work in community and charitable events.
When asked about his success, Roderick says, 'People who achieve success are not necessarily brighter or more talented than others. They're successful because they have dedicated themselves, imposed discipline on themselves, and made sacrifices of time and energy. There is no easy road to success.'
Honored by his Horatio Alger Award, Roderick says, 'A deep commitment to excellence is the only way to the top. If you aren't willing to pay the price, you may as well accept the fact that you won't get anywhere. If there's no commitment, the world won't come knocking on your door.'