1983 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"Be honest in all endeavors and never fear hard work."
John McConnell was a native of Pughtown (now New Manchester), West Virginia. He grew up during the Depression, which gave him a good work ethic early in life. His father was a steel worker who made only 60 cents an hour. McConnell spent two days a week from the time he was four to eight helping the local mailman deliver mail to the outlying farms in a Model T Ford. His pay was an ice cream cone at the end of the route. "Mr. Moore helped develop my self-confidence and taught me that there's no substitute for honesty."
McConnell could have gone to college on a football scholarship, but he followed his father in the steel mills. Soon after World War II broke out, he enlisted in the Navy, spending three years in the Pacific. After the war, he used the GI Bill to attend Michigan State University, where he majored in business administration and played football.
He graduated in 1949 and began his business career as a salesman for Weirton Steel Corporation. In 1955, he became a steel broker. McConnell's first purchase was a truckload of steel bought for $1,800, with a $600 bank loan using his car as collateral. With that first load of steel, he launched Worthington Industries, a business that helped create the steel processing industry.
McConnell's business philosophy was to treat customers, employees, investors, and suppliers as he would like to be treated. "It's the Golden Rule," he said, "and I apply it to both my business and personal life." The company headquarters included an onsite health and wellness center with three full-time physicians, pharmacy, barbershop, and other innovative employee benefits. Worthington has been listed several times as one of Fortune magazine's 100 Best Companies to Work for in America. In 1996, McConnell handed the leadership of the company over to his son.
Known was central Ohio for his generous philanthropy, McConnell donated more than $7 million to the Heart/Health Center at Riverside Hospital, which now bears his name. He was the majority owner of the Columbus Blue Jackets of the National Hockey League and was part owner of the Columbus Crew Soccer team.
McConnell received the Football Foundation and Hall of Fame Gold Medal Award, and was inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame. Financial World magazine once named him Outstanding Chief Executive Officer of the Year, and Industry Week gave him the Excellence in Management Award. But he said the greatest recognition he ever received is his Horatio Alger Award.
Looking back over his career, McConnell said, "I believe you are a success when you reach a status in life that allows you to assist others either financially or spiritually. My advice to youth is to be honest in all endeavors and never fear hard work."* Deceased