1980 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"Material wealth is not the principal measure of success, but whether you left the world better for your having passed by."
Lee Sollenbarger was born in 1912, in Hugo, Colorado, the seventh of 14 children. The family had moved there from Kansas after a wave of cholera wiped out their purebred hog business. On a small farm outside Denver, they started over again and raised cows, chickens, hogs, and garden vegetables. Sollenbarger remembers life being very basic on the farm. "We all had chores to do," he says. "If we didn't do our work, we didn't eat."
One of Sollenbarger's first jobs was milking goats. He milked up to 100 goats, and then herded them to and from the pasture, earning himself 75 cents for a 12-hour day. He also worked as a caddie at a local country club. After graduating from high school in 1930, he worked at a variety of jobs to support himself. He was an assistant lab technician in a flour mill, drove a car for a traveling salesman, and worked in a grocery store. He took a correspondence course in transportation, which led to a job as a rate clerk for the Denver-Chicago Trucking Company. He worked his way up from that job and became executive vice president and director. After 23 years with the company, he left to join Transcon in El Segundo, California, as executive vice president for operations. Eventually, he became president and CEO, then chairman. He retired in 1983. "We went from doing $22 million worth of business a year when I joined Transcon in 1960, to doing $283 million a year by the time I left the company."
Following retirement, Sollenbarger spent a great deal of his time working with the Los Angeles Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America. He was instrumental in negotiating a contract with the Southern California Golf Association to build two golf courses and a lodge on part of the 3,400 acres of land owned by the Boy Scouts. His work with Scouting earned Sollenbarger the Council's highest honor, the Silver Beaver Award.
Sollenbarger believes accumulation of material wealth is not the principal measure of success. Instead, it is "how you lived and whether you left the world better for your having passed by." He tells youth to "work hard and intelligently, be honest and sincere, and be prepared for the next step up. Make the most of what you have, and help others along the way."
Honored to be a part of the Horatio Alger Association, Sollenbarger says, "This award has meant a great deal to me. The work the Association is doing to support deserving youth is commendable."* Deceased