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RIP Terry Kohler: Patriot, businessman, and IWP supporter

LTG Michael Flynn with Mary and Terry KohlerThe Institute of World Politics mourns the loss of Terry J. Kohler, who passed away at his residence on September 20, 2016.  Mr. Kohler was the son of former Wisconsin governor and husband of Mary Kohler.

Mr. and Mrs. Kohler were instrumental in the founding of the Institute.  They always preferred seed funding investments, and as a result, donated the largest infusion of funds to IWP in its first year of existence. IWP President John Lenczowski said: “IWP might never have gotten off the ground without Terry and Mary. For this, I will be eternally grateful.”

Terry and Mary Kohler have remained as friends of IWP ever since, and last year — 25 years after their original investment — they generously sponsored IWP’s Silver Anniversary Gala.

After graduating high school from the Admiral Farragut Academy, in 1952, Mr. Kohler served in the US Air Force from 1955 to 1959. He earned his pilot’s wings and flew T-33 fighter jets and B-47 bombers, achieving the rank of Captain. In 1962, Mr. Kohler received his Bachelor of Science in Industrial Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He completed his Master’s in the same field from the MIT Sloan School of Management.

In 1963, Mr. Kohler joined his family business, The Vollrath Company, and went on to become its President in 1976, and Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer in 1982. In 1984, after dramatically expanding the company, Mr. Kohler purchased North Sails, a leader in global manufacturing of racing and cruising sails. In 1989, The Vollrath Company and North Sails became separate corporations under a holding company, Windway Capital Corp., of which Mr. Kohler was the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer.

Mr. Kohler married Mary Stewart Simpson in 1981, and they have worked as a team ever since. They have been strong advocates for strong marriages, and have started several organizations to further this cause. Terry and Mary Kohler were extraordinarily effective in electoral politics and philanthropy. They have been very successful in their support for conservative politics and helped develop the “Contract with America” that was presented during the 1994 Congressional election campaign by Newt Gingrich. They were also involved in several wildlife initiatives, including work with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources flying trumpeter swan eggs from Alaska and with the International Crane Foundation flying crane eggs from Portsmouth to Baraboo, WI.

Mr. Kohler has left behind a great legacy, and he will be remembered by many as a beloved father and husband, a revered businessman, a generous philanthropist, and a great man, amongst many other things.

IWP deeply mourns his passing and fondly remembers him for his contributions to our community, best put in IWP President John Lenczowski’s words: “He was a great business leader, a great community leader, and a great national leader. He was a great American.  The world is a better place because of him.”

Photo: LTG Michael Flynn with Mary and Terry Kohler at IWP’s Silver Anniversary Gala in October 2015.