Richard F. Teerlink, Honorary Degree ’05
When it becomes all but impossible to attend college while working full time, perhaps the most sensible answer is to bring college to the student.
That’s what happened when Harley-Davidson and Marquette’s College of Professional studies partnered to create a virtual university in 1995. Harley-Davidson employees can receive a Marquette degree while taking classes at their company.
This was driven by motivated leaders, particularly Rich Teerlink, the company’s retired chairman and chief executive officer, who worked with CPS Dean Dr. Robert Deahl to pioneer the program in the late 1990s.
Rich, known for creative, non-traditional thinking during his 18-year career with Harley-Davidson, successfully reshaped the company with the belief that “people are your only sustainable competitive advantage.” Rich also was chief financial officer, president and chairman of the board and helped the company return to public ownership in 1986.
By nature humble and gracious, Rich says Harley-Davidson’s educational program was executed by many devoted supporters. But it was his dedication to intellectual curiosity as part of a person’s value system that helped the steering group turn the idea into reality.
Rich is on the boards of directors for Harley-Davidson, Johnson Controls, Snap-on Inc. and Bering Truck Corp. He was the first chairman of the College of Professional Studies Corporate Advisory Council.