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Marquette University Alumni Association

College of Business Administration and Graduate School of Management Award Recipients

Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award

Greendale, Wis.

“Success is honesty and the ability to look your employees and customers in the eye and say, ‘I did my best,’ ” John says.

And there’s no doubt he has done just that. John began his career as a certified public accountant for what was then Price Waterhouse but soon rose to the ranks of senior management in the material handling industry. He led the transformation of HK Systems from a small division of Harnischfeger Industries to the leading provider of synchronized material flow solutions, with $300 million in annual revenue. In 1998, John was recognized as the Wisconsin Entrepreneur of the Year for Technology, and DC Velocity magazine once declared him to be “one of the true thought leaders in the material handling and logistics technology field.”

“To build your own company is an experience that you cannot explain. The highs of success and the lows of failure are beyond words,” John says. “But if you have provided a service to the community and employed many people, then you can consider your life a success.”

In 2010, he sold HK Systems to Dematic and is currently a senior adviser and board member of Dematic.

But John’s contributions extend far beyond his own company. He serves on the boards of Superior Die, ITS, Sussek Manufacturing and U.S. Bank Wisconsin, as well as Ministry Health Care, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, Junior Achievement, and Notre Dame Middle School. He is part of Marquette’s Golden Angels Network and a regent of the Milwaukee School of Engineering. In 2010, John received an honorary doctor of business and economics degree from MSOE.

His latest venture: building JWS Classics, a new business that involves the sale and restoration of American muscle cars. It’s not surprising for a man who counts among his professional goals to “never fully retire.”

Get to Know: John W. Splude

Hometown: Milwaukee, Wis.  

Favorite quote:  “Old generals never die; they just fade away.” Douglas MacArthur

Someone past or present he’d like to have dinner with: Stirling Moss

The Marquette faculty or staff member who had a great impact on him:  Tim Keane

Most influential in John’s life:  His first mentor, Jim Gaudet