On May 3, 2020, the class lost Ken Melrose, who passed away in Minneapolis, Minnesota after an extended illness. Ken left his mark not only during his undergraduate years, but in notable achievements throughout his life.
Born in Orlando, Florida, Ken attended Boone High School, where he was student council president. He elected to follow his brother Robert’s footsteps, and joined us at Princeton for the Class of ’62. Ken continued his high school passion in track, participating all four years on the Princeton team. His major was in mathematics, and he graduated with honors in that degree. Ken was active in Orange Key, was a Keyceptor his junior and senior years, and represented the undergraduate body on the Athletic Council.
An enthusiastic member of Tiger Inn, he continued his involvement with that Club throughout his life. His roommate in Lockhart Hall was Ed Weihenmayer, with whom he maintained a close friendship throughout his life.
After graduation from Princeton, Ken attended MIT, obtaining a master’s degree in management. Initially, shying away from the business environment, he received a second MBA from the University of Chicago, and then went on to join the Pillsbury Company for three years.
He moved to the Toro Company in 1970 as its Director of Marketing and began what became a 36-year career. On the brink of the company's bankruptcy in 1981, he took over as president and CEO, remaining in that post until his retirement in 2006. As chief executive officer, he sought to live out his view that a business would thrive if its practices were Christ-like and service oriented. He once said, “The purpose of life is to serve God by serving others”. He sought to add value to his employees, and initiated a prayer meeting for them that typically had 60-70 participants a week. He collaborated with his staff in an approach to product liability that sought to reach out to customers, avoid litigation, instead retain them as positive clients for life. Ken loved to go white water rafting, and often took groups of Toro employees on trips down the Salmon River.
In 2006, Ken founded Leading by Serving LLC, with the purpose of promoting servant leadership in business organizations. He also wrote the book, Making the Grass Greener on Your Side: A CEO’s Journey to Leading by Serving. Ken became a strong supporter of Christian Union. For many years, he funded the Christian Ethics in Business course at Princeton, and sponsored a men’s track team course in 2010. In 2017, Ken underscored his commitment to promoting a Christian lifestyle view by donating $1.1 million to secure the purchase of the Christian Leadership Center at Princeton, named for his brother Robert Melrose, ’54. Ken later endowed the building with an additional $1 million. To quote Christian Union founder and CEO Matt Bennett, “Ken Melrose was an extraordinary, wonderful person, who loved his family and the cause of Christ at his alma mater, Princeton”. Knowing that he was suffering from Alzheimer’s, Ken used his wealth in his last years to fund many Christian causes, and created several scholarship programs, including the Kendrick B. Melrose one for dependents of company employees.
Ken cherished his roles as father and grandfather. The class extends its condolences to his son Rob ’92, daughters Kendra ’02 and Lia, and his partner Kaye O’Leary. Ken’s roommate and long- time friend, Ed Weihenmayer, provided a fitting epitaph: “the world was so much better for his presence”
Source attributions: Princeton Senior Herald, Class ’62 Princeton Reunion Book, Christian Union magazines, summer issue 2011, and spring issue 2020, Minneapolis Star Tribune obituary.