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President: 1908-1924
Chairman: 1924-1932

Julius Rosenwald, ca. 1920s"Treat people fairly and honestly and generously and their response will be fair and honest and generous."

Julius Rosenwald was born August 12, 1862, in Springfield, Ill. His father, Samuel, had traveled to Springfield several years earlier to run a clothing store for his wife's family.

In 1885, Rosenwald teamed up with a cousin, Julius Weil, to manufacture men's clothing.  Coincidentally, one of the company's clients was Richard Sears, who ordered men's clothing for sale in his catalogs.

In 1890, Julius married Augusta Nusbaum, with whom he had five children: Lessing, Adele, Edith, Marion and William. Lessing served as chairman of Sears upon his father's death in 1932 until 1939.

In 1895, Rosenwald became a partner in Sears, Roebuck and Co. when Richard Sears offered Rosenwald's brother-in-law, Aaron Nusbaum, an interest in the company. Nusbaum recruited Rosenwald to join the venture. In 1896, he became a vice president of Sears, Roebuck and Co.

From the moment he joined Sears, Roebuck and Co., Rosenwald's abilities meshed amazingly well with those of Richard Sears. He brought a rational management philosophy to Richard Sears' well-tuned sales instincts. From 1895 to 1907, annual sales skyrocketed from $750,000 to $50 million. In 1908, Rosenwald was named president when Richard Sears resigned. Rosenwald continued to serve as president until 1924, when he became chairman of the board, a position he held until his death in 1932.

After World War I, Sears was in dire financial shape and Rosenwald brought Sears back from the brink of bankruptcy by pledging some $21 million of his personal fortune, in cash, stock and other assets to rescue the company. By 1922, Sears had regained financial stability.

Rosenwald insisted that the company's primary goal must be responsibility to the customer. He established the "satisfaction guaranteed or your money back" pledge and conducted his business dealings by the creed "Sell honest merchandise for less money and more people will buy." Under Rosenwald's direction, the business positioned itself as a direct extension of the farmer's eyes, ears and wallet, making purchasing decisions in the best interests of the farmer.

After Rosenwald stepped down as Sears president in 1924, he devoted most of his time to philanthropy. Over the course of his life, he donated millions of dollars to public schools, colleges and universities, museums, Jewish charities and black institutions.

Of all his philanthropic efforts, Rosenwald was most famous for the more than 5,000 "Rosenwald schools" he established throughout the South for poor, rural black youth, and the 4,000 libraries he added to existing schools. The network of new public schools subsequently employed more than 14,000 teachers. In 1927, Rosenwald received a special gold medal from the William E. Harmon Awards for Distinguished Achievement in Race Relations for his contributions to the education of black youth.

Rosenwald embodied the principles of modern, responsible management and corporate citizenship. He provided the means and the model for Sears to grow to ever-greater heights as a company. More important, Rosenwald's life served as a blueprint for doing everything in one's power to raise the fortunes of those who otherwise could not do so.

 
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