MY WASHINGTON — Summer 2003
   

 

A Man on a Mission

Whether working in the armed services, running a business, or assisting community organizations, Jack Taylor has led each endeavor by aspiring to the highest values, applying discipline, and building teamwork.

Jack C. Taylor, BU '44
 

Shortly after Jack Taylor enrolled in Washington University's business school in 1940, the United States entered World War II. He left school to join the U.S. Navy, and soon distinguished himself as a Naval aviator, flying F6F Hellcat fighters from the decks of the USS Essex and the USS Enterprise. As a member of America's "greatest generation," he earned two Distinguished Flying Crosses and the Navy Air Medal, while acquiring values of teamwork and discipline that have served him well as a businessman and community citizen.

After the war, he returned to St. Louis to start a small trucking business, and then went to work for Arthur Lindburg's Cadillac distributorship. Rising to the post of sales manager, he approached his boss with an idea to start an automobile leasing business. With Lindburg's help, Executive Leasing was established in 1957—the beginning of a remarkable business success story.

In the early 1960s, Taylor expanded into the rental car business with 17 cars. Not wanting to compete with the well-established airport rental companies, he looked for an area of the rental market that wasn't being served. He found that market first by working with insurance adjusters who needed cars for customers whose cars had been stolen. His community-based business then found its way into the "spare car" niche, supplying cars to people whose family cars were in the shop, too small for visiting guests, too unreliable for weekend trips, or too worn for escorting key business clients.

As the business grew, each office was run like a family business following Taylor's business credo: "Take care of your customers and employees first, and profits will follow." Jack's son, Andy, who succeeded him as chairman of Enterprise Rent-A-Car in 2002, clarifies: "You put customers first, because if they are satisfied, they will come back. And by making sure employees are happy, well-informed, and part of a team atmosphere, they will provide the best service possible."

The company's progress from those early days proves that Taylor's business philosophy works: Enterprise Rent-A-Car (renamed in 1969 for the Navy aircraft carrier on which Jack served) is now No. 1 in the rental business, with 500,000 rental cars, 100,000 leased vehicles, 5,000 branch offices, and more than 50,000 employees. Enterprise operates a growing international business, with operations in Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the Irish Republic.

 


Taylor himself is among those who have boldly stepped forward to ensure that the University will be able to attract the most talented and promising students, regardless of their ability to pay.

 


Jack and Andy Taylor have received many honors for their business success and community service, including Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year Award and the 2001 St. Louis Citizens of the Year. An example of the esteem in which the father-son team is held within the company was company executives' establishment of the Taylor Community Consulting Program in the Olin School of Business. The program is designed to enable bright young business students to benefit the nonprofit community with their ideas and advice.

With such business success has come the opportunity for Jack, the Taylor family, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car to support the community in many ways. Jack founded the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Foundation, now headed by his daughter, Jo Ann Taylor Kindle. The family and company have given some $140 million to causes and organizations in St. Louis and other communities in which the company operates. Many of those gifts have supported diversity initiatives in the community and in education, a guiding principle in the company's own business practices.

Here again, Jack Taylor has found a niche to fill. The Taylors and the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Foundation center their giving on the company's hometown of St. Louis because, as Jack says: "We want St. Louis to remain a first-class city with first-class cultural institutions. Much of our giving is based on our personal feelings. If we feel positive about an institution or organization, particularly if we have a personal connection, then we consider giving more seriously."

Recently, the company and family have made benchmark gifts to several organizations that have set new standards for philanthropy. A $40 million challenge gift to the world-renowned Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra earned national attention. The gift, to build endowment to maintain the orchestra's reputation as one of the world's premier ensembles, is the largest in the symphony's history and, at the time, the largest personal contribution made to an American orchestra for operations and endowment.

The Taylors gave $30 million to the Missouri Botanical Garden to support global plant research—the largest gift to a U.S. botanical garden—because of Jack's concerns about the degradation of the environment. Their $10 million gift to launch the National Flight Academy at the National Museum of Naval Aviation, the direct result of Jack's connection to the U.S. Navy, will cover one-third of the new institution's construction costs.

Other major gifts have supported the restoration of Forest Park (St. Louis' historic municipal park), the National Urban League, and the survivors of 9/11. But perhaps the most significant, because of its continuing impact for years to come, was the gift announced October 18, 2001, that established the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Scholars Program at Washington University. The program, to support scholarships for minority and financially disadvantaged students, was established with a gift of $25 million, the largest commitment made to the University for undergraduate scholarships.

James E. McLeod, vice chancellor for students and dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, says: "This gift will enable us to support more students who might otherwise be shut out of the opportunity for a Washington University education. It's wonderful to be able to stand up in front of prospective students and their parents and say, 'We have a friend who has invested in your and the University's aspirations.'"

Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton says: "The Taylors are great citizens of our community in so many ways. Their company's gift to the University demonstrates Enterprise Rent-A-Car's commitment to expanding opportunities for deserving young scholars throughout our society to attend Washington University."

Jack Taylor says, "I continue to be impressed with what is being done to make Washington University one of the best in the world." Taylor himself is among those who have boldly stepped forward to ensure that the University will continue its ascent among the world's premier institutions of higher education and will be able to attract the most talented and promising students, regardless of their ability to pay.

—John W. Hansford