MY WASHINGTON — Summer 2009
   

 
Jack Bodine, B.S. ’49, M.B.A. ’55, and Mary Jane Bodine (Photo: Joe Angeles)

Living and Sharing Fundamental Values

In the fall of 1996, this magazine published a “Salute to the Class of 2000.” The story featured letters to the new freshmen from graduates of each school at the University, and Jack Bodine was selected to represent the School of Engineering & Applied Science. He told students that success in the 21st century would be built on “the basics—honesty, integrity, compassion, and hard work.” He was speaking from experience.

In 1912, Jesse R. Bodine—Jack’s father, for whom he is named—founded the Bodine Pattern Company in St. Louis to manufacture patterns for Dorris and Moon motor cars. Jack worked there while he was in high school and joined the company full time in 1950. When his father was killed in an automobile accident in 1958, Jack and his brother, Robert, took over the leadership of the company. By the time Jack retired as executive vice president 40 years later, Bodine Aluminum, Inc. had become one of the largest producers of complex aluminum sand and permanent mold castings in the United States.

“My father was a terrific mechanic,” Bodine recalls. “He started the company with one employee. My brother and I used to go to the plant with him when we were kids, and it was always understood that we would go into the business. I still enjoy dropping by the plant today.” He learned the foundry business from the ground up, starting in the pattern shop at age 16.

Bodine graduated from University City High School in 1944, at the height of World War II. “I was only 17, so I attended Washington University for a semester until I could enlist,” he says. “The Navy was offering the opportunity to go to radio school if you could pass the Eddy Aptitude Test, so that’s what I did. I finished up as an electronics technician 2nd class.”

Engineer and businessman
Following his discharge in 1946, Bodine returned to St. Louis and enrolled at Washington University on the G.I. Bill. “Originally I had planned to go to Northwestern, because they had a great engineering school,” he says. “But by the time I got home, I didn’t want to leave again right away. Also, Don Fischer, who was dean of the School of Engineering, offered me 12 hours of credit for the courses I had taken in the Navy.” Like many of his classmates, Bodine lived at home and walked to campus.

“My brother and I were the first in our family to have the opportunity to go to college,” he says. “The engineering program at Washington University was growing, and I had a great experience. Before I went into the service, I had studied mechanical engineering, which primarily focused on design. Dean Fischer introduced a program in industrial engineering, which emphasized manufacturing, so I switched to that. I also took a couple of business courses.” In addition to his studies, Bodine joined Beta Theta Pi fraternity, where he made friends who have remained close ever since.

After graduating in 1949, Bodine studied metallurgical engineering at the University of Missouri at Rolla for a year. He went to work for Bodine Aluminum, and the following year he returned to Washington University to take a business course through University College. In 1952 he enrolled in the first evening master’s program offered by the John M. Olin School of Business and completed his Master of Business Administration degree in 1955. He received an honorary B.S. in metallurgical engineering from U.M.–Rolla in 1968.

A changing industry
World War II had profoundly altered the aluminum casting industry. Before the war, aluminum had been used primarily for consumer goods. The Bodine foundry became the first in the St. Louis area to produce heat-treated aluminum castings for military equipment and aircraft. After the war, the company converted its process to commercial applications. Bodine Aluminum expanded and earned recognition for its outstanding production of quality patterns and metal castings, which require a high level of craftsmanship.

“When I joined the company in 1950, we had 30 to 40 employees,” Bodine recalls. “We produced castings for commercial industrial machinery from hydraulic components to diesel engines to pumps, compressors, valves, and transmissions.” In 1990, when the company was sold to Toyota, it had grown to 250 employees. Toyota has since added two new Bodine Aluminum plants, one in Troy, Missouri, and the other in Jackson, Tennessee, to supply automotive parts for its assembly operations in North America.

Bodine was active in his industry throughout his career. He is a past president of the American Foundry Society and its St. Louis chapter, the American Association of Industrial Management, the Non-Ferrous Founder’s Society, the Cast Metals Institute, and the American Foundry Society Research Board. He was a national trustee of the Foundry Educational Foundation and also served on the board of the St. Louis County Traffic and Highway Commission.

Ongoing commitment
At Washington University, Bodine has been a member of the School of Engineering National Council since 1998. He is a longtime devoted member of the School’s Alumni Advisory Council and served as its president in 1996. He is a member of the School’s Eliot Society and Scholarship committees, and was gift chair for his 40th and 45th Reunions. He also is a former member of the Alumni Board of Governors. He received an Alumni Achievement Award in 1996 and was honored with a Distinguished Alumni Award at Founders Day in 1997.

Jack and his wife, Mary Jane, married in 1980. As Life Members of the William Greenleaf Eliot Society, they endowed a scholarship in engineering and also sponsor an annual term-endowed scholarship. They take an interest in each of their scholarship recipients.

One such student was Jennifer Dionne, B.S. ’03, B.S.S.S.E. ’03, who says: “The Bodines were wonderful mentors to me. Their personal and financial support made it possible for me to graduate with two majors, in physics and systems science & engineering. I have now finished a Ph.D. in applied physics from Caltech, and I am on my way to a professorship at Stanford University. The Bodines also inspired me outside the classroom: Their passion for travel and sport takes them to Europe each summer for an extended cycling trip. As a student, I could barely bike 20 miles, but I recently participated in an Olympic-distance triathlon, thanks in part to their example. I am incredibly grateful for all they have given me.”
—Susan Wooleyhan Caine