Image: Cornell Hall

Harry M. Cornell, Jr.

Cornell Hall is named for Harry M. Cornell, Jr.

Image: Harry Cornell
Harry M. Cornell, Jr.

Mr. Cornell built a small regional company into a Fortune 500 manufacturing giant. Founded as Leggett & Platt, the pioneer of coiled bedsprings, in 1883, the company only had two plants when they incorporated as Leggett & Platt Spring Bed & Manufacturing Co. in 1901. Harry joined the company in sales in 1950 and rose through the ranks to become President and CEO in 1960. During the next 52 years, he transformed Leggett & Platt from five plants and $7 million in annual sales into a $4 billion company with 130 plants in 18 countries. Today, Leggett & Platt, a world leader in component manufacturing, is a Fortune 500 company that employs nearly 19,000 around the globe.

Mr. Cornell achieved remarkable growth through innovation and acquisition. His many milestones included the initial public offering of Leggett & Platt stock in 1967 and the 1979 listing on the New York Stock Exchange. As a supplier that manufactured component parts, created the machinery to make them and produced the raw materials, Harry expanded Leggett & Platt into eight industries. He directed the opening of national production plants with satellite distribution centers, established consistent quality standards, emphasized impeccable customer service, and provided "just in time" delivery before the term existed. A visionary who considered each achievement to be a team effort, Harry encouraged everyone around him to strive for excellence. He believed in "an attitude of discontent," briefly celebrating an accomplishment and then challenging his team to make its own products obsolete, because he believed the company owed its customers continual innovation. In 2014, Harry was inducted into the American Furniture Hall of Fame as an Industry Fellow.

Mr. Cornell earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Missouri in 1950 and was also awarded an honorary doctorate of law in 2003. He was a founding member of the Strategic Development Board, which is the advisory group for the University’s Trulaske College of Business, and he remains an active member. Mr. Cornell, in conjunction with Leggett & Platt, made a substantial gift to the college during its Excellence Through Change campaign. In 2006, he made an additional gift to the college, part of which funds enhancements to Cornell Hall. The gift also established the Cornell Leadership Program, which provides scholarships and a specially designed program that takes business school students beyond the traditional classroom experience.