E. Mandell de Windt, Eaton Corp.’s chairman of the board and chief executive officer from 1969 to 1986, died on April 4. He was 91. De Windt was elected Eaton’s sixth chairman and CEO in 1969. His retirement in April 1986 culminated a 45-year association with the company. Only company founder Joseph Eaton was at the company’s helm for longer than him.
“We have lost a great friend and an exceptional leader,” said Alexander Cutler, Eaton chairman and CEO. “Under Del’s direction, Eaton became a highly diversified global company with annual sales that grew to more than $3 billion. His legacy extends to his many contributions to the Cleveland area through an unwavering commitment to the community and civic causes.”
De Windt began his career with Eaton in 1941 as a production clerk at the engine valve plant in Battle Creek, Mich. He was transferred to the company’s Cleveland headquarters in 1944 and wrote the company’s first personnel manual. He also developed a proposal for the orderly rehiring of servicemen at the end of World War II. Eaton continues to be recognized today as a veteran-friendly company.
After serving in key assignments in human resources and operations, he was elected vice president of sales in 1959 and became group vice president of the company and president of Eaton International in 1961. He was elected a director of the company in 1964, executive vice president of operations in 1967 and president of the company later that year.
In addition to his numerous business accomplishments, De Windt was an outstanding civic leader in the Greater Cleveland community. He was instrumental in helping launch four major initiatives involving United Way, Cleveland Tomorrow, the Greater Cleveland Roundtable and an operations improvement task force funded by two major Cleveland organizations.