Kevin Teets provided this outstanding tribute to Fred Turner. Thanks Kevin.
Remembering SigEp Giant, Fred Turner, 1933-2013
Fred Turner, Drake ’54, was no ordinary man.
At the age of 35, Turner was elected president of the board of McDonald’s and later became the company’s chief executive officer. He has been called the architect behind McDonalds—introducing the world to the Chicken McNugget, the Egg McMuffin and the Happy Meal.
Turner died on Monday in Glenview, Ill., at the age of 80. His life reflects that of a pioneer in the food and service industry, accomplishments which earned him a SigEp Citation, an award that recognizes those SigEp alumni with the highest of professional and personal accomplishments.
Turner started his career with McDonald’s at age 23. In a meeting with Drake University SigEps in 2007, Turner shared that his career choice was one that happened by accident. Before flipping burgers at a newly formed McDonald’s in 1956, Turner was a driver for a cookie delivery company in Des Moines, Iowa. He told the students that he wrecked the delivery truck and was fired from his first job. It was then that he met McDonald’s pioneer, Ray Kroc.
Turner was pointing out to those students that sometimes “failure” and “bad luck” open the biggest doors. He said, “If I didn’t wreck that cookie delivery truck, I may not be where I am today.” When Turner met Kroc, McDonald’s had only 14 restaurants. Turner’s mishap in cookie delivery brought him together with Kroc at the right place and the right time. His leadership and dedication built the present McDonald’s empire into more than 31,000 restaurants in over 120 countries.
Turner will be known for giving back to the places he loved. In 2010, he gifted $1.3 million to Drake University to build the Fred and Patty Turner Jazz Center, a 4,600-square-foot facility that now adjoins the Harmon Fine Arts Center on Drake’s campus. The center includes a practice and performance studio, jazz gallery, piano alcove, recording studio and student lounge called “Patty’s Place,” named in honor of Fred’s wife, Patty Shurtleff, who passed away in 2000. The two kindled their relationship on Drake’s campus.
Iowa Delta Alumni Board President Gary Ordway '64, said that Turner has also given generously to the chapter’s capital campaign. “Fred made life-long commitments to enhancing the lives of Drake students. He really enjoyed young people and valued giving them opportunities. We are all fortunate that Fred found time to visit the chapter and attend chapter and alumni meetings at the Drake Relays.
In addition to his generosity, Turner will be remembered as someone who loved to enjoy life and have fun. “Rod Rhodes and I got the chance to attend Fred’s annual ‘Fred Party', in Chicago,” Ordway said. “What a blast it was to have fun with Fred. His life and legacy will live on.”
In his 2007 Citation acceptance speech, Turner said that the most common character trait you will find in successful people is persistence. He encouraged undergraduates to be persistent in all that they do and told the alumni that the best thing that can be given to “our descendants” are “roots” and “wings.”
During that same Conclave, Grand Chapter President Stephen Shanklin said in his speech, “We are all standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Fred Turner will be remembered as one of those giants.