2002 Pioneer Leadership Award

Fletcher A. Gourley

Fletcher A. Gourley was born Dec. 22, 1913 and was reared on the family farm in southwest Iowa near Villisea. He graduated from Iowa State University in 1937 with a degree in dairy manufacturing.

For a short time Fletcher played on the Iowa State football team as a scat back.

He worked for a short time in Ohio before being hired as manager of the newly organized farm separated cream buying cooperative in Carlinville, Ill., on March 1, 1938.

Fletcher continued in a management capacity as general manager and chief executive officer until 1988. At that time he elected to step down and assume the position of senior vice president and chief operating officer, a position he held until his death Feb. 13, 1991 at the age of 77.

Under Fletcher’s 50 years of leadership the Prairie Farms Dairy, Inc., family grew to include more than 40 acquisitions, nine mergers, the formation of several non-cooperative corporations, and the formation of four joint ventures namely Ideal American, Hiland-Dairy, Roberts Dairy, and Muller-Pinehurst Dairy.

Collectively, the sales of the year of his death exceeded $1 billion and resulted in Prairie Farms Dairy being listed as a Fortune 500 Company.

Fletcher was the recipient of numerous dairy industry awards which include, among others, being selected by the governor of Illinois to represent the state at the World Dairy Congress in Copenhagen, Denmark; being inducted as a Life Member in the prestigious Dairy Shrine Club which has a limited membership by election only; and the Dairyman of the Year Award presented to him by the Illinois Milk Producers Association in 1988.

This latter award recognizes an individual who has made outstanding contributions benefiting the Illinois dairy industry and has encouraged and built leadership in the industry.

Fletcher’s vision, foresight, and philosophy made Prairie Farms Dairy the envy of dairy cooperatives around the country. His uncanny management style and his organizational abilities built the company from its humble beginnings in 1938 to one of the nation’s largest milk processors.

He pioneered in developing a value added dairy cooperative which paid sizable profits back to the dairy farmers on a timely basis.

Prairie Farms Dairy recorded a loss in only one year-$10,574 in 1948.

Fletcher married the former Lois Holdren July 29, 1937. Lois died in 1999. The couple had two sons, Stephen and Barry.

Stephen was born in 1943, graduated from MacMurray College, and operated Gourley Consulting, Inc., in Frankfort, Ill., until his retirement. He and his wife have two grown children, Christina and Craig.

Barry was born in 1948, is married and has two grown daughters. He graduated from the University of Illinois in 1970 and earned an MBA degree from the University of Missouri in 1972. He currently holds the position of first vice president credit policy with Commerce Bank, Detroit.

Donald L. Kullman, a long time coworker, provided a Hall of Honors Memorial Endowment Award for Fletcher in 2002.