Terry Kohler

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Terry Kohler
Terry Jodok Kohler

(1934-06-14)June 14, 1934
DiedSeptember 20, 2016(2016-09-20) (aged 82)
EducationAdmiral Farragut Academy
Alma materM.I.T.
OccupationCEO, Windway Capital Corporation
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Diana Prange (1962–1981)
Mary Simpson (1981-present)
Parent(s)Walter J. Kohler, Jr. (father)

Terry Kohler (May 14, 1934 – September 20, 2016) was a member of the Kohler family of Wisconsin and an American businessman, Wisconsin Republican Party leader, sportsman, philanthropist, and conservationist.

Early life[edit]

Terry Kohler was born on May 14, 1934, in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. His father was Walter J. Kohler, Jr. (1904–76), a sales executive at the Kohler Company, president of The Vollrath Company, and a three-term Governor of Wisconsin. His mother was Marie Celeste McVoy Kohler (1900-1974), a Chicago socialite who had been married and divorced and had one child. Terry's sister is Charlotte Nicolette Kohler (1936-2012).[1] The Kohlers divorced in 1946 and Terry was raised by his father at Windway, his parents' estate not far from the Kohler factory in the village of Kohler.

In 1952, Kohler graduated from the Admiral Farragut Academy. In 1962, he received a bachelor of science degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, majoring in industrial management. A year later he earned an MBA in the same field from the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Kohler married Diana Prange (1932-1991) of Sheboygan in 1956, and they had three daughters. The couple divorced in 1976.[2] In 1981, Kohler married Mary Simpson, the mother of four sons.

An outdoor sports enthusiast, Kohler raced sports cars in the mid-1960s, and spent six years on the National Ski Patrol. Kohler has sailed and raced sailboats for more than six decades, winning numerous trophies. He is a past Commodore of the Lake Michigan Sail Racing Federation. He was also awarded the Nathanael Herreshoff Trophy by US Sailing in 2009.[3][4]


Kohler's full-time association with the Vollrath Company, a manufacturer of stainless steel and aluminum wares, began in 1963. In 1976, he became the seventh president of the company.[5] Kohler became chairman of the board and chief executive officer in 1982.

Under Kohler's leadership, the company expanded dramatically. In July 1984, Lowell North sold his famous sailmaking company to Kohler, and in January 1989, North Sails and the Vollrath Company became separate corporations under the Windway Capital Corporation, a holding company. Kohler was President and Chairman of the Board of Windway Capital Corporation, Chairman of North Technology Group, and is on the board at Vollrath.[6]

Political life[edit]

Kohler was active in the Republican Party for many years before an unsuccessful attempt to win the party's nomination for the United States Senate in 1980, losing to Bob Kasten.[7] In 1982 Kohler secured the GOP nomination for Governor, but subsequently lost to Democrat Tony Earl by a 57% to 42% margin,[8] the worst showing for a Republican gubernatorial candidate since 1942.[9]

In 1986 Kohler ran for surveyor of Douglas County,[10] running on a platform that supported abolishing the position of surveyor as an elected office. He lost the election.[11]

In 1991 Kohler was nominated by Governor Tommy Thompson for a seat on the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. The nomination was heavily criticized by liberals in the State Senate and newspaper editorials, who cited Kohler's past racial slurs, commentary about the "immoral" and "sick" behavior of homosexuals, and other viewpoints.[12] The nomination was ultimately rejected by the Senate.[13]

Beyond elected office, both Kohler and his wife remained active inside the Republican Party. In May 2002, Kohler was elected to the GOP National Committee, serving until mid-February, 2007. In 2004, he was a member of the Bush-Cheney Campaign Steering Committee. Since 1984, the Kohlers have been supporters of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.[14]

Kohler died at his home in Sheboygan on September 20, 2016, at the age of 82.[15][16]

Philanthropy and conservation[edit]

Kohler and his wife were involved in efforts to save trumpeter swans, whooping cranes, and Siberian cranes from extinction.[17][18]


  1. ^ "Niki Kohler". The Sheboygan Sun. Retrieved 25 November 2015.
  2. ^ "Terry Kohlers Divorce". Sheboygan Press. 22 Jun 1976. p. 19.
  3. ^ "Terry Kohler Awarded Herreshoff Trophy". New York Yacht Club. Retrieved 25 November 2015.
  4. ^ "Past Award Winners". United States Sailing Association. Retrieved 25 November 2015.
  5. ^ "Vollrath Company Heritage". Vollrath Company. Retrieved 25 November 2015.
  6. ^ "Terry and Mary Kohler". Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation. Retrieved 25 November 2015.
  7. ^ "Kohler cousin joins Kasten". Milwaukee Sentinel, July 28, 1980, part 1, p. 11.
  8. ^ "Did bias beat Terry Kohler?". The Milwaukee Journal, November 23, 1982, part 1, p. 14.
  9. ^ Donald Pfarrer. "Earl to emphasize Progressive stand". The Milwaukee Journal, November 3, 1982, p. 6.
  10. ^ "Kohler runs for post". Milwaukee Sentinel, July 11, 1986, part 1, p. 11.
  11. ^ Kenneth R. Lamke. "Conservative causes just one of bustling Kohler activities". Milwaukee Sentinel, August 18, 1989, part 1, p. 18.
  12. ^ 'Kohler needs to justify his fitness". The Milwaukee Journal, May 9, 1991, p. A14.
  13. ^ Steven Walters. "Name-calling follows Kohler rejection". Milwaukee Sentinel, June 21, 1991, p. 11A.
  14. ^ Thomas C. Reeves. Distinguished Service: The Life of Wisconsin Governor Walter J. Kohler, Jr.. Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2006.
  15. ^ "Terry Kohler: Businessman, philanthropist and political activist". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  16. ^ http://www.channel3000.com/news/Businessman-GOP-donor-Terry-Kohler-dies/41753826
  17. ^ "Who We Are". Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership. Retrieved 25 November 2015.
  18. ^ Excellence in Philanthropy: Interview With Terry And Mary Kohler