Russ College Academy of Distinguished Graduates
Donald H. Voelker, BSME '52. Don's expertise in hydraulics has led him to a successful career in the manufacturing industry. A Cleveland native, Don served for two years in the United States Navy before coming to Ohio University. He graduated from Ohio University in 1952 with a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering. When asked about his engineering education, he points to former chairman of the department, Dr. Paul Black, and professor emeritus Lewis Hicks as two individuals who greatly influenced his decision to become a mechanical engineer.
After graduation, Don was hired as a sales engineer trainee for Hydraulic Equipment Company (now Hydreco). He was 25 years old; his territory included the entire Midwest. He was then transferred to Kansas City, Kansas, where he was responsible for sales in 13 states. Eventually, Don was transferred back to the Midwest where his territory included all of Ohio and the surrounding states. In 1957 he began working for Parker Hannifin, covering a six-state area. Don designed and sold hydraulic systems for man-lifting devices, earthmoving equipment, and farm equipment.
In 1960, Don decided to open his own firm, D. H. Voelker and Associates. The company served as a manufacturer's agent for hydraulic equipment. That first year the company grossed $180,000 in sales; in 1989 it grossed six million dollars.
While chairman of D. H. Voelker and Associates, Don and two others began a hydraulic cylinder manufacturing operation in Kansas. The company, now called Great Bend Industries, currently employs 200 people, and in 1998 grossed $420 million in sales. Don looks at Great Bend Industries as his proudest business accomplishment.
Don has always been an enthusiastic supporter of Ohio University. While in college he was a member of the Engineers Club and pledged Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. Currently he is a trustee on the board of the Ohio University Foundation and serves on the Campaign Steering Committee. He is a member of the Russ College's Board of Visitors. He is immediate past president and co-chair of the National Alumni Board of Directors gifts solicitation committee and chairman of the regional phase of the campaign. In 1990, Don chaired the National Development Committee for Phase III of the Third Century Campaign. He received the Ohio University Alumni Association's Medal of Merit in 1995. He and his wife, Marge, sponsor the Donald H. Voelker Engineering Scholarship for mechanical engineering students at Ohio University. Don and his wife are the parents of three children.