“Driving for Excellence” – Company Motto and Personal Mission
Orthwein and Thompson created a remarkable record of success. They took the company public in 1984, and in 1986 it was listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The partners grew Thor through a series of acquisitions and then developed those subsidiary companies into leaders in the recreational vehicle and commercial vehicle industries. Over the years, Thor has earned numerous accolades, including listings on Forbes’ Best Managed Companies (2004), Fortune’s Most Admired Companies (2005), and Industry Week’s Fifty Best U.S. Manufacturers (2005).
Recently, Orthwein established the Peter B. Orthwein 1968 Sesquicentennial Fellow in Accounting, a position that spans Johnson graduate education and Cornell’s undergraduate business program at the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. “This opportunity interested me because it gives back to both schools,” says Orthwein. The gift helps to advance one of Johnson’s critical goals: to enable recruitment of premier faculty. Having a strong teaching and research faculty is essential to delivering top quality education for students and also to maintaining and growing the school’s reputation as one of the global leaders in graduate management education.”
Orthwein’s gift is the latest in a series of significant gifts he has made to Cornell University. Others include endowing the Peter B. Orthwein ’69 Head Coach of Polo and making a lead gift for the Class of 1969 Scholarship in Honor of Professor Jerry Hass.
Orthwein did not initially set his course toward a business career. An avid polo player, he entered Cornell with thoughts of becoming a veterinarian. But without ever having taken any biology or chemistry courses, he soon found himself floundering. “My advisor Dan Sisler [PhD '62, Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics] encouraged me to switch into agricultural economics and to try to double-register in the business school.” Orthwein took his advice; he took all of his senior-year courses at what was then the Graduate School of Business and Public Administration (Johnson’s predecessor)and then went straight on to finish his MBA.
After he graduated, Orthwein did a short stint at Bankers Trust, moved over to Gould Inc., where he gained exposure and experience in corporate development, and then joined another firm, where he became well-schooled in handling divestitures of troubled companies. But he had a strong desire to be in business for himself and soon started buying businesses – “doable deals” initially made with small investments soon grew into closing bigger and bigger deals. Fortunately, “we missed stepping in deep holes!” he says. “By now, I have a lot of deal books in my office.”
Another of Orthwein’s proud achievements: seeing his son, Peter Busch Orthwein, earn his own Johnson MBA in 2003. It’s just another manifestation of “driving for excellence.”