"You've got to work hard and be lucky-and the harder you work the luckier you get."
One of Vincent Gorguze's favorite mantras describes his life. Since his humble beginnings as a son of Albanian immigrants whose father worked two jobs as a waiter in Detroit, Michigan, he was driven by his work ethic and perseverance and ultimately realized the American Dream.
Mr. Gorguze passed away peacefully in his sleep at his home in La Jolla last Friday, October 11 at the age of 97. He led a full and inspiring life and is survived by his wife Gloria of 58 years, his daughter Lynn Gorguze, his son-in-law, Congressman Scott Peters, and his grandchildren, Ellie and Ben Peters.
Vince Gorguze earned a scholarship to the University of Michigan and graduated in 1941 with a BSE in metallurgical engineering. Education had always been emphasized in his immigrant family and he felt his college education was a turning point in his life. Years later he found great joy in making education one of his philanthropic priorities.
Soon after his graduation from Michigan, he joined Ford Motor Company's Materials Laboratory as an engineering supervisor. From 1944 to 1946, he served his country with distinction in the US Navy.
In the early 1950s, Mr. Gorguze left Ford to assume the position of general manager of the Curtiss-Wright Corporation's metal processing division. This facility, in Buffalo, New York, which he built and operated, developed and produced jet engines and high-strength titanium tubes for the newly established United States' nuclear submarine program.
In October 1957, while wandering through Curtiss-Wright's strategic materials exhibit at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, he found himself face to face with former President Herbert Hoover, a fellow metallurgical engineer. Hoover invited him to tea and he later received a note from Hoover that said, "You and your colleagues have made a revolution in metallurgy of the very first order."
While his business accomplishments at Curtiss-Wright were many, the best thing about his tenure there was meeting Gloria Hermann. Gloria worked for him for three years and they married in 1955. Their different temperaments led friends and co-workers to bet their marriage would not last six weeks, but in fact it was an enduring lifetime partnership in perfect balance.
In 1963, he moved to St. Louis, Missouri, to assume the presidency of White-Rodgers Company. Soon thereafter, White-Rodgers was acquired by Emerson Electric Company, also headquartered in St. Louis. Mr. Gorguze held various positions at Emerson Electric, ultimately becoming its president and chief operating officer in 1973, with overall operating responsibility for both the domestic and international operations of the company. He was one of the prime architects of its growth from $150 million in annual revenues in 1962 to over $2 billion in 1978. Some of the acquisitions Emerson made during his tenure include InSinkErator, RIDGID, Browning, Commercial Cam, Louisville Ladder, Therm-O-Disc, Weed Eater and Dremel.
In 1978, Mr. Gorguze retired from Emerson Electric, but his retirement lasted only a few weeks. That year he purchased Sinclair & Rush Inc. in St. Louis in a leveraged buyout, even before "LBO" was a term of art. Sinclair & Rush, still partially owned by the Gorguze family, was the foundation for the establishment of Cameron Holdings Corporation. Co-founded by Vince Gorguze and his daughter, Lynn, Cameron Holdings is a family office that specializes in acquiring and operating middle market manufacturing, industrial service and value-added distribution companies. Since its beginning, Cameron Holdings has established a long and successful track record of acquiring, operating and growing a variety of companies in North America, Europe and Australia, and has made over 37 acquisitions with an aggregate transaction value in excess of $1 billion.
In 1998, The University of Michigan College of Engineering presented Mr. Gorguze with the Department of Materials Science and Engineering Alumni Society Merit Award. Vince Gorguze never lost his love of hard work going into the office every day until the last few weeks of his life and serving as Chairman of Cameron Holdings since its inception. In his spare time, Mr. Gorguze was a gym and exercise enthusiast; he was also a devoted husband, father and grandfather. He looked forward to having dinner with his wife Gloria around town in La Jolla every evening. He also loved to spend time with Lynn and Scott, and with his grandchildren.
Memorials in remembrance of Vincent Gorguze to the University Of Michigan College Of Engineering, Office of Advancement, Robert H. Lurie Engineering Center, 1221 Beal Avenue, G264, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2102.
To gain a bit more insight into Vince Gorguze, view his 2011 Gorguze Family Laboratory dedication speech at the University Of Michigan College Of Engineering at http://t.co/FxDfpdNzcH.
Published in St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Oct. 24, 2013