Former Harley-Davidson VP to lead Kohler Distinguished Business Lecture
- Published: March 26, 2014
Harley-Davidson's retired vice president of business development will discuss the Milwaukee-based company's historic rise and enduring success during Lakeland College's 13th annual Charlotte and Walter Kohler Distinguished Business Lecture on April 10.
Clyde Fessler, a Sheboygan native who played an integral part in Harley-Davidson's dramatic turnaround over the past 24 years, will speak beginning at 7 p.m. in the Bradley Theatre. The presentation is free and open to the public. Harley enthusiasts are encouraged to wear biker apparel.
Fessler joined Harley-Davidson in 1977, and as director of marketing services he led the establishment of Harley Owners Group (HOG), which now has more than 500,000 members and is the largest enthusiasts club in the world.
As general sales manager in the early 1980s, he established new policies and programs, many of which are still in effect today. As director of licensing, Fessler created a new business that has received national recognition enhancing the brand to the general public as well as adding substantial financial value to Harley-Davidson.
As vice president of general merchandise, he repositioned the rider accessory department and led dramatic growth in the MotorClothes team from $20 million in annual sales to more than $100 million in five years.
Fessler is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame. He served on the board of trustees for the American Motorcycle Association and the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. He also served as an active liaison between the Muscular Dystrophy Association and Harley-Davidson, a relationship that has generated more than $31 million in donations since 1981.
He retired from Harley-Davidson in early 2002 and is now active as a consultant and motivational speaker.
Fessler's appearance at Lakeland is made possible by a gift from The Charlotte and Walter Kohler Charitable Trust. Lakeland annually brings a nationally known business or economic figure to its main campus to speak with Lakeland students and the general public.
Past lecturers have included former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, Forbes Media President and CEO Steve Forbes, Emmy Award-winning consumer reporter, investigative journalist and author John Stossel and a Federal Reserve Bank president.
The Charlotte and Walter Kohler Charitable Trust is named for former Wisconsin Gov. Walter Kohler Jr. and his wife, Charlotte. The Trust was established by Charlotte Kohler to preserve the society and culture that made their good fortune and success possible.