Robert K. Schnell, who was executive vice president of the Farm Equipment Manufacturers Assn. from 1984 to 2009, died Wednesday, Feb. 28. He was 74.
Schnell joined the Association staff team in 1968 and oversaw membership and meetings. When he succeeded Harold Halter as executive vice president in 1984, he became only the second person to serve in the role.
During his tenure, membership grew from about 330 to about 600, and the Association added vital member services such as the no-cost consultations with attorneys, expanded insurance offerings from Sentry, and online resources.
Schnell's insights and leadership "propelled our Association into a position of strength," said Layton Jensen, who served as Association president during Schnell's tenure.
Schnell's colleagues described him Thursday as a "true character" and someone with "a gruff exterior but a big heart."
"I was just speaking with Gary Manke (Midwest Equipment Dealers Assn.) last week about some of the most interesting folks that have been in our industry, and we both mentioned Bob in unison," said Kim Rominger, executive vice president and CEO of Equipment Dealers Assn. "While Bob was a true character, he was also a gentlemen of great integrity."
Paul Kindinger, who enjoyed a friendship with Schnell beyond their decades-long professional relationship, said that while "he could come across as tough or unmovable, when an issue called for a compromise, if one was possible, Bob would find it. He had a gruff exterior but a big heart."
Kindinger also said Schnell was proud to represent Association members. In a farewell he wrote when he retired in 2009, Schnell said "it has been the members that have made these four decades the most rewarding."
"It's been my pleasure working for you," he wrote, "and I look forward to seeing each of you somewhere down the road."
He is survived my wife Marcie and their children and grandchildren. A memorial service is being planned for Saturday, March 10. Read additional tributes from colleagues at FarmEquip.org/Schnell.
For more information contact Kristi Ruggles, Director of Communications 314.878.1742
Bob Schnell's passing has brought response from some of our Association’s former presidents and others in our industry. Below is a collection of just a few of the shared memories - additional thoughts will be posted as they become available.
Layton Jensen, Thurston Mfg. – Association President 1999-2000
Bob Schnell provided outstanding leadership for the Farm Equipment Manufacturers Assn. and was highly respected by all in the industry. His ability to provide insight and execute board directives for membership value is what propelled our association into a position of strength.
Kim Rominger, Equipment Dealers Assn.
I was just speaking with Gary Manke last week about some of the most interesting folks that have been in our industry, and we both mentioned Bob in unison. While Bob was a true character, he was also a gentlemen of great integrity. Bob could put some of the most complex issues into the simplest of terms and provide a real picture of issues and solutions. He will be greatly missed.
Paul Kindinger, The Kindinger Group
He could come across as tough or unmovable, but when an issue called for compromise, if one was possible, Bob would find it. He had a gruff exterior but a big heart. He was proud to represent the members of FEMA, and he was always looking out for their interests. The industry lost an individual who was a true leader.
Mike Lessiter, Farm Equipment/Ag Equipment Intelligence
Bob was very helpful to Dave Kanicki and me in understanding the implement manufacturing business after our company acquired Farm Equipment magazine in 2004. He was particularly helpful in explaining the challenges that manufacturers, and dealers, were having when it came to distribution opportunities for shortline equipment. The education he provided on this topic led to coverage in ours, and others’, publications.
Charlie O’Brien, Sr. Vice President (Retired) AEM
Back when I just starting my role at the Assn. of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) I was new to working in the association world. Bob was always very welcoming as I visited him in his office in St. Louis and helpful to me to understand our roles as leaders of the two ag equipment manufacturing associations in the United States. It was always a pleasure to visit with Bob as he was always in tune with the current issues the industry was facing. He was always open to having AEM and FEMA work together on projects that could help the industry. He represented the membership at FEMA well. I certainly appreciated the time I got to spend with Bob as our paths crossed many times. He will be missed. Our sympathies go out to Bob’s family for their loss.
To add your memory of Bob to this page, please email Kristi Ruggles Kristi@FarmEquip.org. All messages and images will be shared with Bob's family.