For nearly half a century, the business acumen of Robert J. Welsh Jr. has shown brightly in Indiana and across the country. It seems fitting, then, that Welsh, CEO and chairman of Welsh Holdings, LLC was inducted this week into the inaugural class of the Northwest Indiana Business and Industry Hall of Fame.
Welsh, now 72 and retired, told the Times (Ind.) Munster, that after graduating with a degree in finance from the University of Notre Dame and serving two years as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, he was hesitant to join his father in the family business. At the time, the senior Welsh’s gas station business had no more than 10 employees.
"I just wanted to prove I could do things myself," Welsh said, adding he had thought he might go into banking.
But Welsh Jr., Welsh’s only son, acquiesced and never looked back. His father, he said, was his "best buddy," and was strong enough to allow his son to "sprout his wings."
It was Welsh Jr.’s observant nature about the changes in society that prompted him to pioneer such innovations as self-serve gasoline, alcohol-blended fuels, food served inside gas stations and agreements with fast-food operations, the report said.
"I think we had the first, quick car wash, too," he said, adding of the Welsh Marts, "We wanted to stay ahead of the trend."
Through it all, Welsh was growing the business and creating a corporate culture that still serves as a template for those striving to do business in a compassionate and ethical way.
Although, eventually, Welsh Inc., the multi-state business selling petroleum products through convenience stores and travel centers that resulted, was sold to Speedway SuperAmerica and Flying J, but the exponential effect of the Welsh standard remains.
"My father died too early," Welsh said of his father’s passing in 1968, but not before he had set an example of civic responsibility for his son. He pointed to the Munster, Ind., property of the Boy Scouts of America, Calumet Council that was donated by his father.
Welsh and his wife Catherine, have walked a path not only of corporate giving, but personal as well, believing that wealth breeds responsibility. And it shows. He has been the recipient of the Notre Dame Man of the Year Award, as well as the Sagamore of the Wabash Award and has served on the boards of more than 30 civic, religious, educational, business and financial organizations. In 2000, Welsh, a Fellow of the University, received an honorary doctorate degree from Notre Dame.
"It’s just the way I am," Welsh said. "I feel very strongly about giving back."