Former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer E. Mandell (Del) de Windt Has Passed Away; Second-Longest Eaton Corporation Chairman, Exemplary Civic Leader

Date: April 4, 2012

E. Mandell de Windt (Del), Eaton Corporation’s chairman of the board and chief executive officer from 1969 to 1986, died on April 4, 2012. He was 91. De Windt was elected Eaton’s sixth chairman and CEO in 1969.  His retirement in April 1986 culminated a 45-year association with the company. Only company founder Joseph Eaton was at the company’s helm for longer than him.

“We have lost a great friend and an exceptional leader,” said Alexander M. Cutler, Eaton chairman and chief executive officer. “Under Del’s direction, Eaton became a highly diversified global company with annual sales that grew to more than $3 billion. His legacy extends to his many contributions to the Cleveland area through an unwavering commitment to the community and civic causes.”

Through strategic acquisitions, de Windt was able to grow and diversify Eaton into what has become a $16 billion global power management company.  Key acquisitions during his tenure included:  Char-Lynn Company in 1970, which produced hydraulic motors for agricultural and industrial equipment and the Cutler-Hammer electrical business in 1978 as well as a 1983 joint venture with Sumitomo Heavy Industries in Japan. The electrical and hydraulics businesses continue to be major growth vehicles of Eaton today.

De Windt began his career with Eaton in 1941 as a production clerk at the Battle Creek, Michigan, engine valve plant.  He was transferred to the company’s Cleveland headquarters in 1944 and wrote the company’s first personnel manual. He also developed a proposal for the orderly rehiring of servicemen at the end of World War II.  Eaton continues to be recognized today as a veteran-friendly company.

After serving in key assignments in human resources and operations, he was elected vice president of sales in 1959 and became group vice president of the company and president of Eaton International in 1961. He was elected a director of the company in 1964, executive vice president of operations in 1967, and president of the company later that year. 

De Windt was born March 31, 1921 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. He graduated from Berkshire School in 1939, and attended Williams College where he played varsity football and hockey and was in the Class of 1943. He has five children, 13 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

In addition to his numerous business accomplishments, De Windt was an outstanding civic leader in the Greater Cleveland community. He was instrumental in helping launch four major initiatives involving United Way, Cleveland Tomorrow, the Greater Cleveland Roundtable and an operations improvement task force funded by two major Cleveland organizations.

“Del was a visionary leader, instrumental in the founding of several Cleveland civic and community service organizations, which continue to be a vital part of the city’s landscape,” Cutler said. “He made major contributions, serving on the boards of national and local health, education and human relations organizations.”

De Windt was a director of 15 major corporations and the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.  He was involved in a number of industry-government bodies, such as the Business Council and The Business Roundtable.  He received many awards for his professional and community achievements.  In 1981, Industry Week magazine selected him for its Excellence in Management Award.  The Wall Street Journal – Gallup Poll of chief executive officers named De Windt one of America’s most respected executives.

He received numerous local, state, national and international awards as a result of his professional and community achievements.  In 1972, he was conferred the title of Commendatore of the Italian Republic by the President of Italy and in 1982 appointed Honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.  Industry Week honored him and in 1986, United Way of America presented him their highest honor, the Alexis de Tocqueville Society Award.  In addition, he received eight honorary degrees from colleges and universities as a result of his many accomplishments.  He also served as Chair of the Public Policy Board for the PGA Tour, having been an avid and accomplished golfer.

Scott R Schroeder
(216) 523-5150