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John  Brown '57

Chairman Emeritus, Stryker Corporation

award: Entrepreneur Hall of Fame
company: Stryker Corporation


Brown, who earned a chemical engineering degree from Auburn in 1957, helped Stryker Corporation transform itself from a small, family-owned business into one of the world’s premier medical equipment companies with annual revenue of more than $9 billion.

After being hired by the company in 1976, Brown charted an ambitious course. He wanted to take the company public, diversify its product line, and consistently achieve 20 percent net income growth each year. After filing for its initial public offering in 1979, the company’s performance kept pace with his vision. Stryker doubled its sales and tripled its profits within five years.

When Brown joined Stryker, the company had 400 employees and annual sales of $17 million. When he retired as chairman of the board in 2009, Stryker’s sales topped $6.7 billion and its workforce included more than 17,000 employees worldwide.

Stryker, which increased annual per-share earnings by at least 20 percent all but two years from 1979 to 2007, now has 13 divisions in Europe, Canada, Puerto Rico, Latin America, and the Pacific.

Through it all, Stryker grew from “a bed and stretcher” business into a leader and innovator in medical and surgical equipment, orthopaedics, and neurotechnology.

“Even as Stryker has grown, it has maintained John’s strong work ethic and culture of integrity, accountability and performance over time,” said Kevin Lobo, Stryker Corporation’s current Chairman and CEO.

Stryker ranked No. 1 on Fortune’s list of America’s most admired companies in medical products and equipment in 2005 and topped Barron’s list of “500 Companies that Have Done the Best Job for Their Shareholders” that same year. Stryker ranked 31st among BusinessWeek’s list of the 50 top S&P 500 performers in 2007.

Brown’s successes as Stryker’s leader are mentioned prominently in the Jim Collins book “Great by Choice.” Collins described Brown as a leader who did more than offer a vision. As Collins wrote, “he ingrained ‘the law’ into the company’s culture.”

Brown earned Auburn University’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014 and was inducted into the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame in 2003. Brown and his wife, Rosemary, have been generous in their support of Auburn’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, the College of Science and Mathematics, and the College of Veterinary Medicine.

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