Robert D. Kern, Developer of Emergency Generators, Dies at 96

Robert D. Kern, a mechanical engineer who in the mid-1950s started a company in a garage making portable backup power generators and then transformed the business into an industry leader known as Generac, selling it in 2006 for an estimated $1 billion, died on Nov. 8 in Waukesha, Wis. He was 96.

The company announced his death.

With the sale of Generac Power Systems, Mr. Kern shared some of the proceeds with employees, some receiving as much as $40,000 each. And in the years afterward, he and his wife, Patricia Kern, who had helped him found the company, became prominent philanthropists.

“The company is way beyond anything we dreamed about,” Mr. Kern said in an interview with the Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois, his alma mater. “My vision was incredibly small compared to what it became, but tenacity is what it is all about.”

He and his wife and a few investors started the business after the rise of the airline industry had cost Mr. Kern his job…

Continue Reading →

This article was written by Sam Roberts and originally published on