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You are here: Davis of Iowa > Jim Davis's Biography > Part XI                    Click HERE to go to Part XII

Part XI



My Quanex Years



Another new beginning  -  Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Quanex -


The executive recruiter was searching for an Executive Vice President/COO for a $700 million revenue manufacturing company.  He asked for a brief summary of my career and for me to e-mail him my resume’. He then described the opportunity that he was filling.  The company was a manufacturer of steel and aluminum products and a recycler of  steel and aluminum scrap.  It was based in Houston, TX with  domestic manufacturing plants generally located in the upper mid-west.  The current Chairman and CEO was scheduled to retire in a year and the current President and COO was scheduled to be promoted to President and CEO.  The board wanted to bring in a new Executive Vice President and COO who would serve for about five years until one of the current Division Presidents was expected to be ready to assume that responsibility. 


This was the opportunity or me and it was perfect timing as I would be 65 in five years and the company had a mandatory retirement age of 65.  The executive recruiter asked if I was interested in pursuing this opportunity, to I replied emphatically “absolutely yes”.  He advised me that the company was Quanex, to which I replied that I was familiar with Quanex’s steel making company, MacSteel, as GLC had sold graphite electrodes to MacSteel’s two EAF plants.  He asked me how I would pitch myself for this opening to Quanex, if I were him.   I replied that I would have an e-mail to him that day as to how I would hope he would present my fit with Quanex’s requirements and my qualification for the position. He replied “that would be great”.  He also asked for three references.  One reference was Harry Skilton who the executive recruiter knew and who had in fact given the recruiter my name as a candidate.  I also gave him David Carpenter, John Hobbs and Bill Chorske’s names and contact information. 


I researched the company on-line and prepared an e-mail response to the recruiter as to how I would suggest he present my candidacy to Quanex.  In that presentation, I emphasized my background with GLC and our experience serving the electric arc steel recycling business, as well as my broad industrial experience from managing autonomus divisions and companies within larger corporations to managing acquisitions, divestitures and IPOs.  He presented my candidacy promptly to Quanex,  utilizing essentially the suggested approach that I had proposed to him. (I later found out).  Things moved quickly as early the next week, I received a call from the search executive asking if I could  visit the Quanex management  that week as Quanex had a management meeting scheduled for the following week and if I was to be hired Quanex wanted me to participate in that meeting.. 


I was in Houston that Thursday.  I interviewed with the Vern Oeschsle, the  President and COO, Wayne Rose the CFO and Joe Peery the VP of Human Resources.  I also met briefly with Robert Snyder, the  Chairman and CEO.  Vern Oeschsle had joined Quanex in 1993 after serving as the Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of Allied Signal’s Automotive Sector.  Quanex,  especially MacSteel sold a considerable amount of product to the automotive and automotive supply companies.  Vern was hired to be Quanex’s Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer with the understanding that he would succeed Robert Snyder  as Quanex’s President and  CEO.  Vern was seven  years my junior.


Vern and I discussed my background and Quanex’s executive needs.  He was totally familiar with my resume and work experience, although he had not yet checked with any of my references – in fact I don’t believe that he ever did.  Near the end of our  discussion,  he asked  me how soon I could begin employment with Quanex, if I was extended an offer.  To which I replied that I could start tomorrow!  We discussed the upcoming Quanex Management Meeting and the advantage of my participating in it. 


Wayne Rose had been Quanex’s CFO  for  a number  of years and was thoroughly familiar with the  company   and its history. He reviewed with me Quanex’s financial position, it’s profitability challenges and its executive needs from his perspective.  Joe Peery likewise was a long time employee Quanex.    He reviewed with me the strengths and weaknesses of the existing organization and reviewed with me the executive benefits if I were to become an officer of Quanex. The interviews all went well, as it seemed as if I would be a good fit with the current management team and my background almost precisely met Quanex’s needs.    


Joe Peery conducted the final interview and told me that I would likely receive  an offer to join Quanex as Executive Vice President and COO.  He discussed with me the employee benefits program at Quanex, including a generous relocation/moving package.  I responded to Joe, that if I was offered  and accepted the job that we would move to Houston, but that we would not be selling our house in Lake Harmony.  Instead, we would purchase a town house in Houston and move only a minimal amount of furnishings to Houston.  Consequently, I would appreciate Quanex’s consideration of paying me a relocation lump sum of $25,000 instead of a moving/relocation expense, to which he readily agreed (Apparently the cost to Quanex to relocate the Oeschsles a couple of years earlier was some six figures! Joe considered my request a bargain.) 


As I was preparing to leave the Quanex offices, Vern asked me if I could return  early the following week with my wife to have dinner with his wife and him.  I replied that we would be delighted to join them.  Vern wanted his wife’s assessment of Karen and me, prior to making me an offer.  Karen and I traveled to Houston the following Monday and had an enjoyable dinner with Vern and his wife at their Houston Club.  Upon conclusion of dinner, Vern told us that we would be receiving an offer to join Quanex the next day.  He advised me that he would like me to plan to attend the management meeting at the end of the following week.  I readily agreed to do so, assuming their offer was acceptable to Karen and me. 


We did receive an offer to join Quanex effective September 15, 1995, my initial position was to be Executive Vice President, Manufacturing Operations, with the understanding that this was only for a few months until Robert Snyder announced his retirement from Quanex.  At that time Vern would be named Chairman and CEO, and I would be named President and COO. (This in fact happened as of January 1, 1996.)  It was an acceptable offer of compensation, an annual bonus, stock options and an executive benefit program which included an enhanced retirement package, health care, a golf course and Houstonian Club membership and a luxury model company car.  I accepted the offer and attended the management meeting.  It was a great introduced to the Quanex Management.  This group included the corporate officers and the presidents of the four Quanex divisions/companies.


Quanex was incorporated in 1927 as Michigan Seamless Tube Company (MSTC), which was still one of four Quanex companies.  Michigan Seamless Tube Company survived the Great Depression and then significantly benefited from sales to the aircraft manufacturing business as WWII jump kicked demand for MSTC’s products.  After the war, MSTC expanded rapidly into the oil field supply business by opening a facility in Texas, making complementary acquisitions and focusing its technology on oil field piping requirements.


Early in the 1970s, MSTC began developing plans to build an EAF steel mill in Jackson, MI.  The plant was built and became  the model for specialty EAF steel making  in combination with  continuous casting of the high-grade engineered steel bar.  The facility was named The MacSteel Mill.  This facility became the foundation of a new division in MSTC, the MacSteel Company.  In 1977 MSTC was renamed Quanex and the corporate headquarters was relocated to Houston, TX.


Quanex continued expanding its oil field and related businesses by way of acquisitions and new facilities   while it divested some of the businesses which did not serve Quanex’s primary markets.  In 1981 Quanex announced plans to build a second EAF steel mill in Fort Smith, AK utilizing the steel making and casting process installed in the Jackson plant.  The new plant included some significant improvements on the original Jackson plant.  In 1982, Quanex purchased LaSalle Steel a cold forging steel processor based in Hammond, IN.  LaSalle was the third of four divisions of Quanex when I joined the company. 


The U.S. energy industry entered an abrupt downturn, in the early 1980s causing many of the  industry’s suppliers to fail or severely scramble to survive.  Quanex decided to refocus its business away from the volatile oil field supply business.  During this time the MacSteel Company focused on making very high quality engineered steel bar.  These products were precisely formulated steel alloys custom manufactured for specific customers  to a precise steel formulation.  Consequently, MacSteel’s customers purchased full heats (or batches) of steel which was then continuously cast to precisely dimensioned steel bar - which was circular in cross section.  The precision of the continuous casting and the subsequent rolling of the bar, permitted the customer to order steel bar  from MacSteel that required little processing prior to the customer’s forging operations.  The precisely formulated and  rolled engineered bar enabled MacSteel’s customers to avoid several manufacturing steps in its operations.  Consequently, MacSteel sold its products at premium prices.


In 1989, Quanex purchased Nichols-Homeshield an aluminum sheet and fabricated products manufacturer which was the fourth division in the Quanex Company when I joined Quanex.  Quanex built a large aluminum recycling plant and sheet rolling plant in Davenport, IA which began operations in 1991 to provide now renamed Nichols Aluminum with a strong aluminum supply position.  This new recycling plant and rolling mill, a custom/specialty rolling mill in Lincolnshire, IL (a suburb of Chicago), which produced various gauges and widths of rolled and flat aluminum sheet and two fabrication plants serving mainly the housing industry with shaped aluminum products for windows, doors and similar industrial products as well as a significant amount of residential and commercial window and door screens constituted the Nichols Aluminum Company.


The Quanex management committee included the presidents of each of the four divisions plus Snyder, Oeschsle, Rose, Peery, Viren Parikh, the corporate controller and myself.  However, each operating division operated quite autonomously as long as they achieved their operating goals and plans.  Each division prepared its proposed operating and capital plans for the year.  Once the plans were approved, the division’s performance was measured against its approved plan.  The divisions were expected to scout out possible acquisition targets within their markets.  The corporate officers were responsible for formulating the corporate strategy, including acquisitions which was then presented to the Quanex Board of Directors for approval. The company’s markets were capital goods and industrial machinery, transportation, aluminum products customers and energy.


The days shortly after the management meeting, Karen returned to Houston to join me in house/condo hunting.  We focused our search in Houston’s Galleria District, as Quanex’s headquarters office was located on Houston’s I-610 Loop near the Galleria District.  We found a small townhouse development about a  mile from the Quanex office and relatively near the Houstonian Club in which there was a large fitness center to which I was provided a membership. I worked out  nearly every workday morning when I was in our Houston office.  The townhouse was unoccupied and we closed within two weeks.  The address was 4742 Post Oak Timber, Unit 41, Houston , TX 77056-2208.  Our only concern with this otherwise ideal location was it was about thirty yards from a small creek that typically had very little water year around, except when Houston experienced very heavy rains, particularly with hurricanes that visited Houston.  We however were fortunate in the five years that we owned the property not once did this creek flood and although we had some very hard rains none of them lasted long enough to cause this creek to flood.


Our fourteenth home -


The two story townhouse was about 1800 square feet with a decent sized kitchen, dining and living room plus a powder room on the main level, along with a two car attached garage.  The upstairs had a master bedroom-bathroom suite along with a second bedroom and bath plus a decent sized third bedroom which I used for my office.  We shipped a modest amount of clothing to Houston and purchased moderately priced furniture, kitchen necessities, dishware and flatware for housekeeping in Houston. Karen drove her convertible from Lake Harmony. Everything else was left in our Lake Harmony home.  Karen expected to spend most of the summers in Lake Harmony home to avoid the Houston heat and humidity. I planned to  schedule my business trips to end up in Lake Harmony several weekends during the summer.  Our good friends, Don and Pat Todd looked after the Lake Harmony house when we were not there.  We were moved into our Houston home in just four weeks after accepting the Quanex job.  We later learned that our townhouse was just three short blocks from President and Mrs. George Herbert Walker Bush’s Houston home.  (They spent their summers in their ocean front Kennebunkport, ME home.)  Karen and I walked past their home many times when we walked around the neighborhood.  Moreover, we frequently saw the Bushes at the local polling place as they and I both voted early.  Both President and Mrs. Bush were very friendly and even approachable in this setting.  Karen loved driving her convertible around Houston and thoroughly enjoying Houston’s fine weather most of the year.  We still had the mini-van in Lake Harmony when she was there enjoying relief from Houston’s hot and humid summer days.  We also were delighted to be just three and one-half hours from Kim and Dave’s by auto given normal traffic.


I scheduled plant visits for most of the next several weeks to become familiar with the company’s facilities, products and management.  Concurrently, I kept in close touch with dad and particularly sisters Beverly and Janie, both of  whom were registered nurses about his cancer diagnosis and prospective treatments if any.  Dad was in decent spirits, although I am not sure he totally understood his health status and what the near future would be.


Christmas 1995, was celebrated at Kim’s in Southlake.  Cindie’s flew into Dallas on Christmas day.  We had a wonderful Christmas although it was one of the first Christmases that we  did not spend with dad and my siblings and families.  Dad, Beverly and Allan spent Christmas at  Dick and  Judy’s in Glenwood, IA.   Dad was frail but in good spirits. Dick remembers dad got a kick out of Allan placing a big Christmas Red Bow on Dick’s almost finished "Annex" out building.


Prior to my orientation tours of Quanex division’s headquarter offices and plants, Vern had advised me  that he was going to “fire “ Ted Olt, Nichols Aluminum’s president, something that he had intended to do for some time but never got around to do.  He advised me that he was going to call him the next day and “fire him” before my visit to the Nichols Aluminum operations.   My response to Vern was that while I was not  that familiar with Nichols Aluminum operations or Mr. Olt, I agreed that Nichols was under performing and that nothing in Mr. Olt’s plans indicated to me that he was prepared to lead Nichol’s to better performance.  I advised Vern that I did not agree with “firing someone over the phone” and that I would travel to Davenport with Joe Peery and we would terminate Mr. Olt’s Quanex employment face to face.  After assuring ourselves that Mr. Olt would be in his Davenport office the following week, Joe and I travelled there the following week and terminated Mr. Olt’s Quanex employment.


We immediately initiated a search for Mr. Olt’s successor as no current employee of Nichols or Quanex was identified as a possible replacement.  After an extensive search lasting over four months, we hired Terry Schroeder who had a reasonably solid background in aluminum products manufacturing as President of Nichols Aluminum. 


During the interim, the various managers of Nichols Aluminum reported directly to me.  This included Jim Gulliford who was running the  Homeshield plants located in Rice Lake, WI and in Chatsworth, IL  The Rice Lake plant was dedicated to manufacturing window screens.  It had developed a very efficient way of manufacturing the standard size screens and supplied several major window and door manufacturing companies with their window and door screen requirements, nearly all on an exclusive vendor basis.  The plant delivered screens in a “just in time” basis to its major customer, negating the need for the customer to receive and store the screens prior to shipping them to their customers.  The cost savings were shared with the customer. The Rice Lake plant was quite profitable. The plant also excelled in making odd sized, odd shaped and other special order screens.  The Chatsworth plant supplied a few proprietary products and a range of standard roll formed aluminum products.  It also had a nice business making custom shaped aluminum products for contract customers.  Both plants were non-union and the employees benefitted from a modestly generous profit sharing plan which helped considerably in labor relations.  Jim Gulliford was a good executive, hands on, knew all of his employees personally, interacted very effectively with his customers and suppliers.  In retrospect we probably should have promoted him to be President of Nichols Aluminum.  Regardless, after terminating Ted Olt, Gulliford continued to report to me.


The other Nichols Aluminum managers including the Davenport manufacturing manager, the Lincolnshire, IL specialty rolling plant manager, the sales manager, the controller and the personnel officer, reported to me from the time we terminated Ted Olt until Schroeder was hired.  During this time, I spent at least two days a week in Davenport on Nichols Aluminum business.  Normally I was able to schedule my time in Davenport around a weekend and would visit dad on the weekend, as it was about a 150 minute drive each way.  Therefore, I was able to spend most of Friday evening with dad as well as nearly all of the weekend.  I believe that I spent at least a dozen weekends of high quality time with dad, including the weekend of his 83rd birthday, which we spent quietly with brother Bob and Velda.  On some of these trips Karen accompanied me and joined in with the weekend visits.  Dad did not want to discuss his future, but understandably wanted to recall the good times of his life.


Again, Janie remembers dad was very weak at the time of Justin's Evansville College graduation in June 1996.  Nancy had spent about a month with dad in Iowa.  She and Bob promised dad, that if there was any way possible, they would make sure he was able to attend Justin’s commencement in Evansville, IN.  It was a very tough trip for him, but dad never complained. He said, "I haven't missed a graduation, yet". And, I believe he only missed Rich's college graduation. Velda and Nancy helped bathe and dressed him. The trip home was equally difficult and he was worn out. Nancy needed to get back home so Janie spent a week with him, accompanying him to doctor’s appointments, including a blood transfusion. While Dad was getting his blood work drawn, Janie sought out Sarah Davis (our first cousin – Bud’s daughter), as she was a nursing supervisor at Deaconess Hospital. Sarah put her in contact with a visiting nurse resource. They came to dad’s house and assessed just what needs he might have staying at home. She knew that Velda was continually by his side but she needed help whenever dad needed assistance getting out of bed, attending to his personal needs, etc.”


Vern received a call from Bob Sammons the majority owner of Piper Impact, an aluminum cold forming company based in New Albany, MS not far from Tupelo.  He was inquiring about Quanex’s interest in purchasing Piper Impact.   Vern learned what he could from this owner and asked his assistant to research the company.  He learned that the company was founded during WWII to provide casings for military shells and related materials by cold forging/stamping materials, virtually always aluminum, into the desired shape.  The company was approached by Morton Thiokol, the aerospace giant who planned to add  automotive airbags to its product line.  Morton Thiokol wanted Piper to make the aluminum cannisters that contained the working components of the airbags including the explosive charge which deployed the airbags.  Piper’s primary business was supplying these cannisters to Morton Thiokol. Indeed, Piper had opened a secondary plant in Park City, UT to have a facility close to Morton Thiokol’s air bag plant in Ogden, UT.


Automotive air bags were developed as a vehicle safety device beginning in the 1960s and 1970s.  Initially, the designs were based on using compressed air to inflate the bags however that  technology was determined to be unsatisfactory as the deployment was too slow.  Eventually, the industry turned to an explosive charged gas-inflated airbag.  This concept was perfected  in 1994 by TRW who provided the majority of the initial automotive airbags.  It wasn’t until about 1990 that airbags were installed in most autos. Beginning in 1998 model year, airbags at least in the front seat driver and passenger side have been required. Morton Thiokol, a company founded on rocket propulsion saw the  developing automotive airbag market as a natural for them, however they needed to partner with a manufacturer of the cannister which would contain the device.  Morton Thiokol chose Piper Impact as that partner.  Piper Impact benefitted handsomely from this very rapid growth in the early to mid 1990s.  Piper Impact’s financial resources were being challenged by the rapid increase in airbag cannister demand and Piper’s share of that business.  The owners decided to find a buyer who had the resources to take advantage of this market opportunity. 


Vern, Wayne Rose and I scheduled a visit with the owners of Piper Impact for the Tuesday following Father’s Day, June 16, 1996 at their facilities in MS.  The weekend previous to the meeting,  Karen and I joined visited dad along with brothers and sisters Bob, Dick, Beverly (& Allan). Janie was unable to be there, as she and Jerry were driving to WSU to pick Jill up for the summer. Dad had previously told Janie he needed a haircut for Father's Day..  It was a wonderful weekend with family, although dad’s health was clearly a concern.  He was less active but excited to have all of us there with him.  The weather was very cooperative and we enjoyed a very nice Sunday cookout on the outside deck.  Allan and I both left late Sunday afternoon to return to our work.  The others stayed with dad,  including Velda. 


Janie always mentioned how well Dad took care of his physical appearance. She always attributed that to knowing that Velda helped him so much. Janie called Dad on Father's Day - late Sunday afternoon - he said with a chuckle, that "The boys (Jim and Bob) got me in the shower, and they darn near froze me by the time I got out." She remembers how Dad still a sense of humor.  What a sight, two grown men helping dad into that small shower stall, helping him shower and then drying him off.   Dad was so thin it is no wonder that he was cold after showering. Dad was sleeping when Janie called on Monday PM, and she never heard his voice again. He died Tuesday morning. 


When our meeting began with Piper Impact’s two owners – Bob Sammons and Marshall Robbins - in  Sammon’s office, I received a call from my sister, Beverly who I knew was with dad.  I excused myself and took the call.  She told me that dad had died a few minutes earlier with her,  Karen and Velda surrounding him.  Dad was not feeling well that morning and was still  in bed late morning when he passed.  I advised the group in our meeting  that my father had just died and that I needed to excuse myself.  I caught a ride to the Memphis airport and took the next plane to Des Moines via St. Louis.  I arrived late in the afternoon and joined in the terrible duty of handling the arrangements for dad’s services.  Nancy, Neal, Allan, Janie and Jerry joined us as promptly as they could.


Dad’s services were held on Friday afternoon at the Estel-Perrin-Avey Funeral Home, with visitation the evening before.  Brother Bob did a masterful job of adding to the funeral ceremony with prepared comments engaging the service attending guests.  Nearly all of our family were able to return to Iowa for dad’s services.  As were most of his surviving brothers and sisters and many of their children.  Ten of dad’s thirteen grandchildren were able to attend  and they served as casket bearers.  Dad was buried in the family plot in the Hartland Cemetery where he joined mom and much of mom’s family.  The Hartland Cemetery Davis plot is also where Karen’s ashes and a portion of Cindie’s ashes are placed and where a portion of my ashes will be placed.


We six siblings met with dad’s attorney the following week to hear dad’s decisions about his estate.  Dad had previously deeded his real property, the farmstead to the six of we siblings, so we already knew that.  He appropriately appointed Bob and Dick as his estate executors.  The six of  us  jointly agreed to keep the farm and to rent out the farmland to the current renters, the brothers Hupfeld.  We also agreed to divide the property on which the house and the pasture between the house and the county road from which it was accessed from the balance of the farm land and to sell that portion separately.  Bob and Dick handled the details of dealing with the men who had been renting dad’s farmland for several years as well as selling the house and pasture.  The renters would continue renting dad’s property for three years when they proposed that we sell them the property.  Bob engaged a local realtor to research the value of the property based on the sales of similar farm land in the area.  The sale was closed with the renters where in each of  we siblings  received a partial payment in cash and a five year note for the balance. After completing their obligation to us, the buyers decided to sell the property they purchased from us and used the proceeds to purchase land nearer their home place. 


Fortuitously, our family had not planned to have a summer reunion in 1996, however we planned to return to Glacier Lodge, in Estes Park in 1997.  At the 1997 reunion, the second generation requested that we plan the reunions for every other year, to give that generation the opportunity to plan other activities in the alternate years.


Karen and I returned to Houston after  dad’s service to  catch up with my Quanex responsibilities.  Vern and Wayne had a productive meeting with the two owners of Piper Impact.  Wayne was working the numbers and Vern was communicating with his contacts in the automotive industry to assess Piper Impact’s industry status.  In as much as Morton Thiokol was a relatively new supplier to the automotive industry and Piper Impact had little other automotive industry connection, neither company had an automotive relationship on which to base a reference.  However, Morton Thiokol was exceptionally well known in the rocket industry and Piper Impact had long standing customers in various industrial markets, we were able to get a good read on both company’s reputation.  Neither Piper Impact or Quanex saw a need to engage the use of an investment banker in the proposed transaction.  Additionally, Vern and several of Quanex’s cold forming engineers had an excellent understanding of Piper Impact’s technology.


Piper Impact’s product lines, customers and technology all fit nicely with Quanex’s and the financial projections provided by Piper Impact were thoroughly analyzed by Quanex’s CFO and his department.  Vern and I, accompanied Bob Sammons on a trip to Ogden, UT to meet with and assess the Piper Impact- Morton Thiokol relationship and the ease of  transitioning Piper Impact’s ownership to Quanex.  The business, environmental, financial and human resource evaluations all supported Quanex’s possible acquisition of Piper.  There were no legal due diligence issues and the proposed purchase price made sense and was easily financed by Quanex’s strong balance sheet.  Moreover, Bob Sammons the key owner committed to continuing to manage Piper Impact for Quanex for a period of a  year but with the understanding that he would only be required to spend about one-half time.  Marshall Robbins wanted to retire and that did not pose a problem.  The acquisition was approved by Quanex’s board of directors and the transaction closed.


Bob Sammons promoted his most capable manager to the position of General Manager – Piper Impact who then reported to Sammons, who in turn reported to me.  Sammons was a very capable manager and an effective sales executive.  He worked well with us and his newly appointed Piper Impact General Manager. He had me accompany the two of them on visits to Morton Thiokol.  From day one of Piper Impact being a fifth division of Quanex,  Piper Impact contributed to Quanex’s financial performance. 


Quanex’s financial performance and progress against its operating goals was satisfactory, however Nichols Aluminum continued to drag down Quanex’s overall accomplishments.  MacSteel, Homeshield and Piper Impact were contributing nicely.  I spent  a disproportionate amount of my time working with Nichols Aluminum.  Nichols was operating in a commodity market and pricing leverage was almost non-existent.  Vern, Wayne and I strategized on other acquisitions and businesses to add to Quanex’s portfolio.


Bill Clinton won re-election in 1996 as the U.S. President, against Bob Dole as Clinton had embraced some of the Republican programs from their Contract For America, e.g., welfare reform.  However, the Republicans retained control of both the house and senate. 


The picture below, taken about this time, is one of my very favorite pictures of Cindie and her sons.

L to R:  Kevin, Adam, Cindie, Brad And Andrew


At Thanksgiving, Kim invited Dick and Judy, who were Dallas Cowboy fans as well as Beverly and Allan  to join Karen and I at Kim’s for Thanksgiving celebration and tor Dick and Judy to join David in the Zale’s box at the stadium.  I don’t remember who won the game, but Dick and Judy were thrilled to be “entertained” in the Zale’s stadium box.  We all thoroughly enjoyed the partial family get together.  We men assembled an on-the-ground tree house in Kim and David’s back yard as requested by Kyle and Brett.


Karen and I. joined Cindie, Brian and their four boys at Kim’s for Christmas in 1996.  It was a joyous time and Cindie’s family thoroughly enjoyed the Southlake, TX weather and did not miss the normal New England’s wintery Christmas.  The twelve us really appreciated the opportunity to be together for a week and strengthening our very close family ties.  The six boys are very close in age, are  good friends and get along very well.  We are very proud of them and as write this in 2023 even more proud of them as the youngest of them, Adam will be 31 years old in just one month!


Progress at Quanex continues -


Wayne Rose, was a very capable financial executive who wanted to be in a position to assume general management responsibility.  Vern Oeschsle advised Wayne that he needed some line management experience to put himself in a position to move to a senior general management/executive position.  Consequently, Wayne lobbied hard to replace Bob Sammons as President of Piper Impact.  In 1997 we agreed to his request and Wayne then reported to me.  We began a search for a Financial Vice President of Quanex.  We filled this position with Terry Murphy a capable and experienced financial executive.  During this search, I assumed the additional responsibility of Financial Vice-President and CFO.


Quanex expanded its Piper Impact business with the subsequent acquisition of an unrelated Dutch operation much like Piper Impact although not as large and with a narrower product line.  This Dutch company was almost totally dependent on automotive airbag cannister sales to European auto manufacturers suppliers.  Wayne and I visited the plant and reviewed its operations, business model, technology and prospects.  Wayne was excited with the possibility of adding this company to his and to Quanex’s portfolio.  I was reluctant as I was seeing potential cutthroat competition in both Piper Impact and the Dutch company’s business.  Vern however, based on his automotive experience and confidence that both Piper and the Dutch company could successfully compete in this business, overruled me, sided with Wayne and the Dutch company was acquired.


Concurrently, a competitor of Quanex LaSalle’s cold forming business approached Vern about the possibility of purchasing LaSalle to enhance their business.  This divestiture made sense for Quanex and for the buyer.  A price was agreed to and this transaction was closed about the same time as the purchase of the Dutch company was completed.  In 1998 a Nichols Competitor Decatur Aluminum, located in Decatur, AL was purchased and added to Nichols Aluminum.  The facility was  renamed Nichols Aluminum Alabama.  We also spun of Michigan Seamless Tube and Gulf States Tube as those businesses were no longer central to Quanex’s business.  Two years later Quanex purchased Imperial Products and Temroc Metals and both of these operations to the Homeshield operations.


In 1997, the Davis Family summer reunion was again held at Glacier Lodge in Estes Park.  It was the first family reunion for which both our mom and dad were no longer with us.  Not having the two of them with us was a jolting realization that life goes on even if individuals don’t.  It was a fun although less joyous reunion.


In 1997, Joe Peery, decided to retire from Quanex and move closer to their family in OK.   After an extensive search,  Paul Giddens was hired as Vice President of Human Resources.   Paul was an experienced human resources executive.  He transitioned very quickly into his new role and served us well in that function. 


Karen and I joined Kim’s for Thanksgiving in 1997 in their Southlake home.  We again celebrated Christmas 1997 in Southlake with Kim’s, however Cindie’s did not come to Southlake, instead Kim’s, Karen and I flew to Boston and joined Cindie’s at their favorite local ski resort, Loon, NH.  We celebrated a second Christmas with Cindie’s.


Lynn Swanson Fite receives new lungs -


Our niece Lynn Swanson Fite, who had suffered with Cystic Fibrous for her entire 50 years of life needed her Cystic Fibrous ruined lungs replaced and began the tortuous road of qualifying and preparing for this very challenging surgery in middle 1997, was finally scheduled to have the surgery on January 28, 1998.  Her surgery, while a significant challenge, was successful and her recovery quite remarkable.  She had renewed stamina and as I write this, she has celebrated her 64th birthday! Although she currently now has only about ¼ of a functioning lung, she does exceptionally well and uses oxygen only on occasion.  


Our family adventure trip to Alaska -


In July we repeated the Davis Family Adventure of the earlier trip to Africa but this time it was to Alaska.  None of the family had been to Alaska  except me on earlier flights from the U.S. to Japan when the planes typically stopped for refueling in Anchorage and my one business trip to the North Slope of Alaska.  Cindies, Kim’s and we flew to Vancouver, BC where we overnighted in a hotel near the dock.  We board a cruise ship the next day for our six day cruise to Anchorage via the long beautiful Alaska coast line. 


Standing, L to R: Andrew, Kyle, Brad, Brett, Kevin and Adam.  Sitting bottom to top: Brian, Cindie, Jim, Karen, David and Kim on board the cruise ship.


We arrived at Ketchikan, AK the second morning and spent the day touring that fishing village.  The six grandsons, Brian, Dave and I chartered a fishing boat and attempted to catch a salmon or  two.  The  fishing was not good but each grandson caught a nice sized salmon. Andrew caught the biggest one  which we took back to the ship.  The chef prepared our family a salmon dinner with the catch.  While we  boys were fishing, Cindie spent her time kayaking while Kim and Karen learned about the making of Totem Poles from a Native American.


Grandad Helps Adam Land His Salmon


Karen And Cindie Touring Ketchikan


Karen and Kim Touring Ketchikan


During the night the ship sailed to Juneau and again docked early in the morning.  We toured the state’s capital city, flew in two helicopters to and landed on a glacier. We spent time hiking on part of the glacier and observing huge crevasses in it before returning to the ship for the night.  The next morning, we docked at a small fishing village of Skagway, which was also a gate-way to the Klondike gold rush area of Alaska and Canada.  We toured the fishing village and did a float trip on a nearby river to observe the tremendous number of Bald Eagles that resided there.  We also visited a raptor care center which took in injured raptors, particularly eagles, which are particularly susceptible to being struck by vehicles  on the various roadways as the raptors fed on road kill in the winter months.  Overnight we sailed to Glacier Bay a national park comprised of a large bay essentially surrounded by glaciers emptying into the ocean bay.


In about 1850 there were some 80 glaciers, defined as ice fields of at least one-tenth of a square kilometer or some 230 acres of area.  By 2015 there were some 26 named glaciers which met the definition and today it is even less. Our ship was able to sail sufficiently into the bay that it could center itself amongst the glaciers.  While the ship held that position we passengers were able to watch and hear the very large “Crack” as huge chucks of ice “calved” into the bay.  Each individual calving resulted in this awesome sound.  We could  also observe marine wildlife swimming in the bay and sunning themselves on the floating ice bobbing in the water. We sailed from Glacier Bay to Seward, AK where we disembarked our cruise ship and boarded buses for a three hour ride to Anchorage.  


We overnighted in Anchorage and boarded the train to Denali National Park the next day.  The train had glass domed cars enabling us to see the wonderful countryside as the train sped north.  We travelled about 200 miles and arrived at the south Denali train station which was conveniently located to the large  Denali Princess lodge/hotel where we spent one very full day and two nights.


We arrived late in afternoon.  We had not booked any tours for the day as we were told that only about 1/3 of the visitors to Denali actually see the spectacular mountain as it hides behind clouds much of the time.  At that time of the year, Alaska has daylight nearly 24 hours a day.  We could not see Denali when we were riding the train nor when we checked into the hotel.  At breakfast the following morning Denali was still shrouded in clouds, however, some of the guests were commenting about “how magnificent Denali was”!  I asked them when they had observed it.  To which they replied that the clouds had receded during the night and Denali was quite visible. When that happened the hotel staff had awakened them. I was quite disappointed as I was convinced that we had missed our only chance to see Denali.  We enjoyed a wonderful trail ride in the forest at the base of Denali that morning and returned to the hotel for lunch.  While sitting on an outdoor patio eating, the clouds suddenly left Denali and we were in awe at the sight of it.  Brian promptly called a local company that provided charter flights of Denali.  He was able to book two small planes each of  which carried six passengers.  We enjoyed the one hour flight around Denali.  That is those of us who stayed awake for the flight.  All of the grandsons except Kevin slept through most of  the flights.  Kevin had a new camera which he brought on the trip and he stayed awake to take photos of Denali.  Later in the afternoon, we had a wonderful guided canoeing trip in a local river which was teeming with wildlife, particularly waterfowl.



Kevin Took This Picture Of Denali From The Outdoor Patio Where We Lunched


The next day we boarded the train to Fairbanks.  In Fairbanks we spent a day on a wonderful river cruise which stopped by a dogsled training facility operated by a previous Iditarod dogsled race winner, stopped for a tour of  a Native American village and were entertained by a pilot of a sea plane who landed and took off from the very wide river on which we  were  cruising.  We also spent a day touring Fairbanks which included a stop at a point on the Alyeska crude oil pipeline. The next day we boarded our flight to Seattle and from there to our respective final destinations. It was another wonderful family trip.


That fall, Dave enrolled in the University of Texas, at Dallas Executive MBA program, in which he excelled. While most of his classmates were college graduates, Dave’s extensive business career enabled him to enroll and compete in this program. At Zales, his mentor and boss from JB Robinson who attracted Dave to Zales had left.  Dave reported directly to a lady executive with a strong jewelry background.  She and Dave worked together effectively.  In May of 1999, Dave was promoted to President of Zales of Canada which was just recombined with Zales U.S.   Dave and family continued living in Southlake, however Dave commuted to Toronto for his Zales of Canada responsibility.  Regardless, he finished his MBA work and graduated in May 2000.  We had a wonderful graduation party as Dave’s father and mother from Columbus, OH traveled to Texas to be with him for his graduation.   Zales of Canada was soon integrated back into Zales U.S. and Dave was no longer required to work out of Toronto.


The Republicans kept control of the Senate and House in the 1998 elections, as Bill Clinton was engaged in fighting a scandal involving sex with a young intern working in the  Whitehouse.  He was impeached by the House however, the Senate failed to convict him in a trial conducted in January 1999. 


Bev, Allan, Dick, Judy, Karen and I celebrated 1998 Thanksgiving with Kim, Dave, Kyle and Brett.  We also spent some wonderful time with Kim and Dave’s wonderful friends Debbi and Doug Wannacott and their two sons who were Kyle and Brett’s age. That Christmas we again celebrated a wonderful holiday with Cindie’s at Kim’s in Southlake.


In 1999 we again returned to Glacier Lodge for our Davis Family summer reunion.  Glacier Lodge was showing its age and held less attraction for us, particularly as our family continued to expand.  Karen and I continued to enjoy Houston, however she spent too much time alone in Lake Harmony during the summers which was not helpful to her excessive drinking and smoking, as well as leading a sedative lifestyle with very little exercise or even activity.  She had no real hobbies and even though she golfed a bit she would not go out alone nor did she have friends who golfed.  She seldom exercised in her lifetime, even to the extent of walking very much.   All this combined with too many years of smoking and alcohol took a toll on her physically. 


Karen and I joined Kim’s for Thanksgiving in Southlake, their last Thanksgiving in their first Southlake house.  Kim and Dave purchased a new house near their current house, which was located on a golf course and had a small swimming pool with a very nice sized hot tub. This home was newly constructed with more room, a mother-in-law’s suite.  We enjoyed helping them move into this house and in making last minute finishing details.  For Thanksgiving, Bev and Allan again returned to Texas to join us.  One of the projects that we men undertook was to disassemble Kyle and Brett’s tree house and to use the recovered lumber to construct a large workbench, cabinets and other features in the garage in Dave’s new house.  


We spent the first Christmas 1999 with Kim’s in Southlake and then the six of us traveled to Cindie’s and had a second family Christmas there.  Cindie and Brian’s large Westford house accommodated we twelve family members exceptionally well.


There was much concern in the technical and business world about the changes required for all of the computerized systems around the world as to whether or not the change from 1999 to 2000 would be handled seamlessly or whether there would be much chaos as a result.  The concern was extensive and caused the Dot-com Crash of 2000-2001 as technology stock prices took a big hit.  As the year 2000 unfolded however, nearly all of the computer systems performed as needed and the worry proved to be unjustified.


While at Cindie’s we celebrated Karen’s 65th birthday.    We  further celebrated it by getting her registered for Social Security and for Medicare once we returned to Houston.  Our Quanex healthcare coverage, as with most business healthcare plans, required employees and dependents to apply for Medicare upon reaching the age of 65 as the corporate plan was a Medicare supplement for those 65 and older.   Karen received only a modest amount of Social Security as she worked only a few years and some of that was as the proprietor of The Needleworks, in which she earned little in the way of income.


The various acquisitions and divestitures and the strong business environment in the late 1990s enabled Quanex to significantly improve its operating and financial performance in the late 1990s.  The financial performance in 1999 was four times better than the prior year’s results.  Quanex seemed to be on a very strong footing and prepared for the 21st century. 


As we entered 2000 and my last year with Quanex, Vern and I discussed Quanex’s future and any possible role I might have with the company.  Vern wanted the board to extend my employment beyond my age 65, however, the board was unwilling to make this change, despite the growing recognition throughout corporate America that one’s capability doesn’t cease at age 65.


Our family trip to Africa -


Karen and I planned a trip to Kenya and Tanzania, Africa with our six grandsons and their parents.  We hosted the trip and paid for the air travel as well as the A & K ten day tour.  We planned to do it in August to celebrate my 65th birthday.  Our grandsons were ages 16 (Brad) to 8 (Adam) and we knew that each of them would remember such a trip for their entire life.  We planned the trip using the experiences we had when Karen and I visited this part of Africa in 1995.  We knew several places we wanted to go and several places we would avoid.  We had a great experience with the earlier A & K trip and were confident that we could put together a great trip for the twelve of us using A & K.  We all flew on the same plane from Boston to London and laid over about twelve hours in London.  With that much time in London, we took advantage of that time and scheduled a tour of London’s top attractions during this down time. 


We organized a driving tour for the twelve of us to see Buckingham Palace, the Tower and the Tower Bridge, Big Ben and the Parliament Building, Westminster Abby and Hyde Park.   It was a quick glimpse of London’s attractions to introduce the grandsons as to what to see in London.  The overnight flight to Nairobi got us there as the sun came up.  The A & K guide met us at the airport.  A & K had transportation and help with our luggage and  immigration all arranged.   We checked into our hotel for a one day and over-night stay.  We left the following morning and drove to Tanzania to begin our safari. 


We left Nairobi  in three game viewing Toyota  vehicles.  It was about a two hour ride to the Kenya-Tanzania border, where we easily passed through Tanzania immigration.  We drove to the Great Rift Valley, Arusha and Olduvai Gorge for the first of our stops.  The Rift Valley runs from Asia to South Africa and has resulted from two or three tectonic plates pulling apart and the drop of the earth to the east of the rift of some 1000 feet in some places.  Olduvai Gorge is the site that holds the earliest evidence of the existence of human ancestors. Paleoanthropologists have found hundreds of fossilized bones and stone tools in the area dating back millions of years, leading them to conclude that humans evolved in Africa.  Arusha is a game park on the eastern edge of the fault which has wonderful game viewing.  We  toured the park in our three game viewing vehicles.   In the game parks where we were observing animals the driver were required to stay  on the  trails/roads designated for animal viewing vehicles.  This limited our ability to get as close as we might have otherwise to the rhinos and cape buffalo which were  close to the water. The roads were close to the water in only a few places.  Each vehicle had a A & K guide/driver who had a high powered rifle at his side. We saw elephants, giraffes, wildebeests, lions all fairly close up and numerous birds in Arusha, where we over-nighted in a lodge. 


From Arusha we drove to Ngorongoro Crater, which is the world’s largest inactive, intact and unfilled caldera of an extinct volcano.  The crater floor is some 100 square miles in area and is some 2000 feet below the rim.  On the way to the crater, we drove through an area where there was a  large population of gorillas.  We observed them for a while from a fairly close distance.  The gorillas like many of the animals were reasonably comfortable with occupied vehicles such as ours being fairly close to them.  We arrived at our destination mid-afternoon. It was a very nice lodge on the rim of the crater with a fantastic view of the crater.  The grandsons enjoyed the swimming pool and we all relaxed before and after dinner.  We had a wonderful dinner and spent much of the evening looking at the expansive area below us. 


Ngorongoro Crater

After breakfast we took a picnic lunch and headed into the crater which had all of the “big 5” of Africa’s game.  The crater was such that the animals typically did not migrate out of the crater, instead spending their entire life in the crater which contained a very large but fairly shallow lake.  Once a road was constructed from the rim to the crater floor the animals could of course walk out but for some reason did not.  We did a driving tour of the crater floor and saw all the big five on that day.  We did not get close  to the rhinoceros, cape buffalo or leopards but were able to get quite close to the lions and elephants.  The flamingos and other lake birds populations were massive.  We had a wonderful day of game and site seeing.  We returned to our lodge on the rim for dinner and to prepare for the drive to the Serengeti the next day.  The grandsons again enjoyed the pool and dinner was wonderful, but the sunset was the best.

From Within the Crater Another View From the Rim

The next morning after breakfast we packed a picnic lunch and left for our three days of game viewing in the Serengeti. The animals were beginning to migrate back from the Maasai-Mara in Kenya to the Serengeti National Park. The Serengeti Plain located in both countries is some 12,000 square miles of grassland and feeding fields for the east African animals which migrate from one country to the other.  The Great Migration is the movement of a huge number of animals, including over 2 million wildebeest accompanied by large numbers of zebra, and smaller numbers of Grant's gazelle, Thomson's gazelle, eland and impala. Of course, the predators which feed on these animals also migrate with the herds in this Great Migration. The migration is basically driven by the rainy seasons in the northern part and the southern part of the Serengeti Plain.  The animals follow the good grass. We drove most of the day watching the migrating herds and looking specifically for leopards which might be hunting for a meal however we did not see a leopard.  We saw immense quantities of wildebeests, zebras, and other migrating animals as well as the other big five animals.  We arrived at our lodge which would be our base for the next two nights and days.  We enjoyed fantastic game watching in this part of the Serengeti the next two days. 


On the third day we returned to the Nairobi and over nighted in the same hotel as we had when we first arrived in Nairobi.  The next morning, we boarded an old DC-3 to fly to the Maasai-Mara. It was about a one-hour noisy flight.  We were met there by our guides and our vehicles.  They took us to a wonderful A & K camp, which included sleeping tents placed on concrete bases.  Each tent had a sleeping area, a sitting area and a dressing area.  Close to the back of the tent was an outdoor shower which consisted of an over-head cannister of heated water for a gravity shower.  It was crude but a welcome relief after spending the day in the dusty grasslands.  The grandsons soon made friends with a large wild boar which seemed to be the lodge’s pet.  There was a relatively tall chain link fence enclosing the campsite.  During the night we would hear the animals trumpeting, roaring, baying or whatever. It was not conducive to sleep.   Particularly since many of the animals were up early in the morning.  This camp was a wonderful grassland venue and a great base from which to do game drives.  We spent about one-half of a day visiting an authentic Maasai camp site.  We were hosted by the village to whom A & K paid a fee for the privilege of educating its tourists as to the ways of the Maasai.  We were well cared for in this A & K camp.  


A Toyota Viewing Vehicle Like Ours Wildebeests 





The following day we flew back to the Nairobi airport, boarded two small private planes for a one-hour flight north of Nairobi to our final camp on Kenya’s Lake Naivasha.  We flew into a grass landing strip which was the frequent grazing area of some of the wild life.  The pilot radioed the lodge to which we were traveling to meet the plane prior to the landing and to clear the runway of any wildlife so the plane could safely land.  We chose to fly to Lake Naivasha to save almost  four hours driving from Nairobi on a rough road.

We stayed at a wonderful lodge over-looking this large fresh water lake on the upper side of the Kenya portion of the Great Rift Valley.  The resort was about 100 yards from the lake with a gradual sloping grassed lawn between the lodge and the lake.  The  shallow portion of the lake was home to many hippos that spent the day almost totally under water-only their nostrils and eyes were typically above water.  Near dusk the hippos would come out of the water to feed on the grass lands surrounding the lake.  The first day we toured the lake in small motor boats being careful not to hit any hippos, which could easily flip a boat over.  The amount of birds on and near the lake was immense. The adults other than Dave all took a side trip the second evening we were at Lake Naivasha to a small museum and gift shop.  Dave stayed at the lodge to watch the boys.  The seven of them were playing a board game at about  dusk, when Dave looked up and saw a hippo heading for their location which was a picnic table about 75 yards from the lake.  Dave and the boys all scrambled away from where the hippo  was headed.  Fortunately, there were no issues other than the scare.  It is not advisable to get between a hippo and the water which is its home.  Of course,  Dave had no idea that the hippo was where it was otherwise he and the boys would not have been playing a game on that picnic table.  Regardless, we adults were quite concerned about their safety once  we returned and heard about their experience.

Not The Hippo That Chased Our Grandsons A Boat Driver Could Easily Miss This Guy



We flew on the private planes back to Nairobi for our final night in Africa.  We planned a dinner at a popular restaurant which featured meat from each of several of Kenya’s wild game.  These animals were raised for meat by local farmers, but we could order any of several animals which are also wild game in east Africa. We celebrated my 65th birthday that night.  Cindie’s family gave Karen and me a 2 feet by 3 feet map of Kenya with hand written notes of thanks for the trip from each family member.  Kim’s family gave us a companion map of Tanzania similarly notated.  We still have these two maps proudly displayed in the elevator in our house now some 23 years later.  We returned from Nairobi on a flight that left Nairobi at midnight and changed planes in Amsterdam that morning for our flight to Boston and then on to DWF and Southlake.   It was a wonder family bonding trip.


Another new beginning –


I retired October 31th with a very nice retirement party hosted by Quanex.  Division Presidents Bob Kelly, Jim Gulliford and Terry Schroeder attended and said some very nice things about me.  Paul Giddens concluded the program with a proclamation as a tribute to me.  Karen and I decided to stay in Texas through the end of 2000, as my compensation was not taxed at the state level in Texas and I was collecting some deferred compensation through the end of 2000.  We made arrangements to spend the balance of the year with Kim and Dave in Southlake.  We also planned a nine country, 30,000 mile chartered airplane trip through South America shortly after retiring.  Before that however, I registered for Social Security and Medicare, as we wanted the healthcare coverage for our South American trip.


I was not only paid competitively while working at Quanex, I received annual bonuses as Quanex performed well financially except for the unfortunately bad results from the acquisition of the Dutch automotive airbag cannister manufacturer, which Quanex wrote off in 1999.  Additionally, I was awarded options on some 50,000 shares of Quanex stock which I exercised in the succeeding years (as the options  expired  five years after the award) all at a taxable profit varying from $8 to $30/share.   My compensation with Quanex including bonuses and stock option profits averaged about $600,000 annually – a substantial portion of which I have given away as I have chosen to share my good fortunate with worthy charities rather than spend it on second homes, expensive toys or extensive travel and very fortunately, since my two sons-in-law have both done better financially than I have, my families have not needed the financial support that many of today’s families need.


Retirement was not something that I looked forward to and not something that I had well prepared to undertake.  Regardless, I was forced into it by company policy.  I had pursued possible board positions via search firms with which I was acquainted, however landing such a position is difficult and I was unsuccessful.  Financially, I did not need to work, but psychologically, I thought that I did.


Click HERE to go to Part XII