Extending a family legacy
The families behind the success of the Follett Corporation are continuing their commitment to family-owned businesses and the power of education through a $2 million gift to Loyola University Chicago.
The gift from Bob Follett and Dick Litzsinger will support family business education through Loyola’s Family Business Center and the creation of the Follett Collection of family business papers within the University Libraries’ University Archives and Special Collections. The gift also creates a Follett Fellowship dedicated to telling the stories of family businesses.
“We were hoping to in some way carry on the Follett name to other future family companies,” says Litzsinger, former president and CEO of the Follett Corporation. “Loyola has created the opportunity for family businesses to get together and learn from one another. Our hope is to be able to help facilitate that because family businesses play an extremely important role in our total economic package.”
Michael Behnam, dean of Loyola’s Quinlan School of Business, which houses the Family Business Center, sees the gift as a natural extension of the Follett family legacy.
“This investment will forever tie the Follett name to excellence in family business education,” he says. “Thank you to Bob, Dick, and your families for making an investment that will benefit countless future generations of family businesses, as well as students at Loyola and around the country.”
Jill McCall, director of the Family Business Center, added, “It is an honor to continue the Follett legacy through family business storytelling and education. I have no doubt that their gift will help elevate family businesses in the eyes of society and encourage future generations of students to seek out opportunities to work within them.”
About the Follett family legacy
The Follett family legacy began in 1901, when C.W. Follett joined the bookstore that would eventually become the Follett Corporation. Five generations of the Follett family helped grow the store into the world’s largest single source of books, entertainment products, digital content, and multimedia for libraries, schools, and retailers.
Along the way, the family earned a reputation for their thoughtful support of education. Some examples include the Follett Corporation partnering with children’s literacy organization Reading is Fundamental on several initiatives and sponsoring several awards recognizing innovation and improvement in education. Educational innovations also included publishing the first racially integrated reading textbooks and publishing the first successful social studies textbook in the country.
The Follett Corporation also has a history of supporting family business education. Bob Follett, former chairman of the Follett Corporation, spent many years actively engaged with Loyola’s Family Business Center. “The center has provided a lot of valuable information and insights for our family business,” he says. The Family Business Center is a leader in serving middle-market, multigenerational family enterprises.
In 2021, the Follett family entered a new phase: it began selling the businesses under the Follett Corporation and subsequently ended its stewardship of the family businesses. The family continues to lead the Follett Educational Foundation, which annually provides $300,000 in scholarships to students of Follett employees.
First Follett Fellow
The Follett story will be documented by the first Follett Fellow, Katherine Sredl, PhD, a marketing lecturer at the Quinlan School of Business. Sredl is very familiar with family business, as she served for 25 years on the board of directors of her family’s business, a computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine shop. She also has extensive experience in multimedia storytelling and has honed these skills through her teaching, academic publications, and her digital marketing consulting business.
“Family businesses like the Follett Corporation have such a unique success story to tell as they must navigate the joys and stresses of family and business together,” says Sredl. “I am thrilled to tell the Follett story and build knowledge around family business.”