By Mark Holan, editorial director, ARTBA
Fred Fehsenfeld, the visionary founder of transportation construction giant The Heritage Group and a pioneering advocate for “Critical Commerce Corridors,” died Nov. 28. He was 94.
With a mechanical engineering degree from Purdue University, Fred begin his career at Rock Island Refining as a process engineer. In the early 1960s, he transformed a company that operated gas stations and sold home heating oil in Indiana and Michigan into an asphalt manufacturing business.
Today, long-time ARTBA member The Heritage Group’s core industries include environmental and remediation, specialty chemicals and fuel products, and construction and materials. The firm employs 6,500 people in North America, Europe and China. Current Heritage Construction & Materials President & CEO Jim Fehsenfeld serves as ARTBA Central Region Chairman. Charles Potts, current Heritage Construction & Materials Chairman and its former president, was elected ARTBA chairman in 2008.
Throughout his entire life, Fred loved to tackle challenges and had a passion for brainstorming ways to improve the American economy. The “Critical Commerce Corridors” program is aimed at adding new capacity to America’s transportation network to help significantly improve the safe and efficient movement of freight.
“One of Fred’s brilliant ideas was the concept of separating car and truck lanes on our interstate highways to save lives, reduce pollution and congestion, said Tony Kriech, leader of the Heritage Research Group. “Fred did this, not for himself but because of the societal and economic benefits that would come to the United States, which he loved so much.”
A member of the “greatest generation,” Fred enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps on his 18th birthday during World War II. He was assigned to the 354th Pioneer Mustang Fighter Group in France. Fred flew 89 missions in Europe and was awarded the Air Medal with three silver clusters and a silver star. He also led his 353rd fighter squadron on the last official flight in the European Theater of Operations. He later served in the Indiana Air National Guard.
In 2017, Indiana Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb recognized Fred’s many contributions by naming Interstate 865 the “Fred M. Fehsenfeld Sr. Highway.”
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial contributions may be made to: The Purdue Foundation, 403 West Wood Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907, “In memory of Fred M. Fehsenfeld Sr. Engineering Scholarship Fund.”