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Op-Ed: Yellow Corp.'s closure won't impact GAR Foundation, legacy of Roadway Express

Christine Amer Mayer, GAR President

Read Christine Amer Mayer's op-ed piece on the Akron Beacon Journal website

In the past week, many have seen the sad news stories about Yellow Corp. ceasing operations and filing for bankruptcy.

Our hearts go out to the thousands of people whose lives and livelihoods are affected by these events. The news strikes a special chord for us at GAR Foundation, as our organization was born out of Roadway Express, a trucking company whose story intersected with Yellow’s twenty years ago.

In 2003, Yellow made an unsolicited and unexpected offer to buy all the outstanding stock of Roadway. Because Roadway was a publicly-held company, its board of directors was obligated to do what was best for shareholder value, so they presented Yellow’s offer to the shareholders. Roadway shareholders overwhelmingly approved the sale to Yellow.

While this chain of events amounted to the end of Roadway Express as a successful, stand-alone leader in the trucking industry, it was not the end of Roadway’s legacy in its hometown of Akron.

On the contrary, Roadway’s legacy is alive and well. It lives on through the many former Roadway employees who still live, work and contribute in the Greater Akron community and beyond, bringing to bear the work ethic that defined Roadway’s corporate culture. These men and women are to be commended and thanked for their years of service to Roadway and for their ongoing service to our community.

Roadway’s legacy also lives on through GAR Foundation, the entity created by Roadway’s founder Galen A. Roush and his wife Ruth. GAR Foundation was their gift to the community they loved, their means of sharing the success they had achieved through decades of hard work at Roadway.

In the 55 years since Galen and Ruth Roush established GAR Foundation, their ongoing generosity and responsible investment management have resulted in a current-day corpus of $175 million, which is entirely separate from and unaffected by the unfortunate events at Yellow.

Over that time period, GAR Foundation has contributed in excess of $282 million to hundreds of nonprofits that make Akron the amazing place we know and love. This year alone, GAR Foundation will contribute over $7 million to support great work in Akron. Daily the Foundation’s staff members roll up their sleeves and deploy Roush’s famous work ethic at myriad civic leadership tables, helping to drive progress in our city. In short, GAR Foundation is the gift that keeps giving, born out of the success of Roadway Express and here for perpetuity, promoting the best interests of Akron.

At Roadway’s corporate offices, you could find a placard on most desks, one of which we still have in the Foundation’s offices today. In the signature blue and orange Roadway color scheme, it displays just one word: SERVICE. There could be no better, simpler reminder of the animating force behind Roadway. It was Roadway’s north star for all those years. It is GAR Foundation’s north star now and into the future.

As we contemplate what appears to be the end of the road for Yellow, we reflect with pride and gratitude on the legacy of Roadway Express that, through GAR Foundation, has miles of open road ahead.