VOL 20 ISSUE #1
10.20.38 • 3.10.15
J. Don Brock, PhD, PE
J. Don Brock, PhD, PE

Dr. J. Don Brock, chairman and former CEO of Astec Industries, Inc., passed away Tuesday, March 10, at Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He had been diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer in 2012. "This news comes with great sadness, and our thoughts and prayers are with Don's family at this difficult time," said Stephen C. Anderson, vice president of administration for Astec Industries. "Don was an inspirational leader, mentor, and friend to countless customers and employees of Astec."

Remembering the Man

J. Don Brock founded Astec in 1972 along with four other associates. Under his leadership, Astec grew into a global company of 18 subsidiaries in the U.S. and abroad. Today, Astec is a publicly-traded company with approximately $1 billion dollars in sales and more than 4,000 employees worldwide.

Don was an inspirational leader, mentor, and friend to countless customers and employees of Astec.

Astec, Inc. president, Malcolm Swanson, noted: "All of us in the Astec family and the asphalt paving industry suffered a great loss with the passing of Don Brock. He was a man unlike any other that I have ever known or ever expect to know again. I feel that I am very blessed and that my life is much better for having known Don. He was not just the boss for these many years; he has been a mentor and friend to all of us."

Dr. Brock held approximately 100 U.S. and foreign patents on construction machinery and drying equipment. He was a recipient of numerous awards including "Man of the Year," (National Asphalt Pavement Association), "Academy of Distinguished Engineering Alumni," (The Georgia Institute of Technology), "Dougherty Award," (The University of Tennessee), the "ARTBA Top 100 Private Sector Transportation Construction Professionals of the 20th Century," and the "Dr. J. Don Brock TransOvation Award," (American Road and Transportation Builders Association).

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The Early Years

Don was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in October 1938. He was one of two children born to the late James and Edna Brock. He graduated from Central High School in 1957 and received a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville in 1961. He continued his education at the Georgia Institute of Technology earning a M.S. in Mechanical Engineering in 1963 and a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering in 1965.

While in high school, Don worked with his dad building thermal hot oil heaters and asphalt storage tanks. This was the beginning of his career in the industry. It was at Georgia Tech that Don invented a revolutionary carpet dryer; this gave him the money to start Astec Industries.

Don was chairman of the board and CEO of Astec until 2014 when his son Ben Brock became CEO of the company. Don remained chairman of the board of Astec until his death.

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Astec Core Values

Anyone that ever met Don remembered him. His upbringing led to core values that formed the foundation of the organization. The following is an excerpt from a letter Don wrote to the employees of his Astec family of companies in December 2012, and was shared in Hot-Mix Magazine in early 2013. It's worth reading again.

A few years ago, the younger management asked us to write down and establish the "core values" of the company, which we hoped would continue many years after the present management had retired or passed on. As we sat down to reflect upon these basic core values of our company, we realized that over the years as we made acquisitions, the common core values were more important than the price of the acquisition. If the core values did not match, it was very difficult to change the company being acquired.

Our first core value: Care for the Customer. As we wordsmith it, we say, "Continuous devotion to meeting the needs of our customers." This means to give good service; educate the customer in how to use the equipment and maintain it, fix it if a problem arises, and fix it quickly, then determine what caused the problem, who was responsible, etc.

This closeness to the customer allows us to be creative and innovative as we listen to needs and suggestions for improving the product.

The second core value: Honesty and Integrity in all Aspects of Business. In other words, you do what you say you are going to do regardless of whether it's in the contract or not. Make sure that you fulfill all of your promises to the customer. Just do the right thing.

Our third core value: Respect for all Individuals. All associates working for Astec should be treated the same regardless of their position. Every job is important regardless of what it is, or we would not have the job. For example, our receptionists are our managers of first impression. We encourage them to answer the phone properly and show common courtesy.

Our fourth core value: Preserving Entrepreneurial Spirit, Innovation, and Focus Through Decentralization. We operate through a decentralized structure where each company has the opportunity to develop its own products, focus on those products to make sure they work properly, be proud of what they manufacture and build, and make sure that these products operate as they have promised to their customers.

Our last core value to be a successful company: Profit and Growth as Means to Ensure Success of the Company. This would insure giving a return to the stockholders. While this is not the first core value, it is a byproduct of doing the first four values right.

Moving Forward

As Astec Industries continues moving forward, these core values and the memory of Dr. J. Don Brock will be cherished and honored.

Bill Hammack, past president and current member of the board of directors for CW Matthews, noted: "Don was a great guy. There was no arguing with him. He'd always say, ‘What's fair?' It's hard to argue when the other person takes the wind out of your sail. That was Don; he was always fair. He did what was right."

Tim Phillips, president of P&S Paving in Daytona, Florida, shared: "We were hoping Don could have seen our new plant in person once it was up and running. He was integral to its design and construction, and followed up at each stage of the installation. We owe him a great deal of thanks; he will be greatly missed."

  • Even in the early days, Don Brock displayed a passion for the industry and a strong work ethic.

  • Even in the early days, Don Brock displayed a passion for the industry and a strong work ethic.

  • Even in the early days, Don Brock displayed a passion for the industry and a strong work ethic.

  • Characterized by many as a natural leader, Don Brock enjoyed time spent with customers in the field and at Astec’s Advanced Customer Schools.

  • Characterized by many as a natural leader, Don Brock enjoyed time spent with customers in the field and at Astec’s Advanced Customer Schools.

  • Characterized by many as a natural leader, Don Brock enjoyed time spent with customers in the field and at Astec’s Advanced Customer Schools.

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