Former Robert W. Baird & Co. chairman, president and chief executive officer George Fredrick Kasten Jr. died on Dec. 12 in his Vero Beach, Florida home after a battle with Parkinson’s.
He led Milwaukee-based Baird as its sixth president between 1979 and 1998.
“Fred leaves behind an extraordinary legacy of dedication to his family, the community and to Baird,” said Steve Booth, Baird president and chief executive officer. “He embodied the strong corporate culture established by our founder, Robert Baird, 100 years ago and was committed to ensuring our firm never strayed from it.”
Baird chairman Paul Purcell said he and others who shared the same commitment and values as Kasten joined Baird because of him.
“Fred Kasten was a tremendous friend, partner and role model for me and many other Baird associates. He had a steadfast commitment to doing business the right way -- with integrity and by always putting our clients’ needs first,” Purcell said.
In addition to the mark Kasten left on Baird, he is also remembered for his local philanthropy and community engagement, which included serving on the board of directors for the Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce, The Greater Milwaukee Committee, United Way of Greater Milwaukee, Forward Wisconsin, United Performing Arts Fund, Summerfest and St. Michael’s Hospital.
Kasten also served as a trustee of Lawrence University and the Medical College of Wisconsin, where he was the recipient of the Warren P. Knowles Humanitarian Award in 2004, according to his obituary.
“Fred also gave his time and talents to serve many community and industry groups over the years,” Booth said. “His lasting impact on Baird, our communities and industry is beyond measure.”
Born on Valentine’s Day in 1939, Kasten, known as Fred, was raised in Milwaukee and was the son of George Kasten, who was president of First Wisconsin Bank and at the time, supervised the construction of Milwaukee’s First Wisconsin Center.
Fred Kasten went on to spend his entire 42-year business career at Baird when he joined in 1963. Kasten was named president 1979, became chief executive officer in 1983 and was named chairman in 1989. In 2000, Kasten passed the CEO title to Paul Purcell before retiring in 2005.
He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Susie Woodland and children; Ted, Rick, Jenny Perkin and Julie Cam; siblings Walter, Sandy and Lissa Eggie as well as 10 grandchildren.
Visitation will take place Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Feerick Funeral Home, 2025 E. Capitol Drive in Shorewood. A service is scheduled for Saturday at 11 a.m. at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 914 E. Knapp St. in Milwaukee.