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Drs. Robert and Patricia Kern

Drs. Robert and Patricia Kern
Drs. Robert and Patricia Kern

In 1959, in a rented garage in Wales, Wisconsin, Robert and Patricia Kern founded a new business that eventually grew to become Generac Power Systems, one of the world's largest independent manufacturers of complete engine-driven generator systems. The company makes power generators for several applications, including industrial, commercial, residential, recreational, vehicle and communications, with systems that range from three to 6,000 kilowatts. In 1998 the Kerns established the Kern Family Foundation, a private, independent grant-making organization based in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

In keeping with the vision of its founders Drs. Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern, the Kern Family Foundation seeks to enrich the lives of others by promoting strong pastoral leadership, educational excellence and high-quality, innovative engineering talent. In practice, the foundation intentionally focuses on systemic change, rather than charities. It seeks to target funding toward broad-impact, long-term programs. The Kerns celebrate a shared sense of responsibility and gratitude as they seek to be good stewards of their resources.

Bob and Pat Kern have a strong commitment to science, technology, engineering and math education, which opens so many doors for students to become productive citizens in a technology-driven world. That's why they have developed a strong partnership with Project Lead the Way, a nationally acclaimed nonprofit organization focused on preparing middle and high school students for engineering and technical careers of the future. First introduced in the 1997-98 school year in 12 upstate New York high schools, Project Lead the Way's network has grown to more than 2,500 middle and high schools in 49 states, reaching more than 200,000 students. The foundation has invested more than $10 million to grow the Project Lead the Way network of schools in the Midwest.

In addition, the foundation created the Kern Entrepreneurship Education Network (KEEN) in 2005 as a collegiate initiative to complement efforts at the K-12 level to increase the quantity and quality of U.S. engineering talent. KEEN's mission is to create an action-oriented, entrepreneurial mindset among engineering, science and technical undergraduates.

The Kern Family Foundation has also established the Pastoral Ministry Program. This program fulfills the foundation's mission to enrich the lives of others by promoting strong pastoral leadership. Some of tomorrow's exceptional evangelical pastors are receiving full-tuition seminary scholarships through the Kern Scholars Initiative, the heart of the Foundation's Pastoral Ministry Program. Bob and Pat Kern trust that faithful pastors will lead both youth and adults to develop a personal faith that motivates Christian service in local communities and around the world.

Lastly, the Kerns are also long-time, generous supporters of Old World Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Historical Society's largest historic site near Eagle in Waukesha County. Pat is a former chair and now honorary member of the Old World Wisconsin Foundation Board of Trustees, and two of their daughters have also generously contributed time and resources to the organization, which aims to enhance the visitor experience and help preserve the historical integrity of Old World Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Historical Society celebrated the lifetime achievements of Drs. Robert and Patricia Kern, along with three other individuals with Wisconsin ties, during the History Makers Gala in Milwaukee on May 14, 2008. The Kerns received the Jane Bradley Pettit Award for Distinction in Philanthropy.

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