A conversation with Phyllis Menke
Bob, my husband, was a member of Indiana University’s first NCAA National Championship team. They won in 1940 by beating Kansas. He was always a very poor spectator but very much a competitor—so are Hank and Ryan. So, I guess they all are. I think it runs in the family. Which can be a problem sometimes [laughs]. But they are very competitive. So, it seems to be a family tradition with us [laughs].
When Bob came back from the service, he ran for the board of trustees at Indiana University and was elected. So in 1966, we simply moved our family up there and I went back to school at IU and got my degree, a Bachelor of Fine Arts.
At that time you got a little taste of a lot of things. It was a wonderful education. Sculpture, drawing, ceramics, all creative studies. I loved it. I was back in college and made Phi Beta Kappa because I didn’t have to worry about dating or anything like that [laughs].
I think that’s why I enjoy traveling so much. Every adventure you discover new art, design, or beauty in nature. I’ve been able to travel so much in my life. It’s been wonderful. Those adventures bring you together as a family.
I’m grateful for family—and the fact that we have been successful and able to contribute so much to the community and the world.
I’ve learned to sit loose in the saddle, as I tell my friends. ‘Cause if you really can’t control something, there’s no point in worrying about it.
I hope what sets our company apart is our commitment to giving back through reforestation and our community.
We really have tried to be responsible—and I think all of our generations know that’s important. Maybe the great-grandchildren don’t all know yet, but I hope they’re being taught. My grandchildren certainly know it.
Well, we care about our people—and I would hope that our next generations keep on caring. ‘Cause if they don’t, I’ll come back and haunt them.
We need to keep that personal touch with our customers. I love telling the story of how we started and what we stand for.
I probably have sawdust in my veins—we’ve had a lot of furniture makers in the family.
You know, Hank, my son—he doesn’t think small. Which can get him in trouble sometimes, I guess [laughs], but Hank is there for people. I’m so proud of him. He goes to nursing homes to visit people, he goes to funerals, and he just knows our people. Bob, his father, knew all our employees, and he knew that no matter how big we get, we need to really know our people.