(Bloomberg) Fred L. Turner, one of McDonald's (MCD) Corp.'s earliest employees and founder of its signature Hamburger University, who rose to chief executive officer, has died. He was 80.
Turner founded Hamburger University in the basement of a McDonald's restaurant in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, in 1961, according to a company history. The first class, 15 students, graduated in February of that year. Since then, more than 80,000 restaurant managers, mid-managers and owner-operators have gone through the program, which hosts more than 5,000 students each year.
The Hamburger U. campus at the company's headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois, was named the Fred L. Turner Training Center in 2004. Additional training sites are in Sydney, Munich, London, Tokyo, Sao Paulo and Beijing. Graduates receive "Bachelor of Hamburgerology" degrees, according to the McDonald's website.
Turner was an architect of the company's emphasis on quality, service and cleanliness, known as QSC.
"Fred was a true pioneer and shaped the quick service restaurant industry," Andy McKenna, chairman of the McDonald's board of directors, said yesterday in a statement. "We will remember his leadership, passion and dedication to McDonald's, our customers and our people."
Frederick Leo Turner was born on Jan. 6, 1933, in Des Moines, Iowa. He attended Drake University in Des Moines from 1951 to 1953.
In 1956, he became one of the first employees hired by McDonald's founder Ray Kroc.
"He was little more than a kid, 23 years old," Kroc wrote in his memoir, recalling his first meeting with Turner in February 1956. "He had a baby face and the most infectious grin I'd seen in years."
Turner and Joe Post, partners with members of their families in a venture called the Post-Turner Corp., were seeking to buy and operate a McDonald's franchise. Turner took Kroc up on his suggestion that he go to work, at $1 an hour, at an existing McDonald's to learn the ropes. "I could see he was a born leader," wrote Kroc, who died in 1984.
When the family members in Post-Turner couldn't agree on where to locate their proposed new franchise, Turner struck out on his own and became manager of a newly opened McDonald's on Cicero Avenue in Chicago. Within a year, Kroc had brought him in to company headquarters.
"He was proud of everything about McDonald's, and rightly so -- he and Ray built it, with many other people," Paula Turner said of her father in an interview today. "They had a partnership early on and a real love for each other and a real shared vision."
Turner became operations vice president in 1958, an executive vice president in 1967 and, in 1968, president and chief administrative officer.
He was named president and chief executive in 1974 and chairman and CEO in 1977. He was CEO until 1987 and chairman until 1990. He was senior chairman until his retirement in 2004, when McDonald's had had about 31,500 stores in more than 100 countries and revenue of $19.1 billion.