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Sachem Award recipient MacAllister still at work

 

 

By SUSAN BLOWER

Indiana Correspondent

 

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — P.E. MacAllister took over his father’s Caterpillar Tractor Co. dealership in 1951. At that time, he said men were still doing business with a handshake and a swift kick of the tires.

"My father, E.W. MacAllister, was a self-made man. Selling was glamorous, and he was a terrific salesman. He was not interested in administration, accounting or the more technical aspects of business," said MacAllister.

"A lot of guys in his generation wanted to do business with a handshake and be out on the job, kicking tires, not in the office with organization charts and job descriptions."

Times were changing, however, and young P.E. MacAllister, then in his thirties, saw the need to change with it. He hired a sales manager, expanded the staff and charted his way through the next 40 years.

MacAllister was named the 2014 recipient of the Indiana Sachem Award by Gov. Mike Pence for his civic and community leadership in the state. He has served as president of the Capital Improvement Board, where he played a key role in developing the Hoosier Dome, the Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium.

He also has headed the boards of many arts organizations, the Northminster Presbyterian Church and political campaigns, including William Hudnut’s run for Congress and mayor.

"P.E. MacAllister embodies the character, industriousness, and generosity that is the essence of the Sachem Award," Pence said. "His civic involvement in the life of our capital city, and Indiana as a whole, is incalculable."

Previous recipients include former college basketball coach John Wooden and gospel music singer-songwriters Bill and Gloria Gaither.

At 95, MacAllister is still involved in the business he helped build, though he turned over leadership in 1991 to his son, Chris. Headquartered in Indianapolis, MacAllister Machinery has 17 locations throughout the state. The company sells, leases and services Challenger tractors, Lexion combines, Caterpillar industrial machines and used equipment.

"I’ll be 96 next month, and I’m sitting in the office today. What does that tell you? My heart and my life are here. My business became a base, of sorts," MacAllister said last week. "What I’ve learned is that whether I’m on the board of trustees, a committee for a political campaign or building a new hospital or library, I want to see businessmen around the table.

"There are no failures in business."

Jay Shininger, Ag Division manager of MacAllister Machinery for the last eight years, said working with MacAllister is "impactful."

"He has so much knowledge, background and experience, and he has an ability to communicate that knowledge that is unsurpassed," Shininger said.

He is excited about the focus on agriculture equipment at MacAllister. Right now, he said the ag division makes up 15 percent of the company, but he expects that percentage to go up.

"P.E. has an interest and commitment to the ag business, with investment in resources to grow it. P.E. and Chris see the Ag Division as the premier growth opportunity for our company," Shininger said.

Ag equipment from AGCO and other manufacturers is sold, rented and serviced at seven locations in the state: Fort Wayne, Muncie, Indianapolis, Lafayette, Rensselaer, Terre Haute and Washington.

"A lot of people don’t know that MacAllister’s started out as an Allis-Chalmers dealership. Our roots go back to farm machinery," Shininger said. "Now, AGCO (successor to A-C) is our second-largest supplier of equipment. History repeats itself."

From fields to opera

 

While MacAllister is an accomplished businessman, he has an artist’s soul. A lover of history, opera and classical music, he has turned his mind to improving the state’s offerings in those areas.

He has served as a leader in the fine arts in Indianapolis by bolstering and leading the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Indianapolis Opera.

MacAllister said his interest in classical music began by listening to it on the radio as a youngster and playing clarinet in the high school band. Born and raised in Milwaukee, he graduated from Carroll College in 1940.

He served five years in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II as a captain. A lover of history, his biggest delight is to discuss different phases in world history over lunch. That’s how he met Robert Vane, a close friend and fellow history buff.

"We are both involved politically, he more than I, but we bonded over a shared love of history. It’s the best friendship I’ve ever had," Vane said. "He has an unmatched generosity of spirit ... He has dedicated his life to providing for other people, whether it be his family, employees or fellow citizens."

MacAllister looks back with pride at his family, his late first wife, Becky, four children and now many grandchildren. He married his second wife, Frances Greene, in 2003. He said his grandson, Alex, likely will follow in his father’s footsteps as the next manager of the family business – and in his grandfather’s as a history buff.

"He knows when Charlemagne died," MacAllister noted, with pride.

Shininger said MacAllister is still a student.

"His mind is stronger at 95 than mine is now. He’s a tremendous student and tremendous teacher. All teachers are good students first," he concluded.

7/23/2014