Melanie Walker, president and CEO of auto supplier Tsuchiya Group North America and its Indiana-based Tasus Corp., has died.
Indiana University announced Walker died on July 31. Neither the university nor the company released a cause. Walker had been a university trustee since 2016.
"So many are fighting back tears today with the sad news of Melanie Walker's passing," Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said in a news release. "Melanie will forever be so many things to many people around the world. Her combination of a zest for life, love for family, friends and Indiana University, and her globally inclusive work ethic are characteristics I hope every young Hoosier can grow up to embody."
Walker was the first woman named to lead Bloomington, Ind.-based Tasus, in 1994, when she was 34. She continued to lead the company as it took the name Tsuchiya — the name of its parent company in Nagoya, Japan — and expanded into a business with five sites and nearly 600 employees.
In a 2014 interview with Plastics News Publisher Brennan Lafferty, she said one of her few regrets was that the company had grown so big, she no longer had a one-on-one relationship with its employees.
"That's why I'm so bent on no more than 200 employees [per plant]," Walker said during a visit to a plant in Florence, Ala. "Not for me, because that means there are going to be 800 with the four locations, but I want the plant managers and the management team to really know every employee."
Walker was born in Ithaca, N.Y., and she earned a Bachelor of Science in industrial and labor relations from Cornell University in 1985.
Her first job in the plastics industry was with Mobil Oil, directly after Cornell.
"My initial interest was in human resources management. I found the daily challenges of being a part of the leadership in manufacturing unexpectedly interesting," she said in a 2015 PN profile.
In that same profile, she listed the best advice she ever received: Get the right people on the bus. Get the wrong people off the bus; hire for character first, second for ability; and pause before responding.
Tsuchiya is a maker of parts for automotive audio systems, lighting and noise control systems with injection molding and extrusion.
Walker is survived by her daughter, Stormy Walker; grandchild, Cash; sisters, Lisa and Dixie Walker; brother, Nathan Walker; and mother, Ruth Walker. She was preceded in death by her son, Landon Hart, and father, Dick Walker.