Stanley R. "Stan" Day Jr. '76 and Frederick K. "F.K." Day '78 are the recipients of this year's Community Service Award. The brothers will be honored in a ceremony at Hotchkiss on April 27.
In 1987, they founded SRAM, now the largest designer and manufacturer of high-performance bicycle components in the U.S. and the second largest in the world. They've also used their expertise to develop their nonprofit, World Bicycle Relief (WBR), which distributes high-quality bicycles to students, entrepreneurs, and health care workers in rural developing countries and disaster-stricken areas around the world. In addition, the brothers founded the SRAM Cycling Fund, which advocates change to cycling infrastructure that improves safety and access and has provided millions of dollars in grants in Europe and the U.S.
In a 2016 Alum of the Month article featuring the brothers, F.K. recalled that the two were living in downtown Chicago in 1987 when they decided to go into business together. "Stan was a weekend triathlete, and I was a weekend mountain biker. One day after a training ride, Stan said: 'I am going to get myself killed on the Chicago streets reaching to the down tube to shift gears. We've got to put the shifting up on the handlebar.' Solving that simple, yet overlooked need, became our first product – Grip Shift – and the start of SRAM," he said.
Today, SRAM operates 20 facilities in the US, Europe, and Asia, with annual revenues in excess of $700 million and more than 3,800 employees. In 2008, the SRAM Cycling Fund announced its first grant award to the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, a network of hundreds of organization — including government agencies, schools, and professionals — working together to provide safe spaces with less traffic and improved air quality for physical activities. "Creating a better environment for children to bike and walk to school is good for everyone," said Stan, who serves as president and CEO of SRAM.
Since its first grant in 2008, the SRAM Cycling Fund has supported multiple bicycle organizations and led advocacy for change in government policy. "SRAM recognizes the heavy lifting being done by local advocates all around the country on this important program. National support of state and local advocacy groups is imperative to creating a bicycle-friendly America," Stan said.
The Day family has always been drawn to business and entrepreneurial endeavors. "It was the conversation at the dining room table. We had an idea of the long term, a complete commitment to integrity, and a view that one has to earn success through hard work," Stan said.
F.K. attributes much of their success to the fact that they love what they do and believe they are serving a greater purpose. In 2005, following the Indian Ocean tsunami. F.K. and his wife co-founded WBR. "We knew we could raise money and send it to the Red Cross, but it occurred to us that we might be able to do something more impactful if we could leverage the experience and capability of the bicycle industry and the empowerment and freedom that a bicycle brings, and then provide it in large scale as basic, yet essential transportation for those in greatest need," F.K. said.
They approached major NGOs and proposed a large-scale bicycle program to no avail, so F.K. and Leah flew to Indonesia and Sri Lanka to interview the people affected by the natural disaster and proposed the same idea. There, F.K. said, the answer was the opposite. "They said, 'You can do a large-scale bicycle program? That would be transformational.
'"They selected World Vision as our partner, delivering 24,400 new bicycles to men, women, and children.The impact was so great that many of the NGOs encouraged and pleaded with us to build the program in Africa," F.K. said.
In rural Africa, most bicycles that were readily available only lasted a few months in the rocky, challenging terrain. So WBR designed and manufactured the Buffalo Bicycle, a rugged, high-quality bicycle that would survive in this environment. "Our engineers have been improving this bicycle over the past 10 years, and our current model is the fifth generation of our bike," F.K. said. To date, WBR has supplied more than 375,000 bikes, with 55,000 delivered in 2017.
In developing countries with little or no infrastructure and limited household incomes, a bicycle can be a simple, yet powerful tool for change. "Bikes address basic societal problems, like city congestion, pollution, health and obesity, basic economics, and access to distant goods and services," F.K said.
Both Stan and F.K. Day credit Hotchkiss with laying the foundation for their success. Stan notes: "It was an outstanding education, and I vividly recall how much more robust my math and English education was relative to my peers when I got to college. The adventure of going away to school in ninth grade instilled in me a real sense of responsibility, confidence, and accomplishment." Stan graduated from Hotchkiss and earned his B.S. in business at Tulane University and his M.B.A. at Kellogg Graduate School of Management.
For F.K., the Hotchkiss experience was different, yet held value in a broader sense: "In 1974, Hotchkiss and I were the wrong fit, and I transferred to South Kent School after prep year," he said. After graduating, he studied economics at Wayne State University and attended Tulane University, majoring in economics and Latin American studies. In 2013, Day received an honorary doctorate from Tulane University.
"Modern-day Hotchkiss and South Kent reflect what I believe to be the best of what modern education, technology, innovation, and experiential learning can instill in a student," he said.
Stan serves as president, CEO, and chairman of the board at SRAM and as a director on the board of WBR. F.K. serves as executive vice president of SRAM and CEO of WBR. He also serves as a director on the board of SRAM.