Ken Iverson: Proof that Ayn Rand’s Heroes Exist

by | Apr 17, 2002

Many Objectivists read the book American Steel about Ken Iverson’s amazing corporate leadership in developing new technology for steel producers when Big Steel was floundering under old ideas and crippling unions. Dr. Edwin Locke also made many mentions of him, as well. In 1991 I read that book and soon afterward was in Charlotte, NC, […]

Many Objectivists read the book American Steel about Ken Iverson’s amazing corporate leadership in developing new technology for steel producers when Big Steel was floundering under old ideas and crippling unions. Dr. Edwin Locke also made many mentions of him, as well.

In 1991 I read that book and soon afterward was in Charlotte, NC, where Nucor’s headquarters is. On a whim, I drove over to the headquarters (whereupon I was shocked by how dinky and utterly unimpressive it was, considering that it’s a Fortune 500 company) and introduced myself to the only secretary/receptionist in the entire office. I told her I’d read the book and wanted to see if it was all “for real.” What I meant was that Ken Iverson was real, that the whole description of him, his company culture, his headquarters, etc., was real. I desperately wanted it to be: it was as close to a Hank Rearden as I could ever hope to get.

The secretary/receptionist was tickled and charming in her Southern way. She gave me some brochures and such, and then I was about to leave but felt unfulfilled. I guess that showed by the way I hesitated upon leaving, so she said, “Do you want to meet Ken? Hold on…” A minute later, I was in his office.

Mr. Iverson was a strapping man that exuded confidence and ability. He was in a suit that he wore well, but he could easily have been in dungarees and a hard hat. He was in his mid-sixties, evidenced by his wrinkles but contradicted by his obvious physical strength and energy of a thirty year-old. Most striking, though, were his blue eyes, which were those of a man who was at ease in the universe–that’s how I can best describe it. He was a work of art in the sense of the metaphysical value-judgments that his persona conveyed. He was “Man the hero.”

We talked for fifteen minutes. Unfortunately he asked me more questions that I asked. In the end, he said, “So you want a job?” I was unprepared for that: I was a history student in college! Recovering from the shock, I said, “No, sir. I just wanted to meet you to know you’re real. That’s all.” Now for most people, that would be an odd thing to hear from a stranger, but I truly believe he understood.

(Coincidentally, I ran in to him at the airport the next day–he was going to a WalMart Board meeting–and had another brief conversation!)

Afterward, I wrote him a letter and sent Atlas Shrugged. I never heard from him again. That’s OK. He gave me a gift that will last a lifetime: proof that Ayn Rand’s heroes exist.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

Have a comment?

Post your response in our Capitalism Community on X.

Related articles

Business Schools Undermine Wealth Creation

Business Schools Undermine Wealth Creation

Students should be reminded that money-making is not an evil endeavor when done ethically and efficiently, and productive pursuits do not need to be tasked with tackling societal ills.

Dollar Stores are a Beautiful Thing

Dollar Stores are a Beautiful Thing

Carlson is entitled to his view of dollar stores as being ugly, but for individuals and families who appreciate the offerings, services, and availability of a discount retailer in their neighborhood, it is surely a beautiful thing.

No spam. Unsubscribe anytime.

Pin It on Pinterest