The Hoeft Family and Endowment
Foundations of the Program
History of the Hoeft Family
Born and raised in Illinois, Leonard and Mary Lou Hoeft met at Sycamore High School. After initially enrolling at Northern Illinois, Mr. Hoeft transferred to the University of Illinois in 1941. He served in the Army from 1943-45, first enrolling in the Army Specialized Training Program at William and Mary, where he took accelerated courses in engineering before going to Europe with the 95th Infantry Division.
After the war he returned home, married his high school sweetheart, Mary Lou, and returned to the University to complete his business management degree. He began his career with Caterpillar Tractor Company in Peoria, Illinois. He moved through the ranks at Caterpillar, and in 1954, joined Ziegler Inc. in Minneapolis.
Ziegler Inc., also known as Ziegler Cat, is the Upper Midwest’s largest dealer of Caterpillar and other makes of construction equipment. When Mr. Hoeft joined the company, there were a little over 100 employees with four stores in Minnesota. Today, Ziegler Inc. has over 1,100 employees and 17 locations. Mr. Hoeft served a variety of roles with the company, including president, CEO, and chairman.