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Editorial: Executives helped merge Cummins Inc., community

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In their business careers at Cummins Inc. Jean Blackwell and Mark Gerstle left lasting impressions through their contributions to the company’s success. But those were only a part of the legacy left by the two executives who announced they would be retiring April 1.

In their combined 40-year work careers at Cummins, they also made significantly better this and dozens of other communities in which the engine-making firm has a presence.

Indeed, their roles with the Fortune 500 company were defined in large part by the company’s tradition of reaching out to its home communities in efforts to improve their quality of life.

The contributions of the two were especially felt in Columbus and Bartholomew County.

As the chief executive officer of the Cummins Foundation, Blackwell oversaw a global effort in providing the company’s numerous resources to individual communities in myriad endeavors.

There was certainly a massive infusion of dollars from the company, but equally important was the commitment of human resources that enabled agencies and organizations to improve their operations and delivery of services.

Gerstle, as vice president of community affairs, was more directly involved in the company’s outreach to local communities, particularly in the area of education. As chairman of the Community Education Coalition, he helped fashion a broad-based effort to improve educational opportunities for all students.

He was at the forefront in developing and enhancing early childhood development programs here and was one of the prime movers in the establishment of the Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence. He was involved in directing both state and city tax revenues to educational enterprises in Bartholomew County.

In many ways, the community involvement of these two executives is part of a long continuum in the history of Cummins Inc. Throughout that history, and particularly the last half-century, community involvement has been an unwritten part of job descriptions within the company. There is hardly any nonprofit organization in Bartholomew and surrounding counties that has not felt the Cummins effect.

The company’s involvement through these employees has not been so much to put a Cummins stamp on organizations or their projects but to simply improve these entities so that they can better serve those who live here.

Over the past several decades there have been changes within the Cummins leadership, but this philosophy of giving back to their communities is obviously ingrained in the company’s psyche.

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