Michael R. Haverty was born on June 11, 1944, in Atchison, Kansas, into a family whose railroad heritage stretched back through three generations. Haverty’s great-grandfather left Ireland for the United States in 1860, working for track-laying gangs on the Union Pacific and MoPac. Haverty’s grandfather and father signed on as MoPac brakemen, and Mike Haverty followed the same path on his nineteenth birthday when he became a MoPac brakeman.
In 1967, he enrolled in the MoPac management trainee program, earning a business degree from Southwestern University along the way. In 1970, seeking the competitive and challenging environment of a larger company, he took a position as a trainmaster on the Santa Fe.
Haverty worked his way up the corporate ladder, remaining through successive promotions in the operating division. Shortly after completing an MBA from the University of Chicago in 1989, he was elevated to the post of president and chief operating officer of the ATSF. In this position, Haverty sought to generate new business for the company. Early in his tenure as president of the Santa Fe, he invited executives of the trucking firm J. B. Hunt to ride with him in a business car attached to an intermodal train through New Mexico and Arizona. Shortly afterwards, he took J. B. Hunt and his board of directors on a train ride from Chicago to Kansas City. As they reached Galesburg, Illinois, Hunt and Haverty shook hands on an agreement to use the railroad to haul his long-distance trucks from the West coast to Chicago, initiating one of the Santa Fe’s most lucrative contracts.
After six years at the helm of the Santa Fe, Haverty left that company for a regional line, the Kansas City Southern. He took this position because he knew he could affect dramatic and immediate change. He was once quoted as saying that if he had to do it all over again, he would not work for a large corporation. A blunt champion of innovation, he has made the KCS into a successful north-south player in an east-west world. Haverty pursued an aggressive policy of acquisition and expansion, forcing the Union Pacific to grant KCS trackage rights during negotiations over that company’s merger with the Southern Pacific. In 1996, KCS purchased Transportation Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM) for access to Mexico. In the same year, KCS bought the Gateway Western to give it a direct route to Chicago and then, via the major carriers, to Canada. KCS has also expanded further by purchasing and operating the Panama Canal Railway. Haverty became chairman of Kansas City Southern Industries, the holding company which owns KCS, in 2001, and continued to prepare the line for its role as what he called the NAFTA railroad. Haverty retired in September 2013, capping off a 50-year railroad career.
Over the years, Haverty has received several awards, including the following:
- Railroader of the Year — Railway Age magazine, 2001
- Entrepreneur of the Year Award® (Services Category) — Ernst & Young LLP, 2008
- Railroad Innovator Award — Progressive Railroading magazine, 2011
- National Railroad Hall of Fame Inductee — National Railroad Hall of Fame, 2012
- Salzberg Medallion — Whitman School of Management, Syracuse University, 2012
- John T. McCullough Executive of the Year Award — National Industrial Transportation League and Logistics Management magazine, 2014
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