Harold Brock

Harold Brock
November 23, 1914–January 2, 2011

Personal and Family Life

Harold L. Brock was born November 23, 1914 to Edgar and Ada Grace (Snedegar) Brock in Clarksburg, West Virginia. Brock had a sister, Mildred, and a brother, Lynwood. As a child, his family moved to the Washington D.C. area, then to the Detroit, Michigan area.

On June 19, 1937, he married Juliette "Judy" S. Brower in Detroit. She passed away on February 27, 1990 in Waterloo. To this union a son and two daughters were born. Harold had four granddaughters and four great-grandsons.

He married Kathleen Sheehan in Waterloo on July 1, 1991. She passed away on April 14, 2010.

Mr. Brock passed away on Sunday, January 2, 2011.

He is remembered as a quiet, spiritual man who was soft-spoken and gentle. He was a valued source of advice for many with his consistent, confident, and caring views on life's challenges.

He was a man of diverse tastes. He enjoyed shopping on Chicago's State Street but preferred his local K-Mart, which grew from the stores founded in Detroit by his Sunday school teacher, S.S. Kresge. He was at ease in the country club, but looked forward to his next fast food burger, or the next taco with extra hot sauce. For many years his Christmas dinner table included a large bowl of pinto beans and raw onions to remind the family of their humble beginnings, but guests could also enjoy meat from the grill.

He had a quick wit and a sharp memory, and loved sharing stories of his days with the influential men most people only know from history books. Harold met or worked with men such as Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, George Washington Carver, Harvey Firestone, Luther Burbank, Harry Ferguson, Lee Iacocca, Edsel Ford, and Henry Ford II.

He also enjoyed family fishing trips to Gull Lake in Minnesota, outings to Chicago, and his many trips to Japan, along with an occasional round of golf.

Music was part of Harold's life, whether it was attending concerts involving his children or grandchildren, symphony concerts, barbershop shows, or organ recitals. Throughout much of his life, he entertained himself and family members sitting at the Hammond organ in his home.

Years at Ford

In 1929 at age 15, Harold Brock left traditional schooling to enter the Ford Trade and Apprentice School in Dearborn, Michigan. There he met founder Henry Ford, who became his mentor and introduced him to many of the great thinkers and inventors of the day.

Harold began his career at Ford working on car and truck design. By 1938, Mr. Ford chose Harold to spearhead the design and production of the revolutionary Ford 9N tractor, which was accomplished in six months. Harold continued to provide innovations for Ford for more than 28 years, except for the World War II years when he turned his focus to the design of the Jeep which was originally Ford's design. He also redesigned the front armor and drive systems for the Sherman tanks.

John Deere

Mr. Brock joined the design team at the John Deere Tractor Works in Waterloo in 1959. He became the Director of Tractor Research and later the first Worldwide Manager of Product Engineering. He headed the design group for the Deere 4020 tractor, which has influenced tractor design ever since. He retired in February 1980, but served as a global consultant and, in the 1980s, assisted in a joint effort between Deere and Yanmar.

Harold Brock was a past president of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and founder of the Mississippi Valley Section of SAE. He was also a member and Fellow of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE).

Hawkeye Community College

Remembering the training and education he received from Ford, in 1965 Harold Brock was one of four community leaders who lobbied the Iowa legislature to establish Hawkeye Institute of Technology. He was instrumental in building the campus south of Waterloo and later expanding its focus to become Hawkeye Community College. He was involved with the school for 45 years, serving as a member of the Hawkeye Foundation and the Hawkeye Board of Trustees. Brock served on Hawkeye's founding board as Chairman from 1966–1980 and was re-elected in 1998–2007, serving again as Chairman in 2000. In 2009, Hawkeye named the Brock Student Center after Harold for his dedication to the College and its students.

Community Involvement

Mr. Brock was a founding board member of Junior Achievement in Waterloo, and also was on the board of the Grout Museum, Cedar Valley Hospice and other community organizations. Harold served on numerous state and national committees and advisory boards, including Iowa Work Force Development.


In his later years, Mr. Brock focused his energies on sharing the history he had witnessed. He wrote the book "The Fords in My Past" and co-authored or contributed to several books and video projects on the history of tractors and agriculture. He was called on often as a guest speaker for wide-ranging audiences, from fellow engineers and business leaders, to antique collectors and school children.

Much has been written and spoken about Harold Brock's accomplishments. He was well-recognized in the Waterloo region, state of Iowa, nationwide and internationally, receiving numerous awards and honors, including the Cyrus Hall McCormick Jerome Increase Case Gold Medal Award in 2008, and an Honorary Doctor of Science Degree from Iowa State University in 2010.

Books, internet blogs, and publications about tractors, agriculture or automotive engineering are filled with references to Harold Brock, using terms like "legend" and "innovator." People who actually spoke with Harold recall him as "amazingly accessible" and "humble," while generous with his time and genuine in his interest for others. He lived the philosophies of Henry Ford about reaching out to youth, and continuing to learn to stay young in mind.

Awards and Honors

  • Honorary Doctor of Science, Iowa State University, 2010
  • Eight Over 80 Award, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, 2010
  • Brock Student Center dedicated in honor of Mr. Harold Brock, Hawkeye Community College, 2008
  • Cyrus Hall McCormick-Jerome Increase Case Gold Medal, American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE), 2008
  • National M Sale Ensign Trustee Leadership Award, Association of Community College Trustees, 2007
  • Central Region Trustee Leadership Award, Association of Community College Trustees, 2007
  • Honorary Diploma, Hawkeye Community College, 2006
  • Inspiration Award, Hawkeye Community College Foundation, 2000
  • Citizen of the Year, Waterloo Chamber
  • National Silver Leadership Award, Junior Achievement
  • John P. Kibbie Award, Iowa Association of Community College Trustees
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