The Purdue community mourns the death of accomplished business leader and proud alumnus Jerry Semler (M’58, HDR M’02). He died Monday, July 24, at age 86.
“Since graduating from Purdue in 1958, Jerry Semler has tirelessly contributed to the prosperity of central Indiana,” Purdue President Mung Chiang says. “His outstanding leadership exemplified the impact to society made by the best Boilermakers.”
Semler joined American United Life Insurance Co.—now OneAmerica Financial Partners—as a management trainee in 1959. He became president of the company in 1980 and served in various executive leadership roles, including chief operating officer, CEO, and chairman of the board, before his retirement in 2004. He remained on the board as chairman emeritus until 2009.
An industrial economics graduate, Semler was a longtime supporter of Purdue University as a member of the John Purdue Club, President’s Council, and the Purdue Alumni Association. He and his wife, Rosemary “Rosie” (Reich) Semler (LA’59), established the Jerry and Rosie Semler Chair in Economics in what is now the Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. School of Business and helped fund several university scholarships.
Semler served on the Krannert Dean’s Advisory Council for 30 years and was a chair of the President’s Council Advisory Board. He was also a member of the presidential search committee, The Campaign for Purdue Steering Committee, and the Purdue Foundation Development Council. In 1993, Semler received the Krannert Distinguished Alumni Award, and he was honored with the Krannert Business Leadership Award in 2001.
Beyond Purdue, Semler was active with many Indiana nonprofits, civic and business organizations, and professional associations. He served as chairman for the boards of Visit Indy, the Center for Leadership Development, Indiana Chamber of Commerce, Indianapolis Downtown Inc., and the 500 Festival Foundation. He also was board president of 500 Festival Associates and Indiana Repertory Theatre.
Semler was a Sagamore of the Wabash recipient, and—in recognition of their many outstanding philanthropic contributions in the Indianapolis community—he and Rosie were designated “Indiana Living Legends” by the Indiana Historical Society in 2015.
Semler is survived by Rosie, his wife of 63 years, as well as seven children, 28 grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren, many of whom are Boilermakers.