Born in Canton, Ohio, William Robert “Tim” Timken, Jr. taught himself to swim on a family
vacation to the beach, beginning a love affair with swimming that has remained with him
throughout every phase of his life.
He was a prep school All-American swimmer at Phillips Andover Academy and captained the
swim team at Stanford University. After earning a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate
School of Business Administration, in 1962, he joined the family business – the Timken
Company – a manufacturing dynamo started by his great-grandfather in 1899. Throughout his
43 years with the company, serving in many positions, from bauxite shoveler to President,
CEO and as Chairman for 30 years, Tim continued swimming. In 1974, he helped found the
O*H*I*O Masters Swim Club, (Old Hearts Inspiring Others), the largest masters program in
Ohio, at the Branin Natatorium in Canton. In 1976, he helped bring the U.S. Olympic Team to
Canton for training. As a Masters Swimmer, Tim has won numerous National and World
Championships, set dozens of national and international records, has excelled in open water
swims and twice swam on relays that crossed the English Channel.
Swimming was a welcome respite and diversion from the pressures of managing one of the world’s
great manufacturing corporations.
“At the company, everything is accomplished by a team,” says Timken. “But in swimming, it’s you
and you alone. Money doesn’t matter. Your name doesn’t matter. Your success is accomplished on
your own and depends upon how much effort you put into it as an individual.”
When he wasn’t swimming, Tim was deftly leading the Timken Company through the recessions of
the 1980’s and 1990s, economic downturns that decimated much of America’s manufacturing sector.
"We're a producer's producer, and we tend to be at the whip's end when recessions crack," said
Like the iron, steel and textile industries, the Timken Company, best known for making roller bearings used by the transportation and industrial equipment industries, was losing ground to cheaper imports from the Far East. Timken won antidumping cases against the Japanese, among others, but it didn't stop there. To help break out of an old pattern--watching strong profits earned in good times turn into losses during a recession--Timken spent money when nearly everybody else was laying back. By boldly investing in efficiency and hi-tech expansion both in the U.S. and overseas, the Timken Company increased productivity and dramatically reduced controllable costs, production lead time, delivery time and prices. Tim retired from day to day operations of the company in 2003, leaving the Timken Company, a worldwide NYSE, Fortune 500 company with annual sales of 5.8 billion dollars and over 27,000 employees operating in more than 24 countries, well positioned to navigate the current economic crisis.
Following his retirement, he received a presidential appointment to serve as Chairman of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation and on August 15, 2005, he was sworn in as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Federal Republic of Germany. He presented his credentials to German President Horst Köhler on September 2, 2005. After more than three years in Germany, Ambassador Timken and his wife, Sue, returned to the U.S. in December 2008.
During his private sector career, Ambassador Timken served on the boards of numerous public companies. He has also chaired the National Association of Manufacturers, The Manufacturing Institute, the Ohio Business Roundtable and was a member of the U.S.-Japan Business Council for 20 years.
He has been involved with education at all levels, serving on the Advisory Boards of the Stanford University School of Business and the Institution European D’Administration de Affairs (INSEAD). He served as a Trustee of Stanford University, The Hoover Institution and as Chairman of the Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges.
Ambassador Timken has also received many honors and awards. He is a Chevalier in the French Legion of Honor and an honorary citizen of Colmar, France. He has received the Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship, the Adam Smith Award and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. He has been named Ohio Business Statesman of the Year and has received the Ohio Governors Award.