Light Amid the Darkness

‘Natural leader’ Marie Kendrick continues to inspire her Bodine colleagues in the wake of her tragic death

June 11, 2019
'A Natural Leader' -- Kendrick takes the lead during a tour on the plant floor at Bodine Aluminum's facility in Troy, Missouri.

Marie Kendrick joined Bodine Aluminum in 2016, right after she earned her engineering degree at St. Louis University. But it didn’t take long for her fellow team members to recognize just how special she was.
 
“She was talented and driven,” says Travis Hartman, Kendrick’s manager in Production Engineering. “She was also outgoing and funny and easygoing. Her personality helped everyone ride through the ups and downs. She was a natural leader. The sky was the limit for her.”
 
But on a tragic day last September, all of that promise was cut short in a fatal car accident.
 
Hartman and his team at the Troy, Missouri, facility that casts cylinder heads, cylinder blocks and automatic transmission parts for Toyota vehicles will never forget. And hopefully through The Manufacturing Institute, which in April honored Kendrick with a STEP Ahead award as an emerging female leader in manufacturing, others will come to appreciate her, too.
 
Kendrick’s parents received her award posthumously, sharing this deeply personal video. They were joined by fellow award-winners Renee Robertson, general manager of Production Control at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, and Shamaya Morris, a specialist in Production Engineering at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, West Virginia. You can read a bit more about them here.
 
Forward Thinking -- Among her many accomplishments, Kendrick guided the development of a new automated casting die repair process.

A Champion of New Technology on the Job
 
Kendrick certainly deserved to join them on that stage in Washington, D.C. In her short tenure at Bodine, she led the launch of the cylinder head casting for Toyota’s new TNGA 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine — a $15 million project. And, among other accomplishments, she spearheaded the development of a new automated casting die repair process.
 
“It uses 3D printing technology to repair a die far more quickly, at lower cost and at higher quality than the conventional process,” says Hartman. “It really is a breakthrough for us. Marie championed it and kept it from falling through. It would not be the success that’s become if not for her.”
 
Hartman says Bodine was incredibly fortunate to have crossed paths with Kendrick. While still a student, she attended a Society of Women Engineers conference where the company happened to have some recruiters. Kendrick liked that Bodine was close to home, so she signed up for an eight-month co-op assignment in Troy as part of her undergraduate engineering degree work.
 
Team Player -- Kendrick (near center of photo) joins with several other colleagues in wishing Senior Principal Engineer Mr. Sugita (seated with artwork) before his return to Japan.

A Force for Good in the Community
 
Even with the demands of a full-time job, Kendrick continued to be active in the Society of Women Engineers. She also served on the board of directors for Earthwise Industries, a nonprofit organization in Troy that provides employment opportunities to mentally and physically challenged individuals. She helped build houses with Habitat for Humanity. And she fed her passion for volleyball, serving as the head coach of a local girls team.
 
Though just getting started in her career, Kendrick also sought out opportunities to mentor several female engineers who followed in her footsteps as co-op students at Bodine.
 
“Marie saw just how important it was to her to have good mentors,” says Production Engineering Group Manager Steve Grund, who nominated Kendrick for the STEP Ahead award. “She worked to pay it forward and be a good mentor to the next generation of female talent.”
 
Lives Changed -- This is just one of the ways Kendrick's fellow team members have sought to remember her and the impact she had on their work lives.

Hartman has no doubt that Kendrick’s memory will live on, to the benefit of Bodine and the many team members who knew her.
 
“As a team, we’ve learned a lot about what we do and how we do it by trying to process her loss,” he says. “The one thing that really came through was her overall daily humility. She had a way of getting the best out of people by valuing them and promoting excellence. None of us knows how many days we have. It’s a really hard time right now. But we’re working through it together. And, thanks to Marie, we’ll be better for it.”
 
By Dan Miller
 

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