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Clark Prudhon: Created a Metal Construction Dynasty

2013 Metal Construction Hall of Fame

Clark Prudhon For Mcn Hall Of Fame

Memphis, Tenn.-based Varco Pruden is a well-known manufacturer and supplier of preengineered metal building systems. However, the company itself has humble beginnings in the legacy of Clark Prudhon, one of the company's founders and an innovator in the metal construction industry. Known for his down-to-earth nature and hard work ethic, Prudhon lived by the motto on a plaque in his office, "Be responsible, have integrity, act in love." Due to his achievements within the industry and integrity, he is the winner of the Legacy award for the Metal Construction Hall of Fame.

Founding Pruden Products

Prior to creating his own company, Prudhon worked with Armco Steel in Middletown, Ohio; Evans Products in Detroit, Mich.; and The James Manufacturing Co. in Fort Atkinson, Wis. Initially Prudhon helped produce agricultural building products. Later he grew restless and decided to found a company that would allow him to make his own unique products. "The beginning of Varco Pruden was started in 1950 with an agreement between Clark Prudhon and Gene Kandel with $7,600 and a piece of shoestring, which Prudhon requested from Kandel," notes Stephen Hudak, senior training and education coordinator with Varco Pruden Buildings.

Prudhon kept the string throughout his career, a reminder of a simple beginning. This was the beginning of Pruden Products, using the phonetic spelling of Prudhon's name. In 1955, Pruden Products produced a steel building in Evansville, Wis., that still stands today. The steel building concept saw Prudhon develop his "metal building frame truss unit," which received a patent in 1959.

"Be responsible, have integrity, act in love."

Clark Prudhon

In the 1960s, Pruden Products moved its focus to all-steel buildings. Competing with major companies, such as Butler Manufacturing, Kansas City, Mo., and Armco, drove Prudhon to develop a custom concept marketing strategy where Pruden Products would provide whatever the customer needed. A strong example of this custom concept model is the donation Prudhon made in 1962 to Wisconsin. According to Hudak, Prudhon donated a steel framed building used to house the "World's Largest Cheese" for the 1962 New York World's Fair. The Wisconsin Pavilion still exists in Neillsville, Wis., and stands as a testament to Prudhon's desire to supply unique customer service while acting in good faith to represent his community. Jim Peckham, marketing manager for Varco Pruden, notes that the custom concept customer service allows Varco Pruden to stand out from industry competitors.

Adding the Varco to Pruden

In 1968, Pruden Products was sold to Fuqua Industries, Atlanta, and Pruden Products joined Varco Steel Co., Pine Bluff, Ark., to become Varco Pruden. For 20 years, Prudhon oversaw operations as Varco Pruden's chief executive officer. What started as a company with a small investment and a shoestring turned into a leading metal building manufacturer.

Despite the rapid growth of his company, Prudhon remained in touch with both his employees and customers. Those who worked with Prudhon remember his particularity in producing a quality product exact to customer specifications. He would go so far as to come out with measuring tape and measure the parts for a building himself. Prudhon also continued to support his community with scholarships for Evansville students. Most remember Prudhon for his integrity to the customer and his commitment to quality, which continue to be part of the current Varco Pruden credo.

Varco Pruden now employs hundreds of people and is responsible for the production of multiple products used in the metal construction industry. Through employee training, education initiatives and community outreach, Varco Pruden maintains the integrity as well as responsibility Clark Prudhon instilled in the company.