NMMA Hall of Fame Award
1990: Charles D. Strang, Outboard Marine Corporation and Nathanael G. Herreshoff, Herreshoff Manufacturing Company
Charles D. Strang
From his first outboard race in 1937 to his leadership of Outboard Marine Corporation through unprecedented periods of growth, Charles D. Strang—better known as Charlie to his many friends—served as a driving force in the recreational marine industry. A mechanical engineer by education and confessed outboard motor nut since the age of nine, he has been a prime mover in the development of many of the features which are standard in today’s outboard motors and stern drives.
Charlie’s gift for the technical side emerged in his studies at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn where he graduated in 1943 with a degree in mechanical engineering. Early applications of his talent included experimental testing on aircraft engines for the former Wright Aeronautical Corporation, project research on early jet engines at what is now NASA, and teaching as a member of the mechanical engineering staff at Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1947 to 1951. While at MIT, Charlie conducted basic research on the physics of surfaces publishing more than a dozen scientific papers, including one landmark paper on the theory of wear—a paper which is still referenced by current researchers.
Charlie’s racing had an early start when he got his first boat at age 16. His premier attempt as the youngest driver ever entered in the Albany-to-New York marathon ended on a dampened note when his outboard runabout sank after some 60 miles. But the incident dampened neither Charlie’s nor his mother Ann’s enthusiasm for the sport. An ever-present pair on the racing scene, both became prominent figures in the American Power Boat Association.
Racing ultimately led Charlie into the business side of boating when he met Carl Kiekhaefer (1988 Hall of Fame inductee) at the 1950 Pro Nationals in Lake Alfred, Fl. Taking Kiekhaefer up on an invitation to join the Mercury team, Charlie moved up to executive vice president and engineering vice president.
He left Kiekhaefer in 1964 and after two years as a consultant, linked up with Outboard Marine Corporation. Charlie applied his experience from racing to the technological advancement and promotion of consumer products. Beginning as director of marine engineering, he began a climb through the organization that would take him to president and general manager in 1974, chief executive officer in 1980, and chairman of the board in 1982.
Serving as the APBA president from 1963–1964, Charlie’s devotion to the organization helped make it the premier boat racing association in the nation. Similarly, his efforts on behalf of the Union for International Motorboating helped regulate boat sports in 44 nations and earned him UIM’s Medal of Honor. Charlie’s achievements have been recognized outside of the boating arena as well, receiving the American Success Award from President Bush in a White House ceremony in 1989.
In 1990, Charlie announced his retirement. He now has more time to enjoy boating with Barbara, his wife of six years.