2010 Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award - Entrepreneurship
That West Chicago has become the vibrant commercial and residential community it is today, welcoming families from near and far, is due in no small part to the vision and entrepreneurial acumen of Tom Marziani. Over the past 60 years he has turned 240 acres of land into thriving business and neighborhood properties, building commerce and community pride for the people of West Chicago.
Marziani’s determination to improve things was evident early in life when at age 14 he was seriously injured in a hunting accident. After a bullet to his spine, still lodged there today, left him partially paralyzed, he commandeered his own rehabilitation, delaying his entry into Community High School by a full year.
At high school Tom gravitated toward the machinery and industrial arts shop, and worked part-time at Monarch Foods, fondly known as “the pickle factory”. When World War II got underway, Tom knew his injuries would disqualify him from the fight, so upon graduation in 1943, he went to work for Howard Aircraft (on the site of the future DuPage County Airport) installing aircraft engines for the American war effort.
When the West Chicago plant was purchased by Douglas Aircraft and relocated at O’Hare Field, Tom found an opportunity to put his engineering talents to work. The assembly line was a slow mile long and turned out only one plane a day. Tom redesigned the line and cut the pre-assembly time to less than half. He earned himself a promotion to Engineer and Change Scheduler and continued honing his management and engineering skills at Douglas until the war was won.
Back in West Chicago at the pickle factory Marziani turned his engineering expertise to the building of continuous mixing and sorting machinery, and he was promoted to Vice President of Operations. In 1970 when Charles Wegner III of the Jel Sert Company purchased Monarch Foods, he made sure that Tom Marziani signed on as Vice President of Manufacturing. The pickle machinery Tom built at Monarch was invaluable to the new operation and Wegner gladly compensated him for the equipment. Other large businesses, including H.J. Heinz, purchased customized machinery from Marziani as well.
In addition to running operations at Jel Sert Marziani was instrumental in establishing the Realty Division of Wegner Land & Developing Corporation, which, under Marziani’s direction, built 15 industrial buildings, 180 town homes and 220 upscale residences. He designed the electric, sewer, water and drainage infrastructure for Willow Creek subdivision and arranged for a land swap with District 33 that provided the property for Charles T. Wegner Elementary School.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, Tom Marziani was Director of the West Chicago Chamber of Commerce, an active member of the Planning Commission of West Chicago, and Chairman of the Dupage County Airport Board. In those roles he was responsible for the design of the new train station; he helped design the Dupage County Flight Center; and he was instrumental in assuring that the airport was annexed within the boundaries of West Chicago.
Marziani volunteered 8 years on the District 33 Board of Education and served as its President when the first multi-year teachers’ contract was accepted. He was one of the founding board members of the District 33 Education Foundation. In 2000 Marziani helped establish the West Chicago Sister Cities program with Taufkirchen, Germany. He and his wife, Pearl, have visited Taufkirchen and hosted many guests from the Sister City in their West Chicago home.
In 2006 the West Chicago Chamber of Commerce established the Thomas O. Marziani Lifetime Achievement Award for his 50 years of service to the community. Now at age 86 Marziani hasn’t slowed down. He still reports to work daily at Marziani Enterprises, and as one would expect, he always has a smile and a warm greeting for the folks of West Chicago.
“West Chicago is part of me. . . . The future of West Chicago is just beginning.”
The CHS Education Foundation is honored to present Thomas O. Marziani, class of 1943, the 2010 Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award for Entrepreneurship.