Follett Corporation was founded in 1873 when Charles M. Barnes opened a used book store in his Wheaton, Illinois home. Three years later, Barnes moved his business, now named C.M. Barnes & Company, to Chicago where he opened a store at 23 LaSalle Street. Here, he sold new and used textbooks, stationary and school supplies.

C.W. Follett joined the company in 1901 as a stock clerk. The following year, Charles Barnes retired and his son William became president. The company had now evolved into a wholesaler, selling used books throughout the Midwest and as far away as the Oklahoma Territory.

In 1908, the company was reorganized as C.M. Barnes - Wilcox Company when John Wilcox, William Barnes' father-in-law, became the company's primary shareholder. Four years later, in 1912, C.W. Follett became vice president and a shareholder of the company.

In 1917, William Barnes sold his remaining interest in the company to John Wilcox. Later that year Barnes moved to New York where he partnered with G. Clifford Noble and founded Barnes & Noble.

The following year, with Wilcox nearing retirement, C.W. Follett took over management of the company and it was once again renamed, this time as J.W. Wilcox & Follett Company.

John Wilcox died in 1923 and the following year, C.W. Follett and his wife, Edythe, purchased the company. During the next two years, C.W. Follett's three oldest sons--R.D. (Bob), Garth and Dwight- - joined the family business. C.W.'s youngest son Laddie, who was still in grade school, joined the company in 1930.

During the next two decades, C.W.'s sons infused the company with ideas and enthusiasm, helping the company to evolve and grow. In 1925, Dwight founded the Follett Publishing Company. In 1930, R.D. Follett founded the Follett College Book Company and began wholesaling used textbooks to professors and college bookstores. The following year, R.D. established the company's first retail bookstore on a college campus outside of Chicago. And in 1940, Garth Follett created Follett Library Book Company. Laddie Follett ran the company's original business - Wilcox & Follett - from 1952 until 1986.

When C.W. Follett passed away in 1952 at the age of 70, Dwight Follett succeeded his father as chairman. The company continued to grow and was renamed Follett Corporation in 1957, which it is still known by today.

In the mid 1970's Dwight began to prepare for his retirement and Dick Litzsinger, R.D. Follett's son-in-law, was elected president and chief executive officer. In 1979, Dwight retired and Robert J.R. Follett was named chairman.

In 1994, Robert J.R. Follett retired and Dick Traut, R.D.'s son-in-law, was elected chairman. The following year, Loyola University named Follett Illinois Family Business of the Year.

Dick Litzsinger retired as president and chief executive officer in 1997 and Ken Hull was elected president. Ken was the first non-family member to be elected president of the corporation. In 1997, Follett also restructured its board of directors, adding three non-family members. That same year, it joined Internet Systems, Inc. in forming Library Systems & Services, L.L.C., a joint venture that provides library management services to public, academic and corporate libraries across the country. In addition, Follett purchased Book Wholesalers, Inc. (BWI) - a distributor of children's books to public libraries.

In 1998, Follett associates celebrated the company's 125th anniversary. To strengthen the company's ability to meet the needs of its customers, Follett aligned its various business units under three market groups - Higher Education, Elementary and High Schools and Libraries.

Dick Traut retired as Chairman in 1999 and Ken Hull became Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the corporation. In addition, in 1999, Follett launched the web site.

In 2000, Christopher Traut was elected President and Chief Executive Officer of Follett Corporation. Ken Hull remained as Chairman of Follett Corporation. In addition, Follett's three core market groups were combined to form Follett Higher Education Group and Follett Library and School Group.

In April 2001, Ken Hull retired and Mark Litzsinger was elected Chairman of Follett Corporation.

Following a rigorous analysis of the company's portfolio of business units, Follett merged Follett Media Distribution, which provided audio visual products to school and public libraries, into BWI in an effort to provide our library customers with one-stop shopping for all of their book and media needs. In addition, in June of 2003, Follett sold its interest in Library Systems & Services, LLC (LSSI).

In 2010, Chris Traut retired. Charles R. (Chuck) Follett then took over the company as President and CEO after holding a wide range of leadership roles during his 37 years with the company. That same year, Follett was ranked #155 in Forbes’ list of largest private companies.

In 2011, the Follett School and Library Group was created to serve the K-12 market under one business group. Strategic business decisions were made to move the focus of the school and library group into the K-12 classroom, and in 2011, certain assets of Follett’s public library business, BWI, were sold.

In April 2011, Alison O’Hara was named Chairman of the Board. Prior to becoming Chairman, she served as Assistant General Counsel of Follett and was a member of the company’s Board of Directors for 11 years. Under O’Hara’s direction, the Board is undergoing another transformation, bringing in outside directors that bring the expertise to lead Follett into the digital future.

In November 2012, Mary Lee Schneider was elected Follett’s new President and CEO. Schneider is an 11-year veteran on the Follett Board of Directors. She is widely recognized as a digital innovator and a visionary leader – a result of her extensive experience in digital publishing and leadership positions. Schneider comes to Follett from Chicago-based RR Donnelley, where she recently was President, Digital Solutions and Chief Technology Officer.

In April 2014, Follett's PreK-12 businesses became one legal entity—Follett School Solutions, Inc. The new entity simplifies the customer experience and enhances Follett's offerings by integrating the content, technology, and services previously offered by three separate businesses: Follett Educational Services, Follett Library Resources and Follett Software Company.

The Company has an eye on the future, currently focusing on e-commerce, digital offerings and text rental in addition to its core areas of expertise. Today, Follett is a $2.7 billion, privately-held company that provides products, services and solutions to the educational marketplace. The company, which serves more than 5 million students at its more than 1,600 physical and online stores, employs approximately 10,000 associates throughout the United States, Canada and other parts of the world.

Empower education everywhere

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