Our History

Founding of GOJO and History of Our Products and Well-Being Solutions

Our story begins in Akron, Ohio, during World War II. Goldie Lippman was a supervisor in one of Akron's many rubber factories, manufacturing life rafts and rubber products for the war effort, where she and her co-workers discovered how difficult it was to clean their hands after a day’s work. The men who had worked in the rubber factories before the war had dipped their hands in chemicals like kerosene and benzene at the end of a shift in order to remove the graphite and carbon black. These harsh chemicals took a toll on workers’ hands, and Goldie and her husband Jerry set out to find a better solution. This kindled the spirit of innovation that led to the founding of GOJO in 1946.

Jerry knew he needed help solving this important human problem. So he visited the chemistry department at Kent State University in search of a chemist to help him develop a hand cleaner that would be effective against difficult soils and safe for skin. He found Professor Clarence Cook, and the two worked together to invent what became the first-ever one-step, rinse-off GOJO® Hand Cleaner.

Goldie and Jerry Lippman

Goldie and Jerry Lippman co-founded GOJO.

Soon, Goldie and Jerry were building a growing company. Goldie’s financial savvy and business acumen complemented Jerry’s problem-solving ingenuity. She ran “the inside” – managing the books, procuring raw materials, figuring out a pricing strategy, and more. Jerry was a natural innovator with unquenchable curiosity, a can-do attitude, a passion for their customers, and a way with people. In the earliest days, while Goldie managed the one-person office, Jerry mixed batches of product in their basement. While she developed their business model, he sold GOJO® Hand Cleaner, packaged in repurposed pickle jars collected from local restaurants, out of the trunk of their family car.

Through his conversations with customers, Jerry learned that workers were using too much of the much-loved heavy-duty hand cleaner, even scooping it out of its cans to carry home in their lunch pails to use at night, after working on their cars. This was making it too expensive for some business owners to buy and provide to their employees, and, if unaddressed, threatened to limit the growth of Goldie and Jerry’s business.

Never deterred and always the inventor, Jerry came up with the first-ever portion-control dispenser, for which he was granted a patent in 1952. This creative solution was a win-win, and served as the foundation for us to become the leader in heavy-duty hand cleaner across the country in the automotive after-market and industrial markets. Every soap dispenser on the wall today, anywhere in the world, is a descendant of that first dispenser Jerry invented!

Over the following decades, we expanded into broader skincare solutions for virtually every away-from-home market, from foodservice establishments to healthcare facilities, from cruise ships to schools. In 1988, we invented PURELL® Hand Sanitizer, creating a new way for employees, patrons, students, teachers, and everyone else to clean their hands away from the sink, reducing the spread of disease-causing germs.

The development of PURELL® Hand Sanitizer was a turning point, and, in 1997, we launched this breakthrough innovation into the consumer market, allowing people everywhere to have convenient access to hand hygiene. Today, PURELL® remains America’s #1 Hand Sanitizer1 and can be found all over the world, anywhere that people care about keeping people healthy and well.

Powered by this spirit of innovation, in the years after PURELL® Hand Sanitizer was created we have continued to develop ever-better solutions in hand hygiene. In 2006, we introduced a revolutionary line of touch-free wall- and counter-mount dispensing systems that made washing and sanitizing hands the most convenient yet.

Our commitment to sustainability leadership, which has its roots in Goldie and Jerry’s resourcefulness and sense of stewardship, has been a major influence in everything we do — from how we work to what we make. In 2010, we released PURELL® Green Certified Hand Sanitizer, the world’s first EcoLogo certified hand sanitizer. But it’s not just about sustainable products. We constantly evaluate our manufacturing processes, business partnerships, and community relationships to make sure we’re doing everything we can to make the world a better, healthier, safer place.

When we developed PURELL® Advanced Hand Sanitizer in 2011, we were able to create a step-change in formulation efficacy and reinforced our position as the most trusted and used brand in hospitals. This new formula kills more than 99.99% of most common germs that cause illness and was the first to meet FDA hand hygiene requirements with a single pump (vs. two of other national brands*), and allowed us to continue to push the hand hygiene envelope.

Over the past 30 years, the PURELL® brand has become very meaningful to people as safe, effective, and good for you and the environment. Inspired by this “gold standard,” we went to work again in our labs in order to formulate, engineer, and design new solutions that would live up to the high expectations everyone has for the PURELL® brand. The launch of PURELL® Surface Spray in 2016 and the launch of the multi-category PURELL SOLUTION™ in 2017, with breakthrough soap formulations, like PURELL® brand HEALTHY SOAP® products with CLEAN RELEASE™ Technology and the game-changing PURELL® ES8 Dispensing System with energy-on-the-refill, are the culmination of our years of passionate commitment, hard work, and inventiveness to drive toward our BHAG (“big hairy audacious goal”) to bring well-being to one billion people every day.

But our story doesn’t end here. Our GOJO Purpose of “Saving Lives and Making Lives Better through Well-Being Solutions” keeps us focused on bringing to market innovations that solve important human problems. This includes our revolutionary new hand hygiene systems like PURELL CXR REDIFOAM™, the top-fill counter mount fixture that eliminates the hassle and hazards of maintenance in high-traffic environments. We also developed SMARTLINK™ Electronic Monitoring Systems, a suite of technology solutions powered by “Internet of Things” (IoT)-enabled smart dispensing, aimed at driving down hospital-acquired infections, improving food safety, and making it more efficient and cost effective for facilities to keep soap and sanitizer available where and when they’re needed.

Joe Kanfer with GOJO Hand Cleaner

Goldie and Jerry’s nephew, Joe Kanfer, worked with his aunt and uncle from a young age and became President of GOJO in the mid-1970s.

History of Leadership at GOJO

Leadership at GOJO has always been team-based. From our earliest days, our leaders have always come from inside the founding family and beyond, combining complementary strengths and a shared passion for the GOJO Purpose that have helped propel GOJO to success.

Jerry Lippman once said, “Everything I know, I learned from someone else.” This wise and humble attitude manifested in how Jerry and Goldie built the GOJO leadership team from the beginning. As a husband and wife  whose strengths balanced one another’s, they started a promising business. As GOJO grew, Jerry and Goldie (until her untimely death in 1972) brought in other leaders with diverse skills and expertise: Eleanor Morris, who mixed soap; Al Hendershot and Bob Walker, the first two salespeople to join Jerry in the field; and Ted Marks, who managed the company’s legal and business operations, becoming President to Jerry’s CEO.

Joe Kanfer, Goldie and Jerry’s nephew, grew up and into leadership of the Family Enterprise. Joe’s first job as a young child was sealing the boxes of GOJO heavy-duty hand cleaner, sitting on them as the glue dried. In his teenage years, Joe mixed product and built dispensers. He also traveled with Goldie and Jerry on sales trips across the U.S. Throughout his law school years, he spent half of every week on campus out-of-state and commuted to Ohio the other half.

In the mid-1970s, Joe became President. Joe and Jerry continued their close family partnership as confidants for decades until Jerry passed away at age 92 in 2005. In his role as Chairman and CEO, Joe carried on the family value of collaboration, building the next leadership team in the mid-1980s with Mark Lerner as CFO and then President, and with key advisors with physical and social sciences expertise.

Joe, Marcella and Jerry - GOJO Industries

Joe Kanfer, Marcella Kanfer Rolnick and Jerry Lippman worked as colleagues for many years, along with many GOJO team members.

As Joe and Mark were co-leading GOJO with the rest of their team, the third generation of the founding  family was learning and getting involved. Marcella Kanfer Rolnick, Joe’s oldest of four children, grew up “talking shop” with her “Grandpa Jerry” and father Joe.  When Marcella and her siblings were school-age, the family dinner table was filled with stories from Joe’s day at the office. And then, when Marcella went away to college, she and Joe would exchange daily voicemails so she could keep up on the dynamic business and give her advice to her open-minded father. As a young adult, Marcella worked in several areas of the business, from dispenser production, market research, and the microbiology lab to e-business and market development, and, after earning her MBA, became Vice Chair of GOJO in 2007.

With Joe as CEO and Marcella as Vice Chair, they worked together with Mark and colleagues across the company to catapult GOJO forward. In 2016, they brought in Carey Jaros as Chief Strategy Officer, beginning a planful next chapter in the GOJO collaborative leadership journey.

In 2018, Marcella transitioned to Executive Chair, Joe became Venturer, and Carey was promoted to COO. As of January 1, 2020, Carey will become President and CEO. Mark Lerner will become Senior Advisor and President Emeritus.  

Both Joe and Mark will also continue serving on the GOJO Board of Directors and contributing their energy, wisdom, and expertise. Together, Marcella and Carey will continue their years-long partnership (which began even before Carey joined GOJO) and build the next-generation leadership team, including Joe and Mark in their new roles.

Today, we carry on the generations-long legacy of creating leadership teams that complement the family’s strengths with those of colleagues from beyond the family. With the shared passion for the GOJO Purpose of Saving Lives and Making Life Better through Well-Being Solutions, we are excited to begin the next chapter of our leadership journey along with thousands of GOJO team members.

GOJO Industries Leadership
Marcella Kanfer Rolnick (second from the left) announced that Carey Jaros (far right) will become President and CEO, effective January 1, 2020, and Mark Lerner (far left), will become Senior Advisor and President Emeritus, also effective January 1. Pictured next to Marcella is her father, Joe Kanfer, who transitioned from Chair and CEO to Venturer in May 2018.


1. IRI Sales 52wk ending 1/06/18
* Based on comparative study of average outputs from pump bottles, and tested in accordance with FDA HCPHW guidelines. National brands based on 52-week IRI scan data.

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