Boilermaker to the Core
Jerry Semler makes Purdue a family tradition
Tuxedos and corsages were once staples for a fraternity member at Purdue. Those simple items also served as the catalysts for Jerry Semler to launch his entrepreneurial career while still a student on the West Lafayette campus.
When Semler came to Purdue, he had dreams of being an engineer. But freshman classes on auto mechanics and foundry were enough to make Semler change his mind, so he transferred into the industrial economics program.
“My dad was an engineer, so I thought that’s what I wanted to do,” Semler says. “But my first course in the industrial economics area helped me find what I truly enjoyed.”
Semler also made sure he had plenty of experience outside the classroom. As a student, he launched several businesses on campus, including one to rent tuxedos and another to purchase corsages. He eventually merged the two businesses.
Since Semler was heavily involved in fraternity life, he used his social circle to develop a strong customer base.
“I had agents in each of the frat houses who would take orders for the black-tie events,” Semler says. “We would have the tuxedos brought in from South Bend or Indianapolis, and the corsages were flown in from New York. It was a great experience, especially after I combined the two businesses and started offering combination deals for the tuxedos and corsages. I just enjoyed the experiences. It’s about feeling your way and trying a few new things. “
Semler’s involvement in fraternity life at Purdue also helped him meet the love of his life — his wife, Rosie.
“She was in a sorority, and I had my eye on her after she came to our house for an event,” Semler says. “Rosie was in the same sorority as my sister. We had our first date during spring break in Florida. My fraternity brothers and I said we were not going to date any Purdue women down there. I broke that rule, but it was worth it.”