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Hank Henderson, class of '50
This articulate and interesting man, founder, president and CEO of HI, speaks knowledgeably on a wide variety of subjects, ranging from one of his passions, flying, to education, and not surprisingly, business-his own and the nation's. Add to that a lively sense of humor, and the package epitomizes the successful Alfred State graduate.
During a recent interview, the soft-spoken Hank entertained his interviewer with an insider's knowledge of flying and the necessary preparation and precaution needed to fly a private plane, expressed his delight at the college's newly established entrepreneurship program, and talked about the problems facing American businesses in regard to the costs of manufacturing-an issue which hits close to home. Interspersed with these weighty issues, however, were a sharp wit and a ready laugh.
Hank, who graduated from the mechanical engineering technology-product and machine design program in 1950, says that "Alfred State College certainly prepared" him for his entry into the workplace in which he found himself in the 1950s-the Richardson Scale Co., in Clifton, NJ.
"My technical training at Alfred fit exactly into what I'm doing. It was a lateral move from the labs at Alfred into the labs at Richardson Scales," comments Hank.
"Early on in my career," notes Hank, "I knew I could hold my own with the four-year engineering graduates at my level of experience because of the technical education and laboratory hours" logged during his education. Additionally, the faculty had worked in industry, and that was immeasurably helpful, he says.
Not long after joining Richardson, Hank founded HI in his garage, working in this dual capacity for 13 years before deciding it was time to take the risk and devote his full attention to his own company.
Henderson Industries-one of the top minority-owned companies in the United States designs and manufactures control systems and electronic parts to automate industrial plants or for various high tech systems for the military for such endeavors as missile control testing or air craft use.
But because his training at ASC did not focus on the skills and traits a future CEO would need, Hank continued his education at Paterson State College (Wayne, NJ), because, he says, "as an entrepreneur, you've got to know not only what your product or service is, but also what the accounting department is doing."
In the past, Hank has hired several of his "best people directly from" Alfred State College. And he says, "given the intense competition in the technical business we are in, seeking employees trained here is not a function of fond memories about my school. It is the result of my knowledge about the quality of the technical training and discipline required by the faculty and staff."
Hank, who was awarded the honorary doctor of science degree at Alfred State College in 1995, also holds honorary doctorates from Stevens Institute of Technology and Kean College; he served as a commissioner to the Port Authority Commission of New York and New Jersey, the first black to hold such a position; his company was featured on the PBS series "Growing a Business" in 1990.
More recently, he was named to the SUNY (State University of New York) Honor Roll for outstanding alumni in 1996; he was presented with the National Minorities Supplier Development Council Leadership Award, 1996; and he received the Hi-Tech Hero Award from the New Jersey Technology Council in 1998.
"What I do makes me happy," says Hank. "We [HI] make things, and those things get used, and we were a part of that process," he crows."It's exciting."
And Henderson Industries has grown and prospered, and the technical knowledge which became and remains the foundation of our company started at Alfred State College, says Hank. "College helps students stand on their own, and that experience helped me. The college experience made me more independent," he continues, noting that personal growth helped him figure out how to accomplish those things he wished to accomplish.
"It was the ideal college life, and I enjoyed it very much," says Hank now, of his time at ASC.