WASHINGTON, DC — Earlier this month, the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans (www.horatioalger.org) announced that William F. Austin, CEO of Starkey Laboratories Inc, will be presented with the 2008 Horatio Alger Award and inducted as a lifetime member of the Association during ceremonies in Washington, DC

“Our 2008 members are a diverse group of individuals who serve as extraordinary role models for our nation’s most ambitious youth.  Each of them has leveraged hard work, courage and determination to overcome extreme adversity and achieve the American Dream of wealth and success,” says Horatio Alger Association Chairman Dennis R. Washington.  “For over 60 years, the Association has been dedicated to honoring those that have defied the odds.  We are proud to continue that tradition this year.”

According to the organization, Austin has dedicated most of his life to the pursuit of helping young people all over the world.  In response to receiving the Horatio Alger Award, Austin stated, “It’s important for us to help children because they’re the future of the world—and if we neglect them, we won’t have a good future. We truly live through what we give—we live on into the future through our gifts back into our community and to humanity.”

Austin was born on February 25, 1942 in Nixa, Missouri. Like his boyhood role model, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, Austin decided to become a doctor. To subsidize his pre-med studies at the University of Minnesota, he made earmolds for a hearing aid dispenser in Minneapolis. Hearing aids at that time were clumsy devices, and the field was overlooked for the most part by the medical community. Recognizing an area with growth potential and feeling like he could help more people through business rather than medicine, Austin discontinued his medical studies to open a hearing aid shop. Austin developed some of the first in-the-ear hearing aids, initially out of metal, and then plastic. He licensed his technology to established hearing aid companies of the day.

In 1970, he purchased an earmold company, Starkey Labs, for $13,000, and consolidated his businesses under the name of Starkey Laboratories Inc. By 1973, his company was the world’s largest provider of ITE hearing aids. Today, Starkey Laboratories generates $420 million in annual sales and employs more than 3,700 people in 26 countries worldwide, according to the company.

Having established the Starkey Hearing Foundation (www.sotheworldmayhear.org) in 1973 to help poor Americans with hearing problems, he soon thereafter took this mission international. Now, Austin goes on more than 30 mission trips each year to countries, such as Vietnam, Ukraine, and the Dominican Republic, to fit and provide children with hearing aids. Austin has recently been named one of People magazine’s “Hero’s Among Us.” (For information on last year’s Starkey Hearing Foundation annual gala fundraiser  go to www.hearingreview.com/insider/2007-07-05 07.asp).

The association also announced two student scholars from Minnesota, Daniel Chahla and

Mustafa A. Yusuf from St. Paul, to join Austin in Washington to be honored as Horatio Alger National Scholars. Horatio Alger National Scholars will receive $20,000 scholarships toward a college education. The students have demonstrated integrity, perseverance in overcoming hardships, strength of character, academic promise, commitment to pursue a higher education and a desire to contribute to society.  

The 61st annual events will take place in various historic landmarks in our nation’s capital such as the US Supreme Court, the US Department of State and DAR Constitution Hall.  The events will provide an opportunity for some of the nation’s most impressive and determined young people to learn firsthand about the philosophies and experiences that helped the 2008 Horatio Alger Award recipients surmount significant obstacles to achieve successful lives.

Also being inducted in April are J. Robert Beyster, retired chairman and CEO, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC); Gary P. Brinson, founder and chairman, The Brinson Foundation; Joseph “Joe” Clark, chairman, Aviation Partners Boeing and chairman and CEO, Aviation Partners Inc; Hadi Makarechian, chairman and CEO, Capital Pacific Holdings, Inc; G. Wallace F. McCain, cofounder and vice chairman,

McCain Foods Limited and chairman, Maple Leaf Foods Inc; Lee E. Mikles, cofounder, president and CEO, FutureFuel Corporation; Joseph R. Moderow, senior vice president, general counsel and board member (retired), United Parcel Service; Aulana L. Peters, retired partner, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; and Robert J. Schlegel, chairman and CEO, Pavestone Company LP.

Founded in 1947, the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans has as its mission to honor the achievements of outstanding individuals in our society who have succeeded in spite of adversity and of encouraging young people to pursue their dreams through higher education. The Horatio Alger Association offers scholarships through three annual programs: the National Scholarship Program, State Scholarship Programs for high school seniors and the Horatio Alger Military Veterans Scholarship Program for U.S. veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts. The Association now awards more than $12 million annually in college scholarships, totaling $52 million in recent years.