March 11, 2008
The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans has announced 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, April 3 through 5.
"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."
Starkey reports 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 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 ear molds for a hearing-aid dealer 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 reportedly developed the first in-the-ear hearing aids, initially out of metal, and then plastic. He licensed his technology to established hearing aid companies. In 1970, he purchased an ear mold company, Starkey Labs, for $13,000, and consolidated his businesses under the name of Starkey Laboratories, Inc. Today, Starkey Laboratories is reported to generate $420 million in annual sales and employ more than 3,700 people in 26 countries worldwide.
Having established the Starkey Hearing Foundation 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 Heros Among Us.
The Association is equally proud to announce two student scholars from Minnesota will 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.
This year’s scholarship recipients from Minnesota are Daniel Chahla and Mustafa A. Yusuf from St. Paul.
The 61st annual events will take place at various historic landmarks in our nation’s capital such as the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Department of State and DAR Constitution Hall. The events aim wo 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 schedule to be inducted 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, L.P.