Inventor, Investor, Donor, Legacy Creator

Richard “Dick” Henes made transformational contributions to help create the future for students and faculty at Michigan Technological University.

He and his wife, Elizabeth, invested their resources to help the world, something the couple did for many years. “What we are doing is small compared to what Michigan Tech can do for the world,” Henes said when donating to the University.

On January 30, 2017, Dick Henes passed away surrounded by his family. He was 89 years old. His wife, Liz, passed away June 4, 2013. The couple were married for 66 years and lived in Arizona. The couple have three children, four grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.

Their legacy continues at Michigan Tech.

“Dick and Liz were simply amazing people,” says Michigan Tech President Glenn Mroz. “They accomplished much in business and in their personal lives. Gail and I were honored to know them as both mentors and friends. Michigan Tech students will benefit for decades to come as Dick always remembered his U.P. and Michigan Tech roots.”

Endowed Professorships, Scholarships

Through their generosity, Dick and Liz donated $2 million to the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics. Department Chair Bill Predebon says their gifts through the years have been used to attract and retain outstanding faculty with endowed professorships, to recruit top students with endowed scholarships, and to support faculty and student professional development.

Most recently, he says some of the funds were used to recruit an international recognized leader in wave energy conversion and to provide him with a Henes endowed professorship at Michigan Tech.

Predebon says he and his family visited the Heneses many times. “Over time Dick became for me more than a supporter, he had become a very dear friend and advisor. It is hard to find a more generous donor and long-time supporter of ME-EM and Michigan Tech.”

Quantum Science Research

The couple also supported Michigan Tech with a $2 million gift to establish the Elizabeth and Richard Henes Center for Quantum Phenomena.

Jacek Borysow is physics professor at Michigan Tech and director of the Center, which provides an interdisciplinary opportunity for scientists to foster new research ideas in quantum science from particle astrophysics to material science.

Borysow recalls his visit with the Heneses 11 years ago to talk about the connection between quantum physics and medicine. The discussion led to the creation of the Center and improved research facilities that allows faculty to compete for new research grants. Borysow says he is pursuing a patent to use a small laser chip to monitor blood sugar levels by breath analysis. This would be used for people who suffer from diabetes.

“None of these experiments would have seen daylight without the Heneses,” Borysow says. “Their gift changed our physics laboratories and made things start to happen. This will always be remembered.”

Mathematical Sciences Professorship

The Heneses generosity also included $1 million to endow the Richard and Elizabeth Henes Professorship in Mathematical Sciences. The couple established the Henes Endowed Scholarship for students in mechanical, computer, electrical, and chemical engineering; and the Henes Chair in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics.

When the couple created the professorship in Mathematical Sciences, Dick said he credited Michigan Tech with stimulating his interest in mechanical engineering and his determination to excel at whatever he did. He continued that interest in mathematics as well and said he and his wife were committed to helping the University hire and keep top-notch faculty and prepare the next generation to compete in a demanding technological world.

Heneses giving to Michigan Tech started with a $2 gift to the Michigan Tech Annual Fund in December 1956, says Eric Halonen, assistant vice president of advancement, who first met with Dick and Liz in 2000.

“Dick had strong passions in many different areas and those led him to make a significant difference,” he said. “While Dick and Liz’s leadership was quiet and modest, their support to the University was strategic and transformational.”

Henes graduated from Michigan Tech in 1948 with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, followed by a law degree from the University of Michigan. He worked as an engineer and lawyer, moving to Arizona in 1958.

He founded the Henes Manufacturing Company, Henes Products, and Henes Stamping and became a successful real estate investor in Phoenix, Arizona.

Henes’ companies made electronic instruments, semiconductor parts, aircraft components, exercise equipment, a gas generator, and a cover for pickup truck beds.

In 2015, Dick Henes received the Melvin Calvin Medal of Distinction. He also received the Michigan Tech Alumni Association’s highest honor, the Distinguished Alumni Award. He and Elizabeth also were members of Michigan Tech’s Douglass Houghton Society for their lifetime giving and the McNair Society for estate gift commitments. Dick was a member of the ME-EM Academy, the Michigan Tech Fund’s Campaign Committee, and Michigan Tech’s Generations of Discovery Campaign Committee.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.