posted October 21, 2010

Lecture to Feature History of Haworth Inc.

Dick Haworth, chairman emeritus of Holland-based Haworth Inc., will present the address "From Garage to Global Enterprise: The Haworth Story" on Tuesday, Nov. 2, at 4 p.m. in Winants Auditorium of Graves Hall through the Meijer Lecture Series at Hope College.

The public is invited.  Admission is free.

Haworth Inc. is a global leader in the design and manufacture of office furniture and organic workspaces, including raised access floors, moveable walls, systems furniture, seating, storage and wood casegoods.  The family owned and private-held company was established in 1948 by Gerrard W. Haworth, Dick Haworth's father, as Modern Products, an expansion of the woodworking operation that G.W. had established in the family's garage.

Dick Haworth began his career in 1964 as assistant sales manager when he joined his family-owned business. At that time, Modern Products Inc. employed 79 members with sales of $1,285,000 in the partition and moveable wall business. In 1967, Dick was drafted into the U.S. Army.  He was honorably discharged as a first lieutenant in 1969.

He returned to the company as executive vice president in 1969 with responsibility for manufacturing and new product development.  He was instrumental in developing the Modern Office Module system--introduced in 1971 and later known as the UniGroup Office Interior System. That same year, sales exceeded $5 million and employment reached 118 members. The company name was changed to Haworth Inc. in 1975.

In 1976, Dick Haworth became the company's president and chief executive officer. His love for new ideas kept him involved in product development and market introduction, resulting in exciting new products. For example, he led the development and introduction of the industry's first electrified, panel-based office furniture system, ERA 1R, which earned the second-largest intellectual property settlement in the history of the Patent Office in 1994.  He holds 14 patents for the company. 

In 1994, he was named chairman and CEO of Haworth. During the next 14 years, he continued to build the company into a global, multi product line company with sales of $1.65 billion and more than 7,300 members worldwide. Today, Haworth has manufacturing plants and showrooms in most major American, European and Asian cities, and dealers worldwide.

Dick Haworth continues as Haworth chairman emeritus and a board member while remaining engaged with customers, product development, engineering and community projects--his areas of special passion.

Dick Haworth is a Holland native. He received a bachelor's degree in business from Western Michigan University in 1964.  He served as a WMU Trustee and also received the WMU Distinguished Alumni Award.  He sits on the board of advisors for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, is a member of the Business Leaders for Michigan and is involved in many community initiatives.

The Meijer Lecture Series, which debuted in September 2008, is an endowed lectureship established through the support of the Meijer Foundation.  Coordinated by the Joint Archives of Holland, the annual lectureship highlights the experience of area family-owned businesses that have had a historical impact on West Michigan.

Graves Hall is located at 263 College Ave., between 10th and 12th streets.