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EMU Foundation

Inspiring the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs

by Jeff Samoray

E. Douglas Hougen

E. Douglas Hougen

For a picture of the model American entrepreneur, look no further than E. Douglas Hougen.

From age 14 until his death in 1999 at age 85, Hougen revolutionized the manufacturing, construction and fabrication industries with more than 100 inventions. His ingenuity in creating tools to solve manufacturing problems led to the founding of five global businesses: Hougen Manufacturing, Inc., Blair Equipment Company, and Trak Star (all based in Swartz Creek, Mich.); Hougen Manufacturing, Inc. of Canada; and Hougen Manufacturing, Inc. of Australia.

Although Hougen had little formal schooling, he recognized the importance of a solid, practical business education that inspires creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship. For these reasons, the Hougen Foundation made a generous $35,000 gift to Eastern’s College of Business to establish the Hougen Family Endowed Scholarship. Funds will support meritorious students seeking a business degree with a major in entrepreneurship.

“Throughout his life, dad was all about inventive ideas,” says Randy Hougen, CEO of Hougen Manufacturing. He and his brothers Doug and Victor attended EMU in the 1970s—all worked in the family business during their careers. “Dad was also about giving back. He’d be honored to see these scholarship funds help young students step up to entrepreneurial challenges, take risks and find success in the world of business.”

While growing up in New York in the 1940s, Hougen earned the reputation as the “best auto body repairman in the business” by creating new and more efficient ways of removing dents and straightening frames. He even helped repair one of Babe Ruth’s cars. In the early 1950s, the General Motors Institute (now Kettering University in Flint) recruited him to teach body work courses.

Hougen enjoyed teaching, but his true love was inventing. One of his early inventions was the Rotabroach, a hole-drilling tool that revolutionized auto manufacturing and building construction. It is still widely used today.

“Dad was always creating something—it wasn’t unusual to find him in our basement late at night working on an invention,” Randy says. “He left teaching when he began making more money by selling tools to various manufacturers across the country. That’s when he formally launched his first business.”

Randy was just two classes shy of a business degree from Eastern when his father asked him to join Hougen Manufacturing as a purchasing agent.

“I never ended up getting my degree, but Eastern gave me all the essentials I needed to go into management,” Randy says. “That’s why we decided to make this gift to Eastern. The University gave me the educational background I needed to succeed in business. I also think our country is lacking in entrepreneurs. My hope is that this scholarship will help develop the next generation of innovators.”

EMU Foundation is located at 112 Welch Hall, 850 W. Cross St., Ypsilanti, MI, USA 48197 Phone: 734.484.1322